Ted Baehr Under the Lights
Christian Critic draws his own mixed reviews.
By Marshall Allen | Christianity Today, 03/01/2004
Ted Baehr operates two ministries—Movieguide and the Christian Film and Television Commission (CFTC)—under the umbrella of his nonprofit organization, Good News Communications. Baehr’s Movieguide reviews films to help Christians make wise media choices. The mission of the CFTC is to encourage Hollywood executives to make Christian-friendly films.
But Baehr also has a lesser-known for-profit business—Kairos Marketing, which promotes some of the movies he reviews. Baehr says Kairos has received money to promote six movies, which include Gordy (1995), Left Behind (2000), and Gods and Generals (2003). Baehr’s wife, Lili, who keeps his books, says Kairos received about $99,000 for Gods and Generals, a film he praised in his reviews but which drew jeers from many critics. Baehr declined to say how much he received for other films, but points out that the full amount was spent either on promotional costs or on funding for his ministry.
Because of IRS regulations, Baehr says he does his promotional work through Kairos Marketing. Kairos donated $36,461 to Good News Communications in 2001, according to documents filed with the IRS.
Ethicist David Gushee, a professor at Union University in Tennessee, calls Baehr’s paid promotional work unethical because Movieguide—the public branch of his ministry—presents itself as an independent, donor-supported, Hollywood watchdog. “There is no way morally a person doing that kind of work should be receiving money from that industry, because it’s a patent conflict of interest,” Gushee says. “He’s at least responsible for making full disclosure of the various roles that he is occupying in the Hollywood industry.”
Several film reviewers say they’ve never heard of a movie critic taking money to promote films. One prominent reviewer said that it’s ethically “about as far over the line as you can go.”
Baehr says he hasn’t disclosed the payments because the studios don’t want the connection to be made public. “They’re so few and far between, and the Movieguide analysis has nothing to do with that,” Baehr says. “We [review] every movie that opens in theaters, a tremendous amount of films. If you’re talking about one [paid promotion] every couple [of] years, you’re talking about a rare phenomenon.”
Baehr says the promotional work fits with his ministry’s mission, and he’s planning to expand his efforts. Baehr’s other projects include raising $150 million from Christians to begin Hollywood Capital Partners, a company that will finance Christian films. The project’s prospectus says Baehr may earn up to a $250,000 salary, plus bonuses on successful films, once investors get paid.
See also: "In the Blue Corner... Movieguide," by Tim Willson.