Encyclopedia of Religion
and Society

William H. Swatos, Jr. Editor

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(1930-) Evangelical Christian and entrepreneur; son of U.S. Senator Absalom W. Robertson; graduated magna cum laude from Washington and Lee (1950); graduate of Yale Law School but failed bar examinations; graduate of the Bible Seminary of New York (renamed New York Theological Seminary). Introduced to and became interested in Pentecostalism in 1957; leader in the modern charismatic movement, a fervent evangelical reaching an interdenominational Christian audience. Ordained minister Southern Baptist Church. Bought Christian television (UHF) station, Channel 27, Portsmouth, VA (1959); in 1976 purchased 142 acres in Virginia Beach as the future site of Regent University and the Family Channel.

Robertson established the Christian Broadcasting Network (CBN) in the Tidewater area of Virginia, first broadcasting on radio, then establishing Christian television station WHAH-TV, October 1961. Robertson later distanced himself from religious broadcasting (although he still hosts the 700 Club ) to become a Christian educator, entrepreneur, and political advocate. Still engaging in advocacy journalism using 700 Club as a vehicle for political analyses of the news, he briefly stepped down as host to run as a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1988. When his bid for the presidency ended early in the campaign, he founded the Christian Coalition and became its President, with Ralph Reed as Executive Director. Robertson is still President of CC, which has an estimated membership of 1.7 million (Regan and Dunham 1995). The coalition has actively influenced the Republican platform in the last two presidential elections and is committed to involvement in the grassroots as well as national political levels on issues such as abortion, prayer in public schools, and school choice.

His financial success with CBN enabled him to establish Regent University (formerly CBN University), which provides only graduate-level courses, and a number of political action groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice (National Legal Foundation). The International Family Entertainment Corporation (IFE), which he and his son Tim acquired in 1990, is a holding company that owns the Family Channel, formerly CBN Cable Network. In this transition to a publicly traded corporation, a block of IFE shares were given to the 700 Club and Regent University. Under Tim Robertson's leadership, IFE has bought the Mary Tyler Moore (MTM) company, the producers of Hill Street Blues, The Bob Newhart Show , and Evening Shade , among others, through its acquisition of British Broadcaster RVS, the parent company of MTM.

The financial and organizational growth of IFE is impressive. In its 1993 annual report to stockholders, IFE reported total revenues of $43.8 million for the second quarter, a 37% increase over the comparable quarter in 1992, and its total operating revenues for 1993 increased 56% to $208.2 million; however, the value of stock declined from $0.70 to 0.49 per share.

See also Christian Right, Televangelism

Razelle Frankl


R. Frankl, Televangelism (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987)

J. K. Hadden and A. D. Shupe, Televangelism (New York: Holt, 1988)

D. Harrell, Jr., Pat Robertson (San Francisco: Harper, 1987)

S. M. Hoover, Mass Media Religion (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1988); International Family Entertainment, Inc., Report to Stockholders , 1994

J. Peck, The Gods of Televangelism (Cresskill, N.J.: Hampton, 1993)

M. Regan and R. Dunham, "Gimme That Old-Time Marketing," Business Week (Nov. 6, 1995): 76-78.

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