While casting themselves as ambassadors of goodwill, the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) and Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN) are global purveyors of a rigidly right-wing political and social agenda. By vastly expanding the U.S. Christian Right’s presence across sub-Saharan Africa over the past four decades, they have become key conduits for the exportation of homophobia and sexism to the continent.
Christian Broadcasting Network
CBN was founded by Pat Robertson in 1960 and currently broadcasts evangelical Christian programs to 97 percent of the U.S. television market and in 138 countries worldwide. CBN’s international is broadcast in 39 different languages, and reaching an estimated 360 million people annually. In Africa, CBN boasts of having 100 partner stations in Nigeria, five in Ghana, two in Liberia, two in Sierra Leone, and one in The Gambia. CBN has also established regional offices in Senegal, Nigeria, South Africa, and Kenya, and has representatives in over 21 countries.
Though often ridiculed by progressive media outlets, Robertson wields considerable influence with CBN viewers and prominent political and religious leaders throughout the world. CBN’s flagship program, The 700 Club, airs each weekday and is one of the longest-running television programs in broadcast history. It claims an average daily audience of about one million viewers. CBN reported nearly $640 million in revenue and over $350 million in total assets in 2017.
Using the pulpit of The 700 Club, Pat Robertson has described homosexuality as an “abomination,” suggested that it is primarily caused by abuse, claimed that LGBTI people are damned to hell, advocated for harmful “ex-gay” therapy, and predicted that the United States will be destroyed for tolerating homosexuality. CBN is affiliated with a variety of Christian Right organizations, including the American Center for Law & Justice (ACLJ). The chief counsel of ACLJ, Jay Sekulow, appears regularly on The 700 Club, where he defends anti-choice and anti-LGBTI efforts in the United States and elsewhere.
Trinity Broadcasting Network
Founded in 1973 by Paul and Jan Crouch, TBN bills itself as the world’s largest religious television network. It owns more than 30 full-power television stations in the United States, and claims more than 18,000 television and cable affiliates worldwide. According to its website, “TBN is available to 98 percent of the total [U.S.] households, and globally, TBN’s estimated reach approaches more than 2 billion viewers.”
In 2016, TBN launched TBN in Africa in partnership with South African Pastor Ray McCauley, founder of Rhema Ministries and head of South Africa’s National Interfaith Leadership Council. Rhema Ministries is attended by South African President Jacob Zuma, and the church is said to be “very influential and very active on social issues,” including abortion access and same-sex marriage.
Both TBN and CBN maintain a 501(c)(3) non-profit status while delivering a steady stream of anti-LGBTI and anti-choice commentary to their audiences. In 2014, TBN reported over $120 million in revenue and $755.8 million in assets (this is a significant drop from the high of $857.9 million in 2009).
TBN features many of the best-known conservative televangelists in the United States and internationally, including John Hagee, T.D. Jakes, Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, Samuel Rodriguez, and James Robison. Though it remains a powerful force for spreading conservative evangelical ideas, TBN has become embroiled in controversy and scandal in recent years. In 2004, the Los Angeles Times chronicled the Crouches’ lavish lifestyle, and that same year it was reported that Paul Crouch paid a former employee $425,000 to keep silent about an alleged homosexual tryst. In 2012, Jan and Paul Crouch’s granddaughter—Carra Crouch—sued the organization for covering up a sexual assault she experienced at the hands of a TBN employee when she was 13. In June 2017, the jury ruled in her favor, awarding her $2 million for the resulting emotional trauma and future suffering. Other family members have also gone public with allegations of fiscal improprieties, which the organization consistently denies.
Co-founder Paul Crouch died in November 2013; his wife Jan died in May 2016.