An effort by television evangelist and possible 1988 presidential candidate Pat Robertson to establish a national TV news operation suffered a setback Friday, when the Christian Broadcasting Network announced its "CBN News Tonight" program will be canceled just two months after its debut.
The nightly half-hour program began as an attempt to counter traditional network broadcast journalism by covering news from a conservative and religious-oriented point of view. It debuted on CBN's national cable-TV network Jan. 27.
According to CBN, the show attempted to bring the news within a "system of values" as conveyed through the Scriptures. The network requires reporters to "accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and reject the secularism and relativism" of the 20th Century.
"CBN News Tonight" will go off the air Friday, the network said, because of a "lack of interest on the part of advertisers." Projected advertising revenues for the coming months were expected to cover only about 20% of the cost of producing the program, CBN said.
"The program was not able to support itself," a network spokesman said. He said he had no information on the cost of presenting the program.
According to the network's figures, the program is broadcast to the more than 30 million homes across the country served by CBN. The newscast airs at 10 p.m. on the East Coast and at 7 p.m. in the Pacific time zone.
Robertson's Virginia Beach, Va.-based organization has annual revenues in excess of $200 million, more than half of which comes in as donations from viewers and other supporters. The organization maintains a 600,000-name mailing list of donors.
Robertson has said on several occasions in recent months that he is considering running for the 1988 Republican presidential nomination. His fund-raising ability at CBN as well as his personal television following have been cited as key elements to his political plans.
CBN said 26 members of the 43-person news staff will remain to work for Robertson's own popular "The 700 Club" news and interview program and other network news efforts. CBN will also keep the Washington studio where the nightly news show originated as a news bureau, the network said.