The Republican Party is planning to broadcast its own prime-time coverage of the GOP convention next month on televangelist Pat Robertson's Family Channel, according to convention planners and Family Channel officials.

The sources said the Republicans' television operation, called GOP-TV, will air 11 hours of convention coverage on the Family Channel. Robertson and his son Timothy hold a controlling interest in International Family Entertainment, which owns the channel. Robertson is also the founder of the Christian Coalition, the grass-roots conservative organization that has become a powerful force in Republican politics.

Paul Manafort, in charge of convention planning, said Republican National Committee Chairman Haley Barbour decided the party should broadcast its own convention coverage because he was "concerned" that network coverage would be limited to prime time.

"Now they can tune in the Family Channel and see the full convention," Manafort said. "It's going to be another network covering the convention but covering the full convention. Our stalwart supporters will watch and maybe some of the swing people."

The programming will run during the hours that the Family Channel normally broadcasts reruns of Rescue 911 and the 700 Club, the daily television show hosted by Robertson.

Some Robertson opponents were critical of the GOP's decision to buy time on the Family Channel.

"It's just wrong that the Republicans would rely on a TV station owned by Pat Robertson to get their message out," said Jill Hanauer of the Interfaith Alliance, a group that has been highly critical of Robertson and the Christian Coalition. "Frankly, with everything that Bob Dole is trying to do to reach out to mainstream Republicans, this seems a slap in the face to that."

Matthew Freeman, research director of People for the American Way, said the decision to purchase time on the Family Channel was "a shrewd political strategy to get their unfiltered message to an audience that is presumably largely conservative."

But, he added, "It's mighty convenient that the money is going to be flowing to the business side of a political empire that is entirely supportive of their cause. Some of those profits are going to end up back in Pat Robertson's pocket, I presume, and in turn will end up in the Christian Coalition working to help support their candidates. It's money going in one big circle and along the way they get their message out to a sympathetic audience."

Tele-Communications Inc., the cable company that owns a minority stake in the Family Channel, has also been a major GOP donor. It gave $250,000 this year to the Republican National Committee.

RNC communications director Edward Gillespie dismissed criticism of the GOP-TV deal. "By that reckoning, the Democrats shouldn't buy time on ABC, which is owned by Disney, because {Disney Chairman} Michael Eisner is a big contributor to the Democratic Party," he said. "That's just a silly partisan argument made by a liberal special interest group."

Barbour is scheduled to detail the GOP's plans for convention coverage at a news conference today. Gillespie said the RNC is not paying for the effort but declined to say what it will cost or how it is being financed. Anne Gavin, director of communications for the convention, said she did not know whether the convention is paying the GOP-TV costs.

The GOP programming will run from 9 to 11 p.m. on the East Coast during the first three nights of the convention, 8 to midnight the fourth night and 9 to 10 for a wrap-up the night after, said a Family Channel spokesman. It will feature Barbour and members of Congress, including Reps. Jennifer Dunn (R-Wash.) and J.C. Watts (R-Okla.), acting as floor reporters and commentators.

With 10,555 affiliates and 64 million subscribers across the country, the Family Channel is the 11th-largest cable network in the country, according to the National Cable Television Association.

The GOP is also buying time on the USA Network from 7 to 7:30 a.m. five days the week of the convention, according to USA Network spokesman Dan Martinsen. The network's regular programming during that time slot is the "Cartoon Express."