Drop in Donations Spurs Cuts, Layoffs at Christian TV Network

Associated Press

The Rev. Pat Robertson, who on Thursday announced layoffs and cutbacks at his Christian Broadcasting Network, blames the church-building boom, falling oil prices and his interest in the presidency for a slump in contributions.

The network said it is selling its three TV stations, canceling its toll-free telephone line and laying off 41 employees because contributions have been lower than expected this year.

Network executives had projected that contributions to CBN would increase 22% this year compared with 1985, but the increase has been 7% so far, said Benton Miller, a network spokesman. The cutbacks should save about $24 million, he said.

‘Tough’ Decision


“This is a tough fiscal decision that we’re making, but this decision hasn’t resulted in any significant layoffs. It’s less than half of a percent of our total employees,” Miller said.

Robertson, CBN founder and host of “The 700 Club” talk show, said his interest in seeking the Republican nomination for President in 1988 may have caused contributions to lag.

Robertson has said CBN would have an annual operating budget of about $230 million this year, and this may have scared away contributors. “The trouble is when people keep reading a gross figure of $230 million, they figure that we have so much money we don’t need theirs.”

The Rev. Jerry Falwell, whose TV ministry is based in Lynchburg, Va., announced this week that budget constraints will force him to cancel his toll-free number and dismiss 225 employees.


Reasons for Slump

One reason for the slump is that many churches are growing and their members are giving to construction funds rather than TV ministries, Miller said.

Declining oil prices also have hurt contributions because many of the network’s major donors work in the oil industry, he said.

By June, CBN will cancel the toll-free number that viewers of “The 700 Club” can call for counseling or to pledge money. It also is looking for buyers for WYAH-TV in Portsmouth, Va., WXNE-TV in Boston and KXTX in Dallas.