BROOKE GLADSTONE: One television product that is always engaged in matters of faith is Pat Robertson's 700 Club, the most watched evangelical Christian program in America. On September 13th the 700 Club played host to Jerry Falwell who pointed his finger at pagans, abortionists, feminists, gays and lesbians and the ACLU saying they've angered God and helped the terrorist attacks to happen.
BOB GARFIELD: That statement and Pat Robertson's agreement were universally denounced in the mainstream media.
PAT ROBERTSON:Jerry Falwell made a statement on this program that-- has just led to a firestorm. The liberals all over the nation jumped on him. The press excoriated him, and me in the process. But he blamed the ACLU and People from [sic] The American Way for stripping the spiritual covering over America!
BOB GARFIELD:That was Pat Robertson on Wednesday, selectively recalling what Reverend Falwell said. The 700 Club is not aired on some remote outpost of the cable universe. It's carried on almost every cable system in America on the Fox Family Network which also runs Who's the Boss reruns and This Week's Baseball Playoffs.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Robertson's deal with the Fox Family Channel which will soon have a new name and a new owner has assured him riches and exposure for many years ahead. Joining us now is J. Max Robins who writes The Robins Report for TV Guide. Welcome back to show, and what's Pat Robertson's deal with the Fox Family Channel?
J. MAX ROBINS: Pat Robertson started the Family Channel, and several years ago he sold it. He sold it to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, and when he sold it, part of the agreement was that the News Corp people had to keep The 700 Club, his show, on the air! Also in the deal was that if Murdoch ever sold it, which he's in the process of doing right now to the Walt Disney Company, they inherited The 700 Club!
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Have advertisers run away from the Family Channel the way they've run from Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect?
J. MAX ROBINS:It's analogous in that some advertisers have defected from Bill Maher's Politically Incorrect like Sears, but Sears is still on the ABC Network. Likewise, on the Family Channel, no advertisers have left because of this imbroglio with Pat Robertson and the Reverend Jerry Falwell. And besides, The 700 Club really doesn't take advertising.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: So they didn't feel it that way, but what about the ratings? Has there been a ratings dropoff at Fox Family?
J. MAX ROBINS:The 700 Club and Pat Robertson, what he's done there has always had a negative impact on the ratings at the Family Channel. When you have The 700 Club there running one time in the morning and then again at night, it really kind of breaks up the flow of other kinds of programming they're trying to do.
BROOKE GLADSTONE:Now that Disney is buying Fox Family, you said that they can't cancel Robertson. Can they schedule him at a bad time? Would they toss him out if they could do you think?
J. MAX ROBINS: Oh, Disney would absolutely get rid of Pat Robertson and The 700 Club if they could, but I think the way the deal is structured is that they only have, well, really limited flexibility on where they can put The 700 Club. Murdoch was stuck with them. Michael Eisner and Disney are stuck with them.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Okay Max. Thank you very much!
J. MAX ROBINS: Thank you, Brooke. It's a pleasure being here.
BROOKE GLADSTONE: Max Robins is the writer of The Robins Report which you can read weekly in TV Guide.