PTL Satellite Network
|Type||religious broadcasting network|
|Founded||by Jim Bakker
Tammy Faye Bakker
|Slogan||"The Inspirational Network"|
|Key people||Jim Bakker—President
|Launch date||1974, relaunched under new ownership in 1990 as INSP-The New Inspirational Network (now known as "INSP")|
The PTL Television Network -- often referred to as simply PTL -- was a global evangelical Christian television network based in Fort Mill, South Carolina, founded by Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker in 1974. PTL Satellite Network was dedicated in April 1977. During PTL's fourteen-year history, the Bakkers, as hosts of the network's flagship talk show, The PTL Club, became two of the most recognizable and highly rated televangelists in the United States. However, the PTL ministry would collapse in 1987, after a former church secretary, Jessica Hahn, accused the evangelist of rape, and later financial scandals purported that the couple had used the non-profit PTL's donations to fund an opulent personal lifestyle. Bakker would be sent to prison for embezzlement in 1989.
After PTL declared bankruptcy, the cable network was sold in 1989 to Morris Cerullo World Evangelism of San Diego, California and came to be known as The Inspiration Network, now headquartered at new facilities that were recently constructed in nearby Indian Land, South Carolina. The Inspiration Network operates as a separate and distinct entity chaired by Morris Cerullo's son David.
In 1960, Jim Bakker met Tammy Faye LaValley while both were students at North Central University in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Tammy Faye worked in a boutique for a time while Jim found work in a restaurant inside a department store in Minneapolis. They were married on April 1, 1961, and left the Bible College to become itinerant evangelists.
In 1966, the Bakkers began working at Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network in Virginia Beach, Virginia, which at the time barely reached an audience of thousands. The Bakkers would make great contributions to CBN as a nationally recognized television ministry.:6 The couple hosted The Jim and Tammy Show, a variety program hosted by the Bakkers and several puppet characters. The program was aimed at young children, whom they entertained with comic routines with the puppets, as well as airings of "Davey and Goliath", a claymation Bible-story series. Due to the success of The Jim and Tammy Show, Robertson made Bakker the host of a new prime-time talk show called The 700 Club, which would gradually become CBN's flagship program, and become syndicated on numerous cable channels and network affiliates.
In the early 1970s, the Bakkers left CBN and traveled, holding telethons at Christian TV stations. In Charlotte, North Carolina, the Bakkers set up Trinity Broadcasting Network with TV executives Sandy and Martha Wheeler, who began airing a local version of Praise the Lord on WRET, Channel 36, owned by Ted Turner at the time. The Bakkers moved to California, teaming with their former youth pastors Paul and Jan Crouch, to create the Praise the Lord show for the Crouches' new Trinity Broadcasting Network in California. However, the relationship only lasted about eight months due to a falling-out between Jim Bakker and Paul Crouch, causing the Bakkers to leave this ministry as well. Trinity Broadcasting Systems was based in Charlotte, NC and the California entity was named Trinity Broadcasting Network, which would grow to become the world's largest faith-based network in later years. Before leaving and moving east, the Bakkers managed to retain the rights to use the initials "PTL". What began as a local TV broadcast in Charlotte changed when several members of the Bakker's staff in California moved to Charlotte in February 1974 and with the local staff built Trinity Broadcasting Systems into what became known as the PTL Television Network. The parent company changed its name to Heritage Village Church & Missionary Fellowship in 1976–77. The purchase of the Heritage USA properties in Fort Mill, SC began at that time. The PTL Satellite Network uplinked from Heritage Village on Park Road in Charlotte until December 1986. The Heritage Village Property was sold and satellite and video tape editing operations moved to Heritage USA.
PTL's fund raising activities between 1984 and 1987 underwent scrutiny by The Charlotte Observer newspaper, eventually leading to criminal charges against Jim Bakker. From 1984 to 1987, Bakker and his PTL associates sold $1,000 "lifetime memberships", which entitled buyers to a three-night stay annually at a luxury hotel at Heritage USA. According to the prosecution at Bakker's later fraud trial, tens of thousands of memberships had been sold, but only one 500-room hotel was ever completed. Bakker "sold" more "exclusive partnerships" than could be accommodated, while raising more than twice the money needed to build the actual hotel. A good deal of the money went into Heritage USA's operating expenses, and Bakker kept $3.4 million in bonuses for himself. The $279,000 payoff for the silence of Jessica Hahn, a woman who was mistakenly supposed to be a Bakker staff member, was paid by Tammy Faye's later husband, Roe Messner. Hahn was actually a one-time acquaintance of Bakker, set up by a "friend" in 1980.
