FCC Ruling: Part One

January 17, 2000

What began as a routine FCC action on a non-commercial television station has erupted into an issue that has the leadership of the National Religious Broadcasters up in arms. If fully implemented, it appears that more than 125 noncommercial television broadcasters may be forced to drop religious programming.

In case you are wondering, this is not the hoax that has been passed around for the last 20 years about Madalyn Murray O'Hair supposedly petitioning the FCC to take Christian radio stations off that air. That was a hoax; this is real.

An FCC decision released at the end of 1999 allowed a PBS station in Pittsburgh to swap one of its two stations with a religious broadcaster. The guidelines for the action provided by the FCC raises significant questions. The ruling provided "additional guidance" in determining what is "educational programming."

The FCC ruled that educational programming must not be "primarily devoted to religious exhortation, proselytizing, or statements of personally-held religious views and beliefs." They went on to suggest that preaching programs and Christian talk programs do not fit that definition. In other words, say goodbye to TV preachers like Charles Stanley and Adrian Rogers. And say goodbye to Christian news and talk programs like the 700 Club.

In a memo to religious broadcasters, NRB president Brant Gustavson said of the FCC that, "It apparently seeks to draw a line between programs that teach about religion--which the agency deems acceptable as the kind of educational fare that NCETV stations must air--and programs devoted to religious ‘exhortation' or statements of personal religious belief--which do not satisfy the new programming standard."

Religious broadcasters are encouraging letters and phone calls to Congress and the FCC about the recent ruling. This action, unfortunately, is not a hoax. Washington needs to hear from us.

I'm Kerby Anderson of Probe Ministries, and that's my opinion.