Christian Media

Should Telethons Be Re-Run?

TV telethons have become a staple of Christian broadcasting networks.  Nearly all non-commercial networks do them, and they’re a key way to motivate  viewers to support their programming.  I’m not against telethons, and I’m wide open to any good idea what will help finance better programming.  After all, everyone from causes like Muscular Dystrophy, to Public Broadcasting  does them regularly, so whatever you may think of the concept, it seems to work.  The question I have is:  Is it acceptable to re-play or re-run telethons?  After all, it’s about raising money, and in the vast majority of telethons, there are “live” elements like telling us the amount of money that’s coming in, the number of callers, and some even have live graphics telling you how many phones are busy, or clocks counting down to the total.  (Remember the classic thermometer?)

Of course all of these techniques are designed to increase the urgency and drive people to the phones to give.  However, when the show is re-run, all those numbers, amounts, and requests aren’t true anymore.  Essentially, are they raising money on false pretenses?

Plus – it opens the door to a lot of confusion on other issues.  For instance, recently, Trinity Broadcasting Network announced that Paul Crouch Jr. was leaving the network.  But by replaying an apparently old telethon this past week, we see Paul Jr. prominently on the stage throughout the broadcast.  That leaves a lot of questions in people’s minds.  What’s the truth here?

I’d love to hear your opinion.   I’m not even getting into the questionable theology that you hear on some networks, stretching scripture to encourage people to give.  Maybe we’ll talk about that some other time.  And as I mentioned, it’s not the concept of telethons that’s being questioned here.  I’m cool with that.  It’s just the idea of re-running something that’s already happened for purposes of raising money.

Am I making a big deal out of nothing?  Or should television networks – especially Christian television networks – have more integrity and give us the real scoop on how they raise money?

Let me know your thoughts.

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  1. NO.  they are bad enough the first time.  IF you rerun, it should always be with a disclaimer graphic that it is a re-airing.  But, unless you know you have a unique audience (say rerunning at an odd time like very early AM), all reruns do are bore the faithful who most likely already gave.  Bore your audience and may they tune to something else- and you risk losing them entirely.

  2. Reruns with no disclaimer is simply wrong if you are posting results as though it is in real time. But that does not bother me as much as a handful of telethon “stars” that the larger Christian networks bring in only in telethon season. On one channel the same guy is raising $38 a month based on some scripture with the number 38 in it, wearing a red tie and looking earnestly into the camera. Three channels over, same guy, blue tie, asking for $52 a month based on a scripture with 52 in it, making that same earnest plea. No wonder the world laughs at us.

    At least with PBS, they offer up high quality entertainment as hooks for their telethons. The pitches get on my nerves, but I get what I am giving to support.

    1. I’d have to agree with Mary about reruns. 

      Not a fan of re-airing the same telethon. Seems to say to the viewer, “We don’t value your attention enough to give you new content.” (I wonder if they’d be okay if people resent the cancelled check?) 

      The same ‘stars’ on different networks bothers me less.. I guess I’d lump it in the same bucket as conferences that share the same speakers. Less than ideal, but doesn’t feel inauthentic to me.  

  3. If it works, it works.  Run it as long as it works.  Disclaimers could negatively affect response and revenue.  Telethons are all about response and revenues.  No one is hurt by thinking the show is live.  The people who gripe about such things are never the ones who have the responsibility to pay the bills.

  4. Our ministry gets lots and lots of calls asking, “Is this telethon a re-run or live?”. No one complains about whether it’s live or not. However, I personally believe being up front with viewers by communicating it’s a re-run program so they are not deceived when they see the $ amounts given.
    The reason our ministry only does the one live grand telethon a year is because they spend exorbitant amounts of money to produce these gigs for 5 whole days – equaling 20 hours of programming. Hotel, travel and food expenses for on-air guests alone are beyond mention…. And I could mention other astronomical expenses, but I won’t. It’s truly a wonder that they can come out ahead at the end of the telethon!
    I understand that ministries need to find ways to raise money, but I don’t get the abhorrent tactics that are used. I have felt nauseous working these productions. I have worked for the Public Broadcasting program productions many times for their fund raising programs and they were tasteful, effective and intelligent. They don’t spend ungodly amounts of money to produce their fund raising shows…. another intelligent decision. This means they do all their telethons LIVE because they aren’t spending what they are raising. Secular programming does it much better than the Christian programming from my close encounters with both …. This is darn shame.  

  5. The only reason why I think your question is meaningless is because even if a consensus was reached that there should be some kind of disclaimer or such, there is absolutely no way anyone at any Christian networks would listen to any such criticism.  They only care about one thing, their own bank accounts.  If it makes money, but isn’t exactly the honorable thing to do, who cares they are still making money.  Just like Mary H. said, the same guys make the circuit spewing nonsense about $22 dollars for 12 months because in “Zephaniah 22:12” God gave us a promise of prosperity.  It’s all a sham.  So why even ask these networks to be up front and honest about if they recorded a program six years ago?  (You know, back when the host sported a creepy mustache, not the way more stylish goatee/beard thing.  Was that too low of a blow?  Sorry)  

  6. Content is expensive to produce so there is a pragmatic necessity to re-airing whatever you produce as many times as is financially beneficial to do so.

    Integrity and honesty is always paramount for the producer because the other side of the the issue is that if you train your audience that what they are watching is a rerun that is what they will expect even if it is a brand new production. As a result long term revenues will be hurt in the interest of short term gains.

    Bottom line, show the disclaimer and everyone is happy. Also unicycles and juggling, who doesn’t want that in a telethon? Gets me every time.

  7. I think there is a pragmatic aspect to reairing telethons, and after all, so little broadcasting is live these days that it probably doesn’t even cross the minds of our audiences to be bothered by it…but I do wish there were a new paradigm for funding Christian programs, stations and networks.Yes, it’s good to get donors involved in the ministries, but I hate using valuable airtime to beg for money and do all the hype that makes many in the next generation embarrassed to be associated with Christian media! 

  8. I am in Hartford, CT this weekend sitting on the back “pew” at Women of Faith. Rarely have I seen as much Biblical practical teaching/preaching/worship on Christitan television. Content like this meets the quality of the PBS type special they break end to do telethons. Give people some meat and then a call to action to keep effective ministry on the air. If it is not effective, then it’s to time to rethink if God called you to tv.

  9. That’s amazing. I can’t imagine rerunning a telethon. Is thier viewership that spotty that they don’t think anyone will notice?

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