Frank Wright served for more than seven years as executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Christian Statesmanship before becoming the president of NRB (formerly National Religious Broadcasters) last year. While the association of Christian communicators, which has more than 1,700 member organizations, was divided two years ago over political content on religious stations, this year's convention took place amid debate in the wider culture over indecent content across the airwaves. While few Christian stations are guilty of airing nudity, foul language, and explicit sexual content, the current debate may mean opportunities and challenges for religious broadcasters, Wright says.

With increased public and U.S. government attention on broadcast indecency, how does this issue affect Christian broadcasters, since they're not very likely to carry, say, Howard Stern?

It's a fair question, but part of me says if we were to not respond at all, and be silent, our silence would be deafening. Licensing requires those licenses be granted to stations that would operate in the public interest, and in the case of indecency, these stations would be operating outside the public interest. This is why the whole discussion starts on the wrong foot, of first amendment freedoms. This should start with, what are the obligations of what's in the public interest. No one is going to restrict their speech, but a question of operating in the public interest. When children are likely in the viewing or listening audience, indecency is not allowed.

How does Christian broadcasting offer an alternative to indecent programming?

One of the ways that that has been viewed in the past has been from an educational standpoint. There was the Cornerstone Television case years ago in Pennsylvania; there, the FCC [Federal Communications Commission] had a preliminary ruling that religious programming was unique, [but] not educational. The truths we proclaim are transformational. In the strictest definition it is educational, educating people about the claims of the gospel, which is always in the public interest. It's always in our interest to learn what other people's viewpoints are, whether it's scientific, political or religious.

Do you believe the hullabaloo over broadcast indecency will send some people to Christian stations seeking an alternative?

It's hard to say whether there would be a beneficial or adverse effect. I do think this whole thing has been the result of a confluence of events, and the critical mass that has developed is that the culture has almost faced a tsunami of indecency that's washed over us. Since the Clinton [impeachment], there came this overwhelming [flood]—it was everywhere, where before we didn't see it anywhere. A critical mass has developed; the response has been very extraordinary. Whether that means more people will be inclined to listen is hard to say. We need to develop compelling programming to attract people, but it will have to stand on its own.

Related Elsewhere:

Other news organizations, including the Associated Press and The Charlotte Observer, have also examined religious broadcasting's role in a post-Janet culture. Observer religion columnist Ken Garfield also offered his thoughts.