Fifty years ago, one could have reasonably suggested that Pat Robertson was stretching his imagination when he named his broadcasting organization -- located in a defunct Portsmouth, Virginia TV station -- The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN). Not only was CBN the first Christian television station in Virginia, it was also the first in the nation. Almost 50 years later, no one can dispute that CBN is one of the largest television ministries in the world. Moreover, with its many subsidiary and affiliate organizations, CBN goes beyond the bounds of broadcasting in its mission to reach the world with a message of hope from the Bible.
The story of CBN's birth and early years is documented in Pat Robertson's autobiography, Shout It From The Housetops. Founded on January 11, 1960, CBN first went on the air on October 1, 1961, on WYAH-TV (from Yahweh, the Hebrew name for God), a UHF television station with barely enough power to reach across the Portsmouth city limits. With a modest income from a few local supporters, CBN began broadcasting live half-hour programs from 7:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. every night. Gradually, the broadcast day was expanded to 5:00 p.m. to midnight. Because Robertson refused to accept commercial advertisements, paying for programming was out of the question. A few free travelogue films were used to fill in the blank spots.
In the fall of 1963, CBN conducted its first telethon to raise the $7,000 per month needed for the following year's budget. Robertson told viewers that a "club" of 700 contributors, each giving $10 a month, would enable CBN to meet its expenses. As guests appeared to sing and share their religious experiences, Robertson invited the audience to pray for the 700 supporters who would help keep CBN going. Though its financial struggles continued, CBN had taken an important step in building community support for the ministry.
A year later, the “700 Club” telethon was an important turning point for CBN. This telethon generated more contributions than the previous year's but not enough to meet CBN's growing budget. Then, in the final minutes of the broadcast, a remarkable outpouring of spiritual revival began to sweep through the viewing audience. Throughout the next several days, callers flooded CBN with prayer requests and pledges of financial support to CBN. A year later, Robertson added a program to the end of his station's broadcast day that followed the telethon format, prayer and ministry coupled with telephone response. He named it The 700 Club, hoping to build on the audience that had become familiar with CBN's telethons. The program's audience grew as other stations began carrying the show.
Today CBN is a multifaceted nonprofit organization that provides programming by cable, broadcast and satellite to approximately 200 countries, with a 24-hour telephone prayer line. Chief among CBN's broadcasting components is The 700 Club, a daily television program featuring Pat Robertson, Terry Meeuswen, Gordon Robertson, Kristi Watts and news anchor Lee Webb. On the air continuously since 1966, The 700 Club is one of the longest-running programs in broadcast history. Seen in 97 percent of the television markets across the United States, the show's news/magazine format presents a lively mix of information, interviews, and inspiration to an average daily audience of one million viewers.
CBN programs have aired in approximately 108 languages in 218 different countries and territories, from Mandarin to Spanish and from Turkish to Welsh. In 1990 CBN International launched special projects in the Commonwealth of Independent States (formerly the Soviet Union) that included primetime specials and later The 700 Club and Superbook, an animated series of Bible stories. The broadcasts were followed by 190 rallies throughout the region that resulted in the establishment of 190 churches. Similar special projects were implemented in the Philippines and Romania in 1994. CBN International also distributes videos and literature and provides follow-up through international ministries around the world. In 1995, CBN launched CBN WorldReach with a mission of converting 500 million people to Christianity using Gospel programming to targeted international audiences.
Middle East Television (METV), was a television station in Southern Lebanon, broadcasts news, sports, family entertainment, and religious programming by satellite to a potential audience of 200 million people in 15 nations including Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Egypt and Cyprus. METV also distributed free videotapes and religious literature and provided food and clothing -- through CBN’s humanitarian affiliate, Operation Blessing International -- throughout the Middle East. METV was sold to a like-minded ministry, LeSEA Broadcasting, in July 2001.
Here in America, The 700 Club Prayer Centers in Virginia Beach, Virginia and Nashville, Tennessee provide prayer, scriptural counsel, and literature to people who call CBN's toll free telephone prayer line. The center's phones are staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year by a staff of paid, volunteer, and “on call” workers who are trained in offering comfort and encouragement from a biblical perspective.
In 1977, CBN started the nation's first basic TV cable network with satellite transmissions of religious and syndicated family TV shows. By 1981, CBN Cable reached nearly 10 million homes. Renamed the CBN Family Channel in 1988, the commercial cable operation continued to prosper and was sold in 1990 to International Family Entertainment Inc. (IFE), a publicly held company that trades on the New York Stock Exchange. IFE was sold in 1997 to Fox Kids Worldwide, Inc.. Disney acquired the Fox Family Channel and it was named ABC Family on November 10, 2001.
