The first religious radio program went on the air on Jan. 2, 1921, broadcast by Calvary Church over Pittsburgh radio station KDKA.
Twenty-two years later, evangelical Christians organized the National Religious Broadcasters because of a perceived snub. Major radio networks in 1943 offered free broadcast time to a national Protestant church organization, a New York Board of Rabbis, and a national Catholic organization, according to Ben Armstrong, NRB executive director.
"The evangelical Protestants were shut out," he said. Forty-nine of them organized the NRB at a meeting in Columbus, Ohio, that year, he said. In 1966, there were 104 member organizations. Last Sunday, membership reached 1,000.
Now there are 65 predominantly religious television stations in the country, including 29 full-time religious stations; there are 1,300 predominantly religious radio stations, including 600 with full-time religious formats, according to Armstrong. Most are conservative or evangelical, preaching a "born-again" experience.
As the number of high-power stations become more scarce, other areas are opening up. There are 7,000 applications, 400 of them for religious stations, now before the FCC for permits for low-power stations to broadcast into tiny areas "in the hinterlands" of the country, Armstrong said.