Writers’ Strike Hits TBN Hard
Healing services, fundraising scripts most affectedCategory: The Media
COSTA MESA, CA – With the Writers Guild of America about to begin the sixth week of its strike, the nation’s television networks are scrambling to fill gaps in their programming schedules. But the Christian television industry has suffered through a concurrent strike of the Christian Writers Guild, which has staunched the flow of original programming and has cost the industry’s flagship network an estimated $18 million.
The strike began on November 7, two days after the WGA strike hit Hollywood. But whereas the Hollywood writers are picketing for a contract that includes a share of revenue generated from Internet movie sales, most Christian television networks have no intention to produce any such “new media” content. The Christian Writers Guild is striking simply for higher wages, particularly in light of the colossal revenues generated by the largest networks.
Trinity Broadcasting Network, or TBN, is the largest Christian television network in the world, and as such it is a main target of the CWG strike. The network is thought to bring in almost $190 million each year, and with no public accounting records, it is unknown where most of that money goes.
According to Todd Samuels, the CWG chairman, not nearly enough of it goes into the pockets of Christian screenwriters. “How many of those 190 million dollars were the result of Benny Hinn’s healing crusades? How much would [Hinn’s program] This Is Your Day generate without CWG members working hard every day to write healing scenarios?” Samuels recently asked the frenzied crowd at a rally. “We’ll just have to see, won’t we? Those people don’t decide to show up in wheelchairs on their own, you know!”
TBN has also felt the impact of the strike in their film division, which was in the midst of initial work on two highly-anticipated sequels. With no end to the strike in sight, Omega Code 3: Postmillennial Insurrections and Carman: The Two-Time Champion, both scheduled to begin shooting in 2008, are now on hold indefinitely.
Meanwhile, the strike is having the most impact when it comes to TBN’s most important programming component: fundraising. Jan and Paul Crouch, co-founders of the network and still its most productive fundraisers, have seen a drop of nearly $2 million weekly during the strike. Stripped of their once poetic pleas for donations, the Crouches have now been reduced to standing on screen with their palms open and pockets turned inside out.
Despite the downturn in giving, Paul Crouch remains optimistic. “They can’t strike forever, right? It’s not like they can go get a job in Hollywood,” Crouch mused. “Besides, I’m pretty sure Jesus will be coming back any day now, so it won’t matter.”