[April 27, 2001]
Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN); 1961-
There are no restrictions on the use of this collection.
The Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN), the nation's first Christian TV station, was launched in 1961 from Portsmouth, Virginia, in a vandalized building and with a three dollar checking account balance by its founder "Pat" Robertson. Robertson's credentials included a degree in law and partnership in an electronics firm, as well as faith in the future of electronics as a tool of evangelism. One of the most successful programs of WYAH-TV and WXRJ, The 700 Club evolved from early fund-raising efforts to support the station. An appeal went out in 1965 for seven hundred people to pledge ten dollars a month to support operating expenses. So successful was the program that in 1966 it was repeated and continued as a daily operation; it often ran several hours past its scheduled fifteen-minute program segment in the evening as it evolved into a prayer-counseling format. From this beginning, The 700 Club grew to minister to listeners who sent in more than a million prayer requests in 1977 and who were assisted by approximately seven thousand prayer counselors on twenty-four-hour duty across the country emanating from telephone centers which included CBN headquarters in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Referral systems brought area churches and new Christians into contact.
In 1974, CBN received an Award of Merit for excellence in station management from the National Religious Broadcasters. Its television stations operated in Atlanta, Dallas, and Portsmouth. FM radio stations broadcast from Norfolk, Virginia, and Albany, Syracuse, Ithaca-Elmira, Rochester, and Buffalo, New York. Broadcasting magazine lauded CBN in 1977 as a leader among all station operations, both religious and secular, for its use and expertise in satellite communications. CBN was the first Christian organization to own and operate a satellite earth station in the United States, with links to RCA Satcom and Westar satellites, in addition to sixty earth stations in the U.S. The magazine quoted CBN's aim to become the fourth major network in the country, and lauded its activities as "an organization firmly committed to becoming a powerful, important force in American and world television." CBN's financial supporters, over three hundred thousand in 1979, reflect the policy of the network which aims at changed lives and "plays by a different set of rules," according to the Broadcasting report. Total budget for network operations in 1978 was approximately forty million dollars.
Development of satellite communications made possible almost instantaneous response to programs beamed from world-wide cities. In 1978, CBN set up a portable "earth disk" on the grounds of the hotel at which its convention was held so that all rooms could receive transmission of CBN television programs from the RCA Satcom satellite. A year later, on October 6, 1979, an International Communications Center was built in Virginia Beach, Virginia, to house the multiple operation of CBN.
Innovations of CBN included using hours apart from the traditional Sunday morning, providing action-oriented programs in attractive visual settings and featuring well-known individuals. These policies helped reach audiences accustomed to secular programming. The 700 Club made extra effort to support and strengthen local churches, rather than to operate in competition with them; they developed an efficient follow-up system involving churches of many denominations. Emphasis was also placed on follow-up Bible study and application in daily life.
Scope and Content
The material in this collection consists of two videotape cassettes made of the dedication ceremonies and the grand opening of the International Communication for CBN at Virginia Beach, Virginia, on the evening of October 6, 1979.
Part 1, videotape V1, is a 59:30 minute segment of the ceremonies which opened with exterior views of the building, in front of which had been built a platform for the dedication. The Virginia Philharmonic Orchestra, under the direction of Russell Stanger, initiated the program with the theme song of The 700 Club, after which Ephraim Zimbalist, Jr., master of ceremonies for the evening, spoke while background shots showed construction, the completed prayer chapel, and world-wide viewers. The orchestra played a medley of hymns and Pat Robertson welcomed the crowd and named some of the guests, including Senator John Warner, Lt. Governor and Mrs. Charles Robb, Rev. and Mrs. Rex Humbard, Mr. and Mrs. William Bright, Ben Armstrong, and other government officials. These acknowledgments were followed by a solo, Fairest Lord Jesus, sung by Metropolitan Opera tenor William Harness.
The major dedicatory address was delivered by Billy Graham; he pointed out the significance of its now being possible, for the first time in Christian history, to preach the gospel to all nations through the medium of radio and television in addition to missionary efforts. He used this fact to call attention to the many signs predicted as heralding the Second Advent which are currently being fulfilled. He also reiterated the durability of the Kingdom of Christ, regardless of powers that attack its fulfillment and that true proclamation of that Kingdom comes through the Holy Spirit operating in partnership with men and women whose lives match their preaching. Graham's address was followed by Andre Crouch, pianist-singer, performing Jesus Is The Way, accompanied by a group of gospel singers and instrumentalists.
CBN substituted the customary ribbon-cutting ceremony with a sheaf of wheat, symbolizing the harvest of the Kingdom, severed with a silver sickle presented to Pat Robertson by the builder, William Chambers. A group which included members of the Board of Directors--Tucker Yates, Robert Schlosser, Harold Bredesen, and architect Archie David--moved into the prayer chapel of the building for further dedication. This was preceded by a segment narrated by Zimbalist recounting verses from the book of Acts and a dramatic reading of Peter's personal reaction to his denial of Christ. The setting for this reading was a pre-recorded view of a sculpture of Pentecost, created by Sid Chambers, in the lobby of the building.
An interior scene of the circular prayer chapel, which formed the hub of the cross-shaped building, focused on Pat Robertson and the dedicating group, which included counselors from across the nation. A microfilmed reel of over one hundred eighty thousand prayer requests was inserted into a permanent cylinder and Robertson preceded his prayer by reading a revelation received by a group on this site at a bonfire on September 25, 1976. It contained the assurance from God that He had selected the site and the country to become a witness and tool for His will for the world and further assurances that provision would be made for its usefulness in the future. On the strength of this experience, the building had been constructed and Robertson's prayer offered its use for God's purposes.
Videotape V2 is a 30-minute continuation of the ceremonies, with a brief recapitulation of the service in the chapel at the beginning. The cameras then shifted to the exterior scene where the next order of the ceremony was a second song, To God Be The Glory, sung by Crouch with vocal and instrumental accompaniment. It was followed by the Hampton Institute choir singing a medley of hymns which included Praise My Jesus, Lift Up Your Head, Everlasting Portion, and others. Members of The 700 Club staff were introduced, as was Deedee Robertson, and the evening concluded with the orchestra and choir playing and singing the Hallelujah Chorus, during which fireworks were set off.
The video tape cassettes in this collection were received at the Center in September 1980 from Melvin Lorentzen.
May 6, 1983
Frances L. Brocker
Type of material: Videotape
The following items are located in the VIDEOTAPE FILE:
V1 - First portion of the dedication ceremonies for Christian Broadcasting Network's International Communication Center, Virginia Beach, Virginia, October 6, 1979. Dedicatory address delivered by Billy Graham. 59:30 minutes, 3/4" U-matic, color.
V2 - Concluding portion of dedication ceremonies, October 6, 1979. Includes musical performances by Andre Crouch, the Hampton Institute Choir, and Virginia Philharmonic Orchestra. 30 minutes, 3/4" U-matic, color.