Are we witnessing a “quiet revolution” in Christian broadcasting? According to the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), the answer is yes.

NRB Executive Director Ben Armstrong says some 200 new Christian radio stations were started last year. (Some of that growth, he says, is attributable to better record keeping.) And television stations with religious programming have increased by 71 percent in the last five years.

With this numerical growth, Christian broadcasters expect the electronic media to play an even greater role in fulfilling the Great Commission. Writing in Religious Broadcasting magazine, popular television evangelist Jimmy Swaggart said: “The tools [for world evangelization] are varied and many, including, of course, the missionaries.… However, the greatest propagation tool of all, that which will catapult ‘the witness,’ will be television.”

But ministry is not the only motivation for the growth of religious broadcasting. While non-Christian ownership of stations with religious formats is not new, some say it, too, is a growing phenomenon.

Martin Hamstra, owner of four religiously oriented radio stations in Washington State, estimates that of the 1,370 stations cited in the NRB directory, as many as 60 are owned by non-Christians, most of them among the newer stations. Said Hamstra, “Christians are an identifiable demographic constituency. Ad agencies find this appealing. In short, there’s money to be made in broadcasting to Christians.”

Financial Accountability

Those who buy program time on Christian radio and television stations are also attracted by the lure of money—in the form of donations. And critics frequently question some of the tactics ...

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