CHICAGO (CN) — Louisiana televangelist Jimmy Swaggart’s church owes $1.65 million for illegally terminating a broadcasting contract, an Illinois-based media company claims in Federal Court.
Oxford Media Group Inc. sued Family Worship Center Church Inc. dba Sonlife Broadcasting Network, of Baton Rouge, La., in Chicago Federal Court Monday.
Based about 20 miles west of Chicago in Oakbrook, Ill., Oxford says it “oversees the only station in the Midwest that broadcasts, without censor, a spiritual formatted broadcast 24 hours a day.”
Oxford says it sold broadcast time on its digital “Prism” channel to the defendant in 2014 and 2015 through nonparty Beatriz Sutkus, of Busy Bea’s Media Group LLC.
“Under the [Sonlife] SBN banner, [the church] FWCC develops and distributes religious programming, primarily created by the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, throughout the United States and internationally,” according to the complaint.
Rev. Swaggart, now 81, began broadcasting over 40 years ago, and though his current income appears to be under wraps, the Los Angeles Times reported in 1988 that he was making $150 million a year.
Oxford’s rate for broadcasting Sonlife’s programming in 2014 and 2015 was just over 1 percent of that — $1.8 million a year, according to the complaint.
The “rates were fixed for the entire one-year contract term, not subject to adjustment for any reason,” the complaint states.
Yet “without Oxford Media’s knowledge or authorization, Sutkus modified the standard terms and conditions to add a rate adjustment clause,” Oxford claims.
Though the church paid Oxford $150,000 for the first month of a third contract term in May 2016, it then tried to terminate the contract on June 7, according to the complaint.
That day, the church “ceased sending programming to Oxford Media, switching to other Chicago outlets,” the complaint states.
The church’s general counsel, Wyndi Guillory, allegedly sent Oxford a letter on July 15, “to demand payment for overcharges [the church] FWCC believes it is entitled to under the rate adjustment clause under the contracts.”
The letter “demands payment from Oxford Media for $2,040,175.21 that [the church] FWCC claims it was overcharged for Prism’s services between June 1, 2014 through May 31, 2016,” the complaint says.
In addition, the letter “indicates that [the church] FWCC will initiate legal action against Oxford Media if it fails to respond to FWCC’s demand within 30 days,” the complaint states.
But Oxford says the church owes it $1.65 million — 11 out of 12 $150,000 installments due under the one-year contract extension.
The three-count complaint alleges breach of contract and seeks a declaratory judgment, attorney’s fees, and costs.
The plaintiff is represented by Timothy Wright III in Chicago and Christopher Muzzo with the Furnier Muzzo Group in Glenview, Ill.
Oxford says it is federally licensed to broadcast on WJYS, Channel 62, and its digital channels 62.3 and 62.4 which operate as Prism I and Prism II.
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