Operation Blessing International Relief and Development Corporation is an affiliate organization founded by Pat Robertson in 1978. Operation Blessing was originally set up to help disadvantaged people by matching their needs for clothing, appliances, vehicles and other items with articles donated by viewers of The 700 Club. However, as requests for assistance grew, Robertson and CBN's board of directors decided to make a financial commitment to Operation Blessing that reached $1 million in 1982. In 1992 a fleet of refrigerated tractor-trailer trucks was added to Operation Blessing and called the Hunger Strike Force (HSF). The HSF hauls millions of pounds of food and disaster relief across the U.S. Operation Blessing later purchased and retrofitted an L-1011 airplane into a hospital. “The Flying Hospital” was commissioned in 1996 by former President George Bush and took its first medical mission to El Salvador. The Flying Hospital was sold to a charitable not-for-profit organization in 2000.
Located in Virginia Beach, Va., Regent University was founded in 1977 by Robertson, who serves as its president and chancellor. Regent is a fully accredited graduate university that offers degrees in business, communication & the arts, divinity, education, government, law, organizational leadership and psychology & counseling. In addition, Regent offers a bachelor's degree completion program. Regent University is accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools to award the bachelor’s, master’s and doctor’s degrees, and has enrollment of over 4,000 students. In addition to the main campus in Virginia Beach, Regent offers programs online via their Worldwide Campus.
CBN Historical Highlights
• CBN founded and goes on the air from WYAH-TV in Portsmouth, Virginia.
• Portsmouth facility renovated and transmission power boosted.
• Full color television production begins.
• CBN acquires six radio stations in U.S. and one in Colombia, South America.
• The first "700 Club" telethon leads to a daily show called The 700 Club.
• A new tower and higher transmission power increases CBN's coverage area.
• CBN acquires TV stations in Dallas, Atlanta and Boston.
• National Counseling Center begins 24-hour telephone prayer line.
• The 700 Club becomes the first religious program in English to be carried by cable in Israel.
• CBN buys 142 acres of land in Virginia Beach and builds a new studio headquarters building.
• CBN International is established and delivers CBN programming to the Far East, Canada, South America, Mexico, Africa, and Europe.
• CBN becomes the first Christian ministry to build and operate its own satellite earth station.
• 24-hour Christian programming begins by satellite.
• CBN University opens.
• Operation Blessing is established.
• CBN Cable is established.
• The 700 Club changes to a news/magazine format and opens a news bureau in Washington D.C.
• Middle East Television begins operations in Southern Lebanon and Israel.
• CBN begins producing animation programs to share the Gospel with "Superbook." Airs in Japan.
• CBN buys additional acreage for future expansion and builds the Corporate Support Building.
•"Don't Ask Me, Ask God" airs. It is the most-watched religious special in broadcast history.
•CBN Cable becomes The Family Channel.
• CBN receives Emmy Award for "Never Say Goodbye," produced for CBS.
• CBN University becomes Regent University and Law & Government Building opens.
• The Family Channel is sold to International Family Entertainment (IFE) in 1990.
• The Soviet government opens door for a CBN ministry center in Moscow. CBN airs a Christmas special and "Superbook” on Soviet television. One hundred million people view CBN's television specials in 1991 and 1992.
• Philippines and Romania broadcasting blitzes reach millions.
• The Founders Inn opens.
• Regent University receives a $117 million endowment gift from CBN, the largest to a private university.
• Operation Blessing Hunger Strike Force trucking line founded and launches an 18-city food distribution campaign, delivering more than four million pounds of food.
• Operation Blessing Medical Strike Force founded. First medical mission is to Russia. One of the first humanitarian organizations to assist in Rwanda refugee crisis.
• CBN launches magazine format website, CBN.com in 1995.
• An L-1011 aircraft is purchased and converted into a "flying hospital." The Flying Hospital takes its first mission to El Salvador in 1996.
• Middle East Television begins broadcasting by satellite to a potential audience of 200 million people in 15 nations in the Middle East.
* "Micah's Christmas Treasure," "The Easter Promise," "Alabastor's Song," and “Spunky’s First Christmas” animation specials air in U.S. and internationally.
• CBN WorldReach worldwide campaign is launched October 1, 1995, goal is to win 500 million souls to Christ.
• IFE is sold in 1997 to Fox Kids Worldwide, Inc.
• Regent University receives $109.3 million from sale of IFE stock.
•“Spunky’s First Christmas” animation debuts Christmas 1997 in the United States and 20 other nations.
• CBN joins Campus Crusade for Christ in national prayer and fasting event March 1 through April 9, 1998, called Pray USA `98.
•“1000 Years in the Killing Fields” docudrama airs in Cambodia to minister to survivors of the Killing Fields.
• CBN WorldReach conducts media blitz programming during bombing of Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.
