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 http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/psb/psb/volume2/diversity/religious/).
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