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Keeping the Faith on Mideast Coverage

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As budgets and airtime for Middle East news shrink at most mainstream U.S. nets, religious and faith-based networks remain steady in their commitment to offering Mideast news coverage to their flocks. Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) is one example, having reached a deal to broadcast a daily news program originating from Israel.

Produced by the Israel Broadcasting Authority, IBA News is a 30-minute current events program offering in-depth coverage and analysis of events and issues in Israel and the Middle East.

“The vision of airing the IBA News program on TBN is to get an unfiltered, unbiased version of the news coming out of Israel for the Christians in America,” said Matthew Crouch, VP of TBN. Crouch noted that TBN has had a long relationship with Israel; his parents, TBN founders Paul and Jan Crouch, have met with nearly every Israeli president and prime minister over the past 35 years.

IBA News
will feature “relevant, faith-based news coverage from Israel that is not always reported on from other media outlets in the U.S.,” said Paul Crouch, TBN president.

TBN is also finishing up construction of a state-of-the-art television studio that will produce programming for its Shalom channel as well as for two other Middle Eastern networks: TBN’s Al-Horreya Arabic-language affiliate and its Nejat TV Farsi-language affiliate.

While TBN is just setting up shop in that region, the Christian Broadcasting Network already boasts a full-time news bureau in Jerusalem consisting of six Americans and seven Israelis.

“It’s a major news bureau in Israel,” said Michael Little, CBN president and COO. “That’s an indication of the status that we [place] on covering the country.” CBN runs a half-hour newscast every other week called Jerusalem Dateline.

“We will most often carry a story about Israel when other news organizations wouldn’t,” said Little. “We look at Israel generally through a biblical perspective.”

To no surprise, it’s not just Christian stations that are interested in what happens in Israel. Jewish-heritage network Shalom TV also carries IBA News—COO Bradford Hammer described the program as one of its “programming staples”—as well as another weekday series, Shalom TV News Update.

Hammer noted Shalom has carried live telecasts of the AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) National Policy Conference in Washington, D.C.; the Jerusalem Post Conference in New York City; and the Israeli Presidential Conference in Israel (which Shalom TV president and CEO Rabbi Mark Golub attended). “These news elements supplement our seven-year tradition of providing the Jewish perspective on issues and events of the day,” said Hammer.

Shalom TV offers roundtables, interviews, commentaries and long-format coverage of public affairs events. Hammer said some of the events Shalom TV has covered in recent months include: Iranian nuclear threats, Muslim anti-Semitism, Middle East violence and the “impact of Jewish thought on modern democracy.”

The Faith-Based News Leader

Even though it devotes many of its resources to Israeli coverage, CBN puts a lot toward its coverage of what’s going on stateside. Little points out that CBN has a dedicated news channel on its website, which he likens to mainstream networks.

“It will be the same lineup of stories that you would find at CNN or CBS,” said Little, who estimates that 75% of CBN’s stories are the same. “Certainly, we’re different in the fact that we add commentary from a biblical perspective.” Little added that CBN will also cover those stories that “are of interest to Christians that the other guys are not going to cover.”

Aside from a bureau overseas, CBN has one in Washington (CBN is headquartered in Virginia Beach, Va.) with 25 reporters. “We like to think that we’re a competitive news organization with a fraction of the resources,” said Little. “I don’t know who really does news other than us on the faithbased side.”

Outsourcing Coverage

For TBN, IBA News is just the latest example of the network’s cost-conscious approach to news coverage: outsourcing. TBN also airs CBN’s Christian World News and The 700 Club.

“We don’t have our own news team, but we feel like we have a balance [of coverage],” said Bob Higley, TBN VP of affiliate relations. “We do cover events that take place in the Christian world.” One of TBN’s self-produced news shows, Behind the Scenes, covers select church events. The program is hosted by Paul and Matt Crouch.

“Paul Crouch didn’t see a need to develop our own news team,” said Higley. “He thought 700 Club did a great job.”

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