After a 57-year association, National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) has broken away quietly from its parent organization, the National Association of Evangelicals (NAE).

NRB contends that the two groups are headed in different directions. The breakaway in part was sparked when NAE supported the licensing of low-powered fm stations for local community groups. William Kennard, while chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), sought last year to offer community groups licenses to operate low-powered radio stations.

Larger broadcasters, including NRB members, strongly opposed the concept, saying the new stations would interfere with the signals of established outlets. In December the FCC awarded just 255 licenses to community groups. More than 1,200 had applied for licenses in 20 states.

Richard Cizik of NAE's Washington office downplayed the licensing issue as a reason for the breakup, saying both groups hold that licenses should not be granted if there is radio interference. "It's not like anybody from NRB has called and made the connection," Cizik said. "Ultimately we agreed with them."

Wayne Pederson, NRB chairman, said there were several reasons for the split, including the reality that NRB has grown much larger than NAE and the organizations serve different constituencies. NAE is a coalition of 50 Protestant member denominations that promotes fellowship among 43,000 evangelical congregations. NRB links 1,300 Christian television and radio broadcasters.

NAE's support of low-powered stations "got us thinking that we should go our separate ways and wish each other well," Pederson said in an interview with CT.

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