Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Written Evidence

Letter from D Gordon-Smith

  1.  I would like to comment on the role of religion within broadcasting as part of the Lords BBC Charter Review. I am a member of the British Humanist Association but the views expressed in this letter are my own.

  2.  The proportion of the population that do not consider themselves to be religious has grown rapidly in recent decades to around 30-40 per cent. In light of this, and given that most congregations in the country have seen a steady drop over recent decades, I would argue that religious broadcasting is given too great an emphasis by the BBC.

3.  Ofcom's research shows that the promotion of the needs of different religions was only of a low level of importance to viewers, a finding that echoed the ITC's earlier research into What Viewers Want. Viewing of Religious programming has fallen with Ofcom's research showing that viewing of religious programmes per head fell by 28 per cent between 1998 and 2002 (down to just 3.8 hours per year). Audiences for the BBC show Songs of Praise, which is arguably the BBC's flagship religious programme, have fallen in recent years reflecting this trend. (Information taken from

  4.  I would suggest that the requirement to provide programmes about religion is contrary to the demands of viewers and the overall trend in levels of belief in society as a whole. Although I can understand the arguments for the need to inform people about the World's religions to foster greater understanding of different cultures and attitudes, I do not feel that this should be a specific requirement of broadcasters.

  5.  I do not feel that there is a need, or demand from viewers, to broadcast religious services on the BBC. Broadcasting religious services would require the BBC to decide between faiths. If Christian services are to be televised then why not Jewish, Islamic, Sikh, Buddhist, Satanic, etc services? It would not be easy to feature all of these faiths within the broadcasting schedule and, therefore, I would argue that in the interest of equal treatment of all peoples then such services should not be shown.

  6.  I also strongly feel that other beliefs, such as humanism, should be featured and represented by the BBC as equally as religious beliefs. I would argue that this should apply to programming as well as in terms of other services and governance. I note that BBC Nottingham's website contains a special section on "faiths" but does not appear to contain any reference to non-religious beliefs.

  7.  In particular, I would like to draw your attention to the Thought for the Day slot in the middle of the Radio 4 Today programme. Personally, I do not think that it is appropriate to feature a reflective slot in the middle of a current affairs programme. However, if it is to be continued, I feel it is unacceptable to exclude speakers just because they are non-religious. Are there views and opinions less valid? I feel that the BBC is creating the impression that non-religious reflections on current moral issues are not worth a place on BBC radio's flagship current affairs programme. In our modern society, I feel it is inappropriate for the BBC to promote religion as the one source of ethics.

31 August 2005

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