- The Washington Times - Friday, February 27, 2004

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Evangelical Protestant broadcasters see something more in Janet Jackson’s Super Bowl flash than exposed flesh and bad taste — namely, the opportunity to market themselves as a wholesome alternative to mainstream television.

“People are hurting, both economically and morally, and as a broadcaster I feel we have a chance to offer them hope,” Carol Jones Saint said last week during a break at the annual convention of National Religious Broadcasters, a trade association of 1,600 radio and TV stations, networks and program producers.

Mrs. Saint’s family has operated a Christian radio station in Erie, Pa., since 1948. She was among 6,000 media executives who attended the Charlotte extravaganza.

The convention offered such timely workshops as “FCC Indecency Regulations and the Broadcast of Four-Letter Words” and “Christian Response to Reality TV.” And the organization formally called upon Congress and the Federal Communications Commission to crack down on offensive broadcasts.

“I think a lot of parents viewed the Super Bowl halftime show as a real wake-up call,” said Robert Reccord, president of the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, America’s largest Protestant denomination.

The denomination is parent of Fort Worth, Texas-based FamilyNet, a 24-hour cable network that reaches 31 million households. The Baptist network has just contracted to include Fox News Channel reports in programs it produces.

“A lot of people have said to me that they had no idea these kind of things were already being shown on MTV,” he said, calling the national dialogue about indecency an opportunity for faith-based programmers though with no guarantee of success.

The key is making all programming — whether Christian or secular — compelling, he said: “We want to make it relevant.”

“Our work is cut out for us” in trying to compete against secular programming that includes MTV and reality shows, said Freda Crews of Spartanburg, S.C., whose “Time for Hope” TV show is seen on about 125 stations across the country.

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