Tracking the Biggest Godcaster

This month’s edition of Mother Jones magazine is focused on the religious right and its political machinations, and a lot of it is kinda frightening. There’s a good article on Salem Communications, the largest commercial chain of Christian stations in the country.

Like its secular brethren, such as Clear Channel, Salem has actively lobbied for loosening ownership restrictions. It cleaned up after the 1996 Telecomm Act removed the national radio ownership cap.

An interesting point brought up in the article is that Salem is also worried about hate crime legislation and indecency regulations:

“We are fearful that criminal penalties for so-called hate crimes might impinge on Christian broadcasters.” In a recent op-ed about indecency laws pushed by some Christians, Epperson worried that such laws could be twisted by liberal opponents to muzzle Christians. “Sure right now an FCC dominated by reasonable people wouldn’t do anything drastic,” Epperson wrote. “But let us suppose that with this bill on the books the nation has elected Hillary Rodham Clinton as President.” Then, he says, Salem’s support of a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage would open it up to attacks. “The homosexual lobby would organize itself to insure that there were hundreds, perhaps thousands, of complaints against stations that took that point of view. Armed with that sort of ammunition, the FCC would have no problem finding the excuse for shutting down those voices that broadcast what they would call homophobic views.”

It’s such a strange parallel universe that I can barely wrap my head around it.

I didn’t realize that Salem is actually a publicly traded company. Theroretically, that means a group of wealthy secularists could buy up shares and start exerting some control in the company. Of course, that would probably threaten the company’s short-term bottom line, since Christian radio is now a format and demographic, not just a religious orientation. Nevertheless, a hostile takeover is nice little fantasy.

The Center for Media and Democracy‘s SourceWatch has some good research on Salem.

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