• CBN sponsors Y2K conference in October, 1998.
• CBN WorldReach conducts crusade in Hyderabad, India, during medical mission to 350,000 people.
• Book of Hope Campaign, in partnership with Tyndale Publishing, distributes over 10 million books making it the largest Bible reading campaign in America, as well as the largest promotion of any secular or religious book.
• CBN celebrates its 40th anniversary since inception on January 11, 2000.
• Pat Robertson celebrates his 70th birthday on March 22, 2000.
• Pat Robertson reaffirms his ordination vows on March 27, 2000.
• Regent University acquires ownership of the Founders Inn on August 1, 2000.
• Regent University dedicates new graduate center in Alexandria, Va. on March 19, 2001.
• METV licensing and operations transferred to a like-minded ministry, LeSEA Broadcasting in South Bend, Ind. in July 2001.
• CBN launches Living the Life, a 30-minute magazine style show for women, produced by CBN. Living the Life was launched in September 2001.
• Terrorist Attacks hit New York City and Washington. CBN News responds with live two hour morning broadcast. They also provide news every hour on the hour as well as 11 p.m. live broadcast-September 11, 2001.
• On September 11, Operation Blessing mobilizes to help victims of terrorist attacks against the US. In the following days OB delivers over 210 thousand pounds of relief supplies such as: blankets, nutritional bars, drinks, adhesive bandages, medical kits, toiletry items, coveralls, and respirators
• CBN celebrates its 40th Broadcast Anniversary on October 1, 2001.
• Regent University begins construction on The Communication and Performing Arts building in March 2001. Construction was completed in the fall of 2002.
• Over 10 Christian Broadcasters unite in an unprecedented effort to reach out to the American people with, Where is God Now?, a two-hour primetime special produced by CBN. The program airs November 21-24, 2001.
• NorthStar Studios, a state-of-the-art broadcast facility, opens its doors in May 2002.
• First via satellite interview from NorthStar Studios with Pat on Fox News Hannity & Colmes, May 17, 2002.
• First 700 Club broadcast featuring Kathy Troccoli from NorthStar studio, June 16, 2002.
• Pat Robertson presented with The State of Israel Friendship Award by the Chicago chapter of the Zionist Organization of America, July 14, 2002.
• CBN News launches CBN NewsWatch, a new half-hour weekend program, in October 2002.
• United States goes to war in March 2003 and CBN News covers Operation Iraqi Freedom
extensively on The 700 Club by adding daily program--CBN NewsWatch--to their lineup and bringing on Col. William Taylor, military analyst, to contribute to news reports.
• CBN’s domestic One Cubed launches on September 18, 2003. One Cubed is a cutting edge magazine style program which features extreme sports, music videos, and celebrity interviews.
• Pat Robertson speaks to Israeli leaders at the Herzliya Conference at the Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy, and Strategy on December 17, 2003.
• The Ten Offenses, Dr. Robertson’s cutting edge book regarding the Ten Commandments is released, January 2004.
• 2004: Pat Robertson’s 16th book, “Courting Disaster,” is released by Integrity Publishers in January 2004
• Israeli Cabinet Member and Minister of Tourism, Benny Elon, presents Pat Robertson with honorary Ambassadors Award at the NRB convention on February 15th..
• November 2004 sweeps show tremendous ratings growth for The 700 Club. December reaches ten year ratings high.
• Operation Blessing begins providing emergency relief for Tsunami victims in Asia on December 26th.
• On January 7, 2005: John Tesh, Connie Sellecca and family travel with Operation Blessing to Sri Lanka to aid Tsunami victims
• On March 11th The 700 Club features an exclusive interview with Mel Gibson regarding his movie, The Passion of the Christ.
• Pat Robertson celebrates his 75th birthday on March 22nd.
• On May 15th, Christian World News pioneers global news alliance giving Christian broadcasters the ability to share footage on the Internet—Stan Jeter leads the effort.
• Pat Robertson’s new book, “Miracles Can Be Yours Today,” is released in January 2006 by Integrity Publishers
• NRB awards The 700 Club with the Best Television Talk Show Award in January 2006
• CBN Animation’s, The Lion’s Den, wins four Telly Awards for Children’s Television Programming, Original Music, Animation and Home Video Production, March 2006
• CBN Animation’s, The Lion’s Den, wins four OMNI Awards for Outstanding Children’s Programming, May 2006
• On April 29, 2007, CBN celebrates the 400th Anniversary of the English settlers erecting a wooden cross at Cape Henry and dedicating America to God. CBN has a “Reclaiming The Covenant” ceremony outside by the cross with partners and CBN employees.
• On April 30, 2007, First Landing, CBN and Regent University produced movie, airs on ABC Family and various syndicated stations across the United States.
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