Ken Foote’s Radio/TV Files: The Unpredictable Pat Robertson
The news story about M.G. “Pat” Robertson coming out in favor of legalizing marijuana, with all due respect to him, just flies in the face of what I know about him and what he believes…..because I was a CBN employee in the 1980′s in the DFW television market and worked for the Robertson family (The initials M.G. stand for Marion Gordon). I know people can change their views but I didn’t expect it from him!
In March 1984, I joined KXTX Channel 39 as Assistant Program Director. KXTX and two other TV stations in Boston and Norfolk were part of the CBN Continental Broadcasting Network, although CBN stands for the Christian Broadcasting Network.
Back in that day, Channel 39 was a struggling independent TV station going up against KTVT and KTXA which dominated the indie TV viewing in the area. Its programming guidelines required that all programming acquired and aired had to be “family oriented.” Nothing could air that was contrary to Judeo-Christian values. The tricky thing was figuring out what was considered acceptable and what wasn’t. We could not air shows like Cheers because of the setting in the bar and the drinking. Same for The Twilight Zone because it was considered part of the occult. We could air shows with violence, like westerns or World Class Championship Wrestling with the Von Erich family.
Saturday and Sunday afternoons were huge for Channel 39 with The Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Bonanza, Rawhide, Alias Smith and Jones, and many others. But there was no “pushing the envelope” on the programming or you could find yourself in the unemployment line. We inadvertently owned the rights to Twilight Zone which ended up costing the career of the general manager. I tried to convince his son Tim, who ran the stations, to let us air it if we went through the story lines and was careful not to violate policy. Tim replied very politely to me that Twilight Zone would never air on a CBN station or the CBN Cable Network!
I met Pat a couple of times on his trips to Dallas and once in Virginia Beach. For a time I reported to his daughter Elizabeth Robinson who was the station manager. Tim also ran the CBN Cable Network and like his brother Gordon, both were ordained ministers. Gordon was more involved in the ministry efforts. The CBN stations had daily prayer meetings at 12NN local time and a meeting room designed specifically for prayer. Employees were not required to attend but were encouraged to, shall we say! I didn’t go too often because it was no one’s business what my religious views were. One young lady who worked in the business office was so worried about me that she stopped by my office and left a leaflet about finding God. I was touched by that but that didn’t alter my decision about the prayer meetings!
Pat was always very nice to me and say, “Ken, how are you? God Bless you!”. But once you got into a meeting with him or his family, it was all business!! And since there was no CBN employee handbook, I learned more about CBN policy and the unwritten “do’s and don’ts” by watching The 700 Club with Pat, Danuta Soderman, and Ben Kinchloe!
One of the biggest things that would get you in trouble was the consumption of alcoholic beverages at at CBN function, on CBN business, or consuming it when they felt it was harming the company. There were people who lost their jobs for doing this, including the man that hired me in 1984.
Yet, KXTX helped launch my career as a TV programming director. So many legendary DFW broadcasters went through there, including Roger Baerwolf, Dick Bove’ and Bob Gooding. I have great memories from the station and learned so much that prepared me for Channel 11.
See you next time.