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NRB15 Highlights New Media, Regulatory Issues

Christian broadcasters convene in Nashville to discuss the path forward

Attendees of the NRB14 International Christian Media Convention converse and network during a reception at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center in Nashville.
Photos courtesy National Religious Broadcasters Over the past year, the National Religious Broadcasters — which will hold its annual convention this month — took a wide-ranging look at how audiences for its Christian broadcasting member stations and networks consume content.

President/CEO Dr. Jerry A. Johnson boiled the findings down to a simple statement. “The new reality is this: People under 35 just aren’t listening to appointment preaching on the radio or television anymore.”

Instead, he said they’re using podcasts, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other new media channels.

“At NRB, we need to reach that current generation, so we’re having a Digital Media Summit on Wednesday, Feb. 25,” Johnson said.

Also, in order to allow convention attendance for those such as pastors, music leaders, church technology professionals and others, who are tied up delivering church services on weekends, the NRB 2015 International Christian Media Convention in Nashville, Tenn., has shifted its schedule to mid-week.


Show logo:

What: NRB15
Who: The organization National Religious Broadcasters sponsors this international Christian media convention.
When: Feb. 23–26
Where: Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center, Nashville, Tenn.
How Much: Convention registration for NRB members costs $550, nonmembers $650, first-timers $350 and day passes are $275 per day; rates increase $100 after Feb. 21.

There was previous warning about NRB members’ appetite for new media sessions. The 2014 NRB convention offered a digital media session the day before the convention opened, and organizers expected a crowd of perhaps 80. Instead they drew a roomful of 380.

Also set for release at the convention is a study for NRV by LiveWay Research showing how Christians use media.

Traditional radio and television broadcasting is not being forgotten at the convention. Sessions specific to traditional attendees include on-air fundraising, talent coaching and boot camps providing training in broadcast production skills in all media.

The convention will also feature high-profile speakers like former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton; Governor Mike Huckabee; Steve Forbes, chairman and editor-in-chief of Forbes Media; and radio host and actor Chuck Norris, who will receive the organization’s Chairman’s Award.

Additionally, the annual convention offers breakout sessions addressing areas of concern to the organization’s members. Among those that will interest Radio World readers:

• Monday afternoon’s FCC Update will feature a panel of legal experts along with Peter Doyle, chief of the FCC Media Bureau’s Audio Division.
• Tuesday afternoon Fred Jacobs, founder of Jacobs Media and an expert in radio consulting and strategic research, will share results of his TechSurvey and its direct relevance to Christian radio.
• Chuck Finney, president of Finney Media and Tracy Johnson, founder, president and CEO of Tracy Johnson Media Group, will present Tuesday afternoon’s “5 Talent Coaching Tips In 45 Minutes.”
• Wednesday morning’s “The Art of Social Media” will be anchored by Guy Kawasaki, chief evangelist at graphic design tool provider Canva.

Mike Huckabee addresses the 2013 NRB Convention. He will again attend the conference as a speaker in 2015.
Photos courtesy National Religious BroadcastersISLAM
An all-day Tuesday session sure to draw a lot of interest is “Islam: Theological and Great Commission Challenges.”

“We started planning a couple of months ago, but I think the Lord was in it,” said Johnson. “Since Paris, since Boko Haram, since all that’s happened now in Belgium and elsewhere, we’ve decided to make it deeper and wider. We’ve got now 14 speakers coming in.”

The morning sessions on Islam will feature Bible expositors and Islam specialists, who will share research, insights and personal stories about the global rise of Islam from a theological perspective. The afternoon session will concentrate on what NRB sees as cultural and security challenges presented by Islam.

The convention will also feature a Film & Entertainment Summit.

“This is the first time we’ve done this,” said Johnson. “This has sort of been the year of the Bible film, the Christian film. We’ve seen Hollywood try to do some films, these Bible films, and we’ve seem Christian films actually make it into the mainstream. We’ve got an entire day for this.”

NRB’s convention also will host an equipment and services exposition dedicated to Christian media professionals, featuring some 200 companies, ministries and organizations. A pass to the convention expo is free; attendees can purchase one-day passes to NRB sessions.


NRB calls the convention exposition “the largest marketplace dedicated to Christian media professionals.” It expects 200 vendors in 130,000 square feet of space.

This is a sampling; find the full list at

Aberdeen Broadcast Services
Amazing Facts Ministries
Brinkman Adventures Radio Drama
Broadcast Electronics/Commotion
Broadcast Software International
Broadcast Supply Worldwide
Broadcasters General Store
Charisma Media
Christian FM Media
Comrex Corp.
Faith Broadcasting
Family Research Council
Fellowship of European Broadcasters
German National Tourist Office
Heritage Foundation
Holy Land Broadcasting
Israel Ministry of Tourism
Ka You Communications
LeSea Broadcasting Corp.
NPR Satellite Services
Propagation Systems Inc.
RF Specialties Group
Salvation Army
Shively Labs
Southern Baptists Telling the Story

The convention always brings a focus on the political, regulatory and judicial concerns of NRB members; and some of those involve hot-button cultural issues. The association is vocal about what “religious liberty” means for broadcasters.

“One of the mission points of NRB is to defend free speech,” said Johnson. “And what I’m sensing is that there is a new tone on the marriage issue, on sexuality, on so-called same-sex marriage and even on Islam, if you critique Islam. Already in countries like Canada, or Great Britain, if you talk about these things from the pulpit, or on the air, you can lose your license.”

In his view, “speech codes” are developing when it comes to such topics and are a concern not only for broadcasters but for churches, whose leaders worry about losing tax-exempt status thanks to an unhospitable climate in the federal government.

Johnson believes the new Republican majority in the U.S. Senate and strengthened majority in the House of Representatives will help balance what NRB sees as excesses in the Obama administration agenda. “For instance ENDA, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would essentially make any business, any Christian business hire trans-gender, homosexual…[even if that] would be violating their consciences, violating their religious convictions in hiring practices.”

An area where the NRB has made a recent public filing to the Federal Communications Commission is in spectrum repacking and its effect on low power television stations.

“For 30 or 40 years small churches, medium churches, big churches, mom-and-pop operations, have put thousands, maybe even millions of dollars in building some kind of television station, a local television station with Christian programming. We believe it’s just not fair for the FCC to come in and say, ‘We’re going to take this broadcasting spectrum and now sell it nationally to some big operators.’”

Craig Johnston is a longtime Radio World contributor.