One wag has dubbed it The Greatest Evangelical Show on Earth.

Whatever, the annual meeting of the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) indeed has become the splashiest evangelical event of the year. And this year, more secular-media reporters than ever before were on hand to cover it.

The convention is held every year in Washington, D.C., for reasons of strategy (a main one: the proximity of the government officials who regulate the broadcasting industry). It is usually held within a week of the National Prayer Breakfast (see story, page 42), and a number of delegates stay over for that by-invitation-only affair. The four-day NRB program features top name personalities, from politicians, evangelists, and prominent pastors to radio and TV stars, recording artists, and famous authors. Many of the program personalities are sponsored by publishers, record companies, and other firms among the some 200 organizations that vigorously promote their wares and causes in the giant exhibition hall of the Washington Hilton. The result is a strong commercial flavor that permeates the entire convention program.

These program headliners serve as public attention-getters and as sugary frosting for an otherwise so-so agenda devoted to the specialized business of broadcasting (licensing issues, funding, market research, production pointers, and the like). At last month’s annual meeting, however, things got a little out of hand, and the headliners got the NRB some publicity its leaders didn’t really want.

Singer Anita Bryant attracted a demonstration by homosexual activists. Former Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver was scratched from the program by a last-minute action of the NRB board, which was distressed by Cleaver’s recently ...

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