Bakker, who apparently made all of the financial decisions for the PTL organization, allegedly kept two sets of books to conceal the accounting irregularities. Reporters from The Charlotte Observer, led by Charles Shepard, investigated and published a series of articles regarding the PTL organization's finances.
On March 19, 1987, following the revelation of a payoff to Jessica Hahn to keep secret her allegation that Bakker had raped her, Bakker resigned from PTL. Bakker acknowledges he met Hahn at a hotel room in Clearwater Beach, Florida, but denies raping her. Following Bakker's resignation as PTL head, he was succeeded in late March, 1987, by Jerry Falwell. Later that summer, as donations sharply declined in the wake of Bakker's resignation and the end of the Bakkers' popular PTL Club TV show, Falwell raised $20 million to help keep the Heritage USA Theme Park solvent, including a well-publicized waterslide plunge there. Falwell called Bakker a liar, an embezzler, a sexual deviant, and "the greatest scab and cancer on the face of Christianity in 2,000 years of church history." In 1988, Falwell said that the Bakker scandal had "strengthened broadcast evangelism and made Christianity stronger, more mature and more committed". Bakker's son, Jay, wrote in 2001 that the Bakkers felt betrayed by Falwell, who they thought, at the time of Bakker's resignation, intended to help in Bakker's eventual restoration as head of the PTL ministry organization.:33–37
Following a 16-month Federal grand jury probe, Bakker was indicted in 1988 on eight counts of mail fraud, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy. In 1989, after a five-week trial which began on August 28 in Charlotte, the jury found him guilty on all 24 counts, and Judge Robert Potter sentenced him to 45 years in federal prison and a $500,000 fine.:52
In early 1991, a federal appeals court upheld Bakker's conviction on the fraud and conspiracy charges, but voided Bakker's 45-year sentence, as well as the $500,000 fine, and ordered that a new sentencing hearing be held.
Jim and Tammy Bakker were divorced on March 13, 1992. On November 16, 1992, a sentence reduction hearing was held and Bakker's sentence was reduced to eight years.:104
In August 1993, Bakker was transferred to a minimum security federal prison in Jesup, Georgia, and was subsequently granted parole in July 1994, after serving almost five years of his sentence.:116, 130 Bakker's son, Jay, spearheaded a letter-writing campaign to the parole board on his father's behalf, urging leniency.:106–115
On July 23, 1996, a North Carolina jury threw out a class action suit brought on behalf of more than 160,000 onetime supporters who contributed as much as $7,000 each to Bakker's coffers in the 1980s.
The Charlotte Observer reported that the Internal Revenue Service still holds Bakker and Roe Messner, Tammy Faye's husband from 1993 until her death in 2007, liable for personal income taxes owed from the 1980s when they were building the PTL empire, taxes assessed after the IRS revoked the PTL ministry's nonprofit status. Tammy Faye Messner's new husband said that the original tax amount was about $500,000, with penalties and interest accounting for the rest. Notices stating the IRS liens list still identify "James O. and Tamara F. Bakker" as owing $6,000,000, liens on which Jim Bakker still pays.
- Welch, William M. (July 21, 2007). "Ex-wife of evangelist Jim Bakker dies". USA Today. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
- Jay Bakker, Son of a Preacher Man. New York: Harper Collins, 2001 (ISBN 0-06-251698-1).
- Ostling, Richard N. (1988-12-19). "Jim Bakker's Crumbling World". Time magazine. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- Ostling, Richard N. (August 3, 1987). "Enterprising Evangelism". Time. Retrieved 2007-01-27.
- Ostling, Richard N. (1987-05-11). Taking Command at Fort Mill. Time magazine. Retrieved 2008-11-09.
- "American Notes: Fund Raising". Time. 1987-09-21. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
- Tammy Faye Bakker - Obituary
- "Preacher Scandals Strengthen TV Evangelism, Falwell Says". The Washington Post. 1988-03-19. Retrieved 2007-12-05.
- U.S. v. Bakker, (C.A.4, 1991), 925 F.2d 728, 740, case no. 89-5687
- Peifer, Justice Paul E. (April 12, 2000). "Jim Bakker's Federal Court Appeal". Supreme Court of Ohio website. Retrieved 2007-11-29.
- "James O. Bakker." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on January 8, 2010.