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Network Description & Basic Information (Source: wikipedia.org)

The Trinity Broadcasting Network, or TBN, is the world's largest Christian television network, with a larger U.S. viewership than its three main competitor networks combined. TBN was founded in 1973 by Paul and Jan Crouch. TBN now owns twenty-three U.S. full-power television stations and 252 low-power rural stations, is carried on over six thousand television stations, and boasts five million viewer households per week in the U.S. It is also carried on thousands of cable television systems in seventy-five countries around the world, with its programs translated into eleven languages.

Brief history

According to the TBN website, TBN has several hundred affiliate stations, although just 61 of these stations are regular UHF or VHF stations. The rest are low-powered stations, requiring a viewer to be within several miles of the transmitter.

Paul Crouch is TBN's president and chairman, Jan Crouch is its vice-president and director of programming. Their son, Paul Jr., is its vice president for administration. The network maintains production deals with their other son, Matthew. TBN began in 1973 when the elder Crouchs rented air time on a local UHF channel in Santa Ana, California. Jim and Tammy Bakker assisted them with the network and lived with them for a time. The Bakkers soon left—Paul Crouch claiming that Jim Bakker attempted to take over TBN but failed—and the Bakkers headed for South Carolina where they founded their own PTL Network. TBN spread from UHF stations to cable outlets and then to satellite distribution.

Recently, TBN has been purchasing independent television stations to gain cable carriage, due to FCC must-carry rules. As a result, TBN is seen in 95% of American households, as of early 2005.

Cable systems

In early 2004 TBN began digital broadcasting and three affiliated channels, the Spanish-language "Enlace USA", the youth-oriented "JC-TV", and "The Church Channel" for church services.

Studios

TBN broadcasts from its International Production Center in Irving, Texas near Dallas and from its Trinity Christian City International facility in Costa Mesa, California. It also operates Trinity Music Center USA, a Christian entertainment center outside Nashville, Tennessee, formerly Conway Twitty's "Twitty City". It maintains 400 employees in the U.S.

Financial issues and criticism

TBN generates $170 million in revenue annually, with two-thirds coming from viewer contributions and one-fifth coming from other televangelists' payments for running their programming. Its $120 million donation revenue is larger than any other television ministry. It has posted average annual surpluses since 1997 of about $60 million. It holds two week-long fundraising telethons per year, as well as numerous other solicitation drives. It maintains a direct mail database of 1.2 million names. As of 2002, it boasted $583 million in assets, including $238 million in government-backed securities and $31 million in cash. Also among its assets are a $7.2 million Canadair Turbojet and thirty houses in California, Texas and Ohio with values ranging up to $8 million. The elder Crouchs and their son Paul Jr. earn a combined annual income of $850,000. In September 2004 the Los Angeles Times characterized their personal lifestyle as a "life of luxury." The network reports that during the first twenty years of the network's operation, Paul and Jan were paid roughly one-tenth their current income, with the amounts rising in the past ten years as they approached retirement.

The network has attracted criticism for its continuous fundraising activities, including a "prosperity gospel," an offshoot of the Word of faith doctrine that appears to promise donors, including impecunious ones, that God will make them rich as long as they have faith and give to TBN. Paul Crouch has made statements to his viewers such as, "Have you got something that you have been praying about ten, fifteen, twenty years? You have been praying for it and haven't gotten it.... It could be that you haven't gotten it because you are a tightwad and you haven't given your ten percent [referring to ten-percent tithing]." During a 1997 program, he conversely said, "If you have been healed or saved or blessed through TBN and have not contributed...you are robbing God and will lose your reward in heaven." The network reports that seventy percent of its donations are in amounts under fifty dollars. Some viewers consider the Crouch's prosperity as a positive demonstration of the success of their prosperity gospel message. A group of critical Christians has banded together to attempt to jam the TBN phones during its telethons as a protest against its fundraising, which the group's organizer, a retired pastor, likens to robbery.

The network cancelled its November 2004 "Praise-a-thon" fundraising telethon in favor of showing forty hours of reruns from past telethons. Network officials blamed the cancellation mostly on health concerns for both Paul and Jan Crouch, the latter of whom had recent gall badder surgery. The Associated Press reported those officials also noted, however, that the cancellation would take pressure off other religious figures who would have appeared on the live telethon, in the wake of recent revelations that Paul Crouch paid $425,000 in 1998 to a male former employee to keep him quiet about claims of a homosexual tryst with Crouch, and the AP also cited the recent newspaper reports about the Crouchs' "lavish lifestyle." Paul Crouch Jr. voiced his belief that other ministries were concerned "they are going to be next on the hit list." R. Marie Griffith, a Princeton University scholar studying evangelical Christianity and the media, said that "to take the live broadcasting off...suggests...the chaos" at TBN.

Because of the network's focus on the Word of faith doctrine, conservative Christian critics have often labelled it "The Blasphemy Network."
 
 
 
 
 

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