Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Benny Hinn Compete With Coral Ridge and Crystal Cathedral for Cash

Wikimedia A 17th-century rendition of the Judgment of Solomon.
A 17th-century rendition of the Judgment of Solomon.

Distributing the royalties from religious television broadcasts is more complicated than two mothers arguing over their baby in Solomon’s court, a federal court ruled last month.

“King Solomon was not subject to the Administrative Procedure Act; the Royalty Judges are,” wrote judges on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. “Congress thus required that the Royalty Judges’ determinations rest on a focused analysis of the record, not an arbitrary splitting of the baby.”

The dispute, between two groups of Christian television producers, stems back to the way Congress set up television broadcasting in order to protect “intellectual property while also ensuring the information flows freely,” the opinion said.

Cable or satellite television companies are allowed to rebroadcast any broadcast television show they want, without getting permission from the show’s owners. In return, they pay royalties to the federal government. The Copyright Royalty Board then splits the money—first into broad categories like music, sports, and devotional programming, and then among the claimants in each category.

The devotional programming category, with royalties from 2000-2003, is being contested by two consortiums. (In 2003, the amount of money set aside for devotional claimants was more than $350,000.)

One of the groups, represented by the Independent Producers Group (IPG), includes the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA), James Robison’s Life Outreach International, Benny Hinn, and Creflo Dollar.

The other group, called Settling Devotional Claimants (SDC), contains 23 other broadcast ministries, including Charles Stanley’s In Touch Ministries, Christian Broadcasting Network, Coral Ridge Ministries Media, Crystal Cathedral Ministries, and the Oral Roberts Evangelistic Association.

Any organization that wants to receive royalty money must submit its rationale to the CRB as to how it thinks the pot of money in its category should be divided.

“At root, the dispute centers on the fact that the SDC wants to use a system based on Nielsen ratings,” Brian D. Boydston, IPG’s attorney, told CT. “We think a better methodology would be to look at subscribership.”

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SOURCE: Christianity Today
Sarah Eekhoff Zylstra

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