Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Written Evidence

Memorandum by D Reynolds

"How should faiths be represented in BBC programmes, services and governance?"

  If ignorance breeds fear, fear hatred and hatred violence, then education has the opposite effect. To this extent, then, it is desirable for the BBC to help each section of its audience become more aware of the others. Therefore, the BBC should not target programmes at particular religions. Just as faith-based schools lead communities to grow apart (Barry Sheerman, chairman of the Commons education select committee),[35] so faith-based programming coalesces audiences around separate religions. Instead, the BBC should ensure that programmes generally reflect the balance of views amongst the wider population.

That population today is more secular and non-theistic than ever. The 2001 census presents a misleading picture,[36] because by asking the question, "What is your religion?" respondents were encouraged to select a religion even if they were not religious. Despite this, the second largest group, at 15.5 per cent (9.1 million), were those stating they had no religion. This group was almost six times larger than the next religious group. The trend is towards people believing what they can test for themselves in preference to trusting ancient texts. Internationally the half as many people self-identify as non-religious compared with Christian.[37]

Discussing education in schools, Ian Gibson, chair of the Commons science and technology committee, said, "Education has to be based on scientific facts."[38] Surely this requirement must extend to any remit provided to the BBC. Programmes must not misrepresent fictitious or speculative content as factual. The BBC must not proselytise. There must be no place on the BBC for programming dedicated to religious worship.

All governors of the BBC—or their proposed replacements—should be required openly to declare their religious views, and any group with responsibility for overseeing religious balance should have a make-up that reflects society as a whole.

28 August 2005

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