Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Written Evidence

Memorandum by A Rogers

  The first questions to ask are:

Should any mass-broadcasting time be devoted to religious broadcasting?

If so, for what purpose and with what justification are such broadcasts made?

The adherent of any religion, unless totally house-bound or living in an area without the provision of an appropriate place of worship, may attend his or her place of worship for the purpose of religious indoctrination or practice. A case might be made for those two categories of people to be provided with broadcasts to meet their specific needs. Before these are provided some attempt should be made to measure or estimate the number of people in this situation in each religion and the incompatible divisions of such religions (presumably Catholics would not want to receive Baptist broadcasts and vice-versa).

My guess, based upon no information at all, is that the numbers would be very small overall and would necessarily comprise even smaller numbers in the separate divisions. Some form of delivery other than mass-broadcasting would therefore be more appropriate. Radio broadcasting by religious organisations on their own channels (as an example the Roman Catholic Köln Cathedral domradio) seems the most appropriate. Technical help and encouragement might be provided by the BBC, although this should be at no cost to the general license payer. The religious body should fully fund and staff such broadcasting from its own resources.

I can see no justification for using broadcast time on the five terrestrial TV channels and the mass audience radio channels for "pure" religious broadcasting given that the audience is multi-cultural and largely non-religious. However, debate about moral, philosophical and scientific issues which are in conflict with religion or intellectual debate between theists and atheists are, in my view, entirely appropriate and in keeping with the BBC's responsibility to inform, educate and entertain. I remember with some affection the BBC Brains Trust broadcasts. If only the BBC would aspire to those standards once again.

The mass broadcasting of religious indoctrination without intellectual challenge is as unacceptable as political indoctrination without intellectual challenge, particularly since senior religious figures frequently attempt to interfere in the process of law making by democratic government.

August 2005

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