Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Written Evidence

Appendix B


  The BBC's recent published opinions on religious broadcasting seem to indicate that their audience ought to be interested in religious programmes and would be if only the programme makers could come up with a winning formula, perhaps using a charismatic presenter or packaging the material so that it appears less didactic, or boring. They talk to established representatives of religions, who will naturally put on the best face, but they don't seem to draw appropriate conclusions from any research done with ordinary people. But is the BBC likely to spark interest in religion in an audience that thinks it doesn't matter? While the churches would like to enlist the BBC in their efforts to reverse these trends, that, surely, is not what the BBC is for.

  The following extracts from surveys taken in the last few years indicate the increasing rejection of religion in this country.

  1.  DfES Report no. 546 (2004) on social attitudes among young people 12-18:

    A third of young people described themselves as belonging to a religion, with the majority, just over a quarter, belonging to a Christian religion. Two thirds did not regard themselves as belonging to any religion, an increase of ten percentage points in as many years (from 55 per cent in 1994 to 65 per cent in 2003).

    As the next table shows, young people were markedly more likely than adults not to see themselves as belonging to a religion. It should be noted that the overall figure for adults disguises considerable age related differences; among 18 to 24 year olds, 60 per cent said they did not belong to a religion (as did 56 per cent of 25 to 34 year olds).

Table 2.2


  2.  The Church of England is fond of quoting the 2001 census figures to the effect that more than 70 per cent of people in England and Wales consider themselves to be Christian. It would be unwise to rely on this figure for two reasons:

    (i)  As the Scottish version of the census showed, different results are obtained if you ask first about religion of upbringing, then about religion currently practised. As we noted in our consultation response to the Office of National Statistics in August 2005:

            In the 2001 Census the Scottish questions came the nearest to being comprehensive and accurate by acknowledging the statistically significant distinction (both qualitatively and quantitatively) between the subjects' religion of upbringing and their religion at the time of the Census, and asking about both. This double question has enabled research to be undertaken which has given a much better understanding of religious belief and adherence in Scotland, such as that carried out by Prof Steve Bruce and Tony Glendinning at the University of Aberdeen.

    (ii)  The framers of the question assumed that the respondents would know what was meant by Christianity (or Islam, or . . .). A Reader's Digest Survey in March 2005 showed that only 48 per cent of those questioned knew what Christians are remembering at Easter, the most important Christian festival. It would be interesting to do a survey to find out what those who labelled themselves Christian really know about Christianity.

  Other surveys seem to yield answers at odds with the census:

  3.  Mori poll, May 2005 (The Tablet 20/5/05) shows low levels of religious belief 24 per cent of electors define themselves as having no religion.

  4.  National Centre for Social Research Research[33] 65 per cent of 12-19 tear olds define themselves as having no religion

  5.  Welsh Omnibus Survey—June 2004[34] for C4C 59 per cent never or very occasionally attend a place of worship

  6.  Yougov poll 2005 Is C of E important?

  In a large-scale of over 3,500 people, the C of E came 32nd out of 37 in a list of what people think defines Britishness. Only 17 per cent of respondents thought that the Church of England was "very important" in contributing to a sense of Britishness, while 23 per cent thought it was "not important at all".

33   Report No 564 publ 2004 Young People in Britain: The Attitudes and Experiences of 12-19 Year Olds. Back

34   Beaufort Research Limited, 2004 Back

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