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Local Stations Plan to Continue Airing Swaggart Show--for Now

February 24, 1988|STEVE WEINSTEIN

Despite TV evangelist Jimmy Swaggart's admission of "moral failure" and the uncertainty surrounding the future of his television program, most local stations that carry "The Jimmy Swaggart Telecast" plan to continue airing it for at least the next two weeks.

KTLA Channel 5, KTTV Channel 11, KCOP Channel 13, Spanish-language station KMEX Channel 34 and KEYT Channel 3 in Santa Barbara have two weeks of prerecorded new shows ready for air, and station spokesmen said they will continue to broadcast Swaggart's sermons until his World Ministries in Baton Rouge, La., stops supplying them. KSCI Channel 18 in West Los Angeles and KTBN Channel 40 in Santa Ana, which also carry Swaggart's program, could not be reached by press time.

Swaggart's telecast airs Sunday through Friday at various times on the individual stations.

"As long as they pay their bills, we'll continue airing it," said one station spokesman Tuesday who requested anonymity.

Swaggart, who heads the $140-million television ministry, was ordered to undergo a period of rehabilitation and was prohibitted from preaching for at least three months by officials of the Assemblies of God Church after he admitted unspecified sins on Sunday. A spokesman for Swaggart's World Ministries refused any comment on the future of the program, which is carried by more than 280 stations nationwide. A.C. Nielsen places Swaggart's audience at 860,000 households weekly. Swaggart's show is also distributed in more than 100 foreign countries.

In the wake of the scandal that broke over the weekend, Christian Broadcasting Network officials decided they would not air the program while Swaggart is under his three-month, church-supervised probation. A spokesman for CBN said that the cable network is available in nearly 39 million homes with an average viewing audience of 273,000 households on any given day.

State-run television stations in Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and South Africa also have pulled Swaggart's telecasts. Jamaican officials canceled the program pending a clarification of the preacher's status. The South African television company announced it would no longer carry any programs that featured Swaggart.

None of the Los Angeles-area stations contacted by The Times reported receiving any complaints about the program since allegations of Swaggart's involvement with a prostitute became a major news story around the world over the weekend.

"Until they tell us the show is going to be taken off the air, we have no changes planned," said Ed Harrison, a KTLA spokesman.

"People are so excited about this thing, they would be more upset if we pulled it," said Renee Foley, program director at KEYT in Santa Barbara.

Harrison said he'd heard that the program would continue with a new minister in Swaggart's absence, but by noon Tuesday Swaggart's ministry had yet to issue an official statements about the future of the program to any of its television outlets.

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