The Big Failure at This Week’s NRB Convention

TV producers, radio broadcasters, filmmakers, and journalists are flocking to the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB) convention in Nashville for the biggest annual networking event showcasing Christian media professionals.

Attendees can choose from a plethora of workshops and speakers addressing topics ranging from first amendment issues to religious persecution and from marketing to production. Unfortunately, they will NOT hear about two topics the NRB should address:

  • A growing number of broadcast ministries are rejecting financial transparency. The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, Grace to You and Ravi Zacharias International Ministries have stopped filing the Form 990 which discloses the pay of its top executives and provides a breakdown of other expenses.
  • There are an astonishing number of wolves in religious broadcasting, preachers taking advantage of their congregations and viewers for financial gain.

How can donors to religious broadcasters make informed decisions when NRB  member-organizations deliberately stop filing the Form 990? Donor responsibility is important. Financial transparency is just as important.

Does NRB vet its speakers or board members?  In ten years more than $40 million flowed from the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) to Constitutional Litigation and Advocacy Group (CLAG). Current NRB speaker Jay Sekulow is both an ACLJ board member and CLAG co-owner, and his organization’s 990s fail to show how much he was paid from these financial transactions.

Now should be the time to act on these scandals. NRB and its affiliate organization the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) can start by prohibiting their members from engaging in self-dealing and expelling them when they do. When a ministry leader controls both a non-profit organization and for-profit company which do business with each other, the ministry leader can excessively profit off the non-profit organization. This is a red flag for the IRS. Yet the practice is popular among large media ministries.

With the growth of internet-based networking, events like the NRB Convention are losing some of their appeal.

This year America’s best-known religious TV networks TBN, Daystar, INSP and The Word Network are not exhibitors. In previous years Trinity Broadcasting Network hosted the largest exhibit while promoting its Holy Land Experience theme park on the convention floor.