Plans by the world’s largest Christian television network to grow still larger have been challenged by a minority broadcasting group that accuses California-based Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) of violating federal regulations regarding station ownership. Earlier this year, TBN founder and president Paul Crouch announced to his audience that his network was in the process of expanding into one of the country’s largest markets: Philadelphia. Last year TBN began the process of purchasing station WTGI, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1987.
However, TBN’s plans to take over WTGI, which is actually licensed in nearby Wilmington, Delaware, are now on hold. The Ethnic Programming Legal Defense Fund (EPLDF) protested the sale by appealing on May 10 to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), alleging misrepresentations on the part of TBN. In fact, the organization is asking the FCC to revoke all of TBN’s station licenses, which could, in effect, put the network out of business.
The legal dispute revolves around an FCC rule that states no corporation may own more than 12 full-power stations. The FCC permits ownership of two additional stations, however, if they are controlled by minorities; specifically, a majority of voting board members must be racial or ethnic minorities.
In TBN’s case, the entity that will have formal responsibility for WTGI is National Minority TV (NMTV), of which Crouch is one of three voting board members. The other two are Jane Duff, Crouch’s executive-assistant secretary, who is an African-American; and Phil Aguilar, who is Hispanic.
Noting Duff’s position, EPLDF president Dan Borowicz said, “We believe that National Minority TV is a front or a sham organization for TBN.”
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