Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Written Evidence

Memorandum by S Ryder

  1.  The BBC, while it has a responsibility to represent the interests of minority groups, clearly has a bias towards selecting the interests of religious groups above those of rational-minded non-religious thinkers.

2.  The BBC, like many other institutions, seems to have a streak of cowardice in that it happily allows reactionary bigots from the religions who shout the loudest in society to have regular platforms to air their drivel, tiptoeing around issues of faith so as not to risk offending anybody who will cause a fuss. On any given day, there are rabid evangelists for Christianity and Islam using the licence-payers' money to spread their beliefs. It is clear that representatives of less reactionary and more humble religions are given less of a platform.

3.  That said, there is no reason why these special interest groups should be given any special treatment. How can the BBC justify giving a platform to one religion and not another? If I invented yet another patently false religion today, would I be given the opportunity to try to corrupt the minds of the young via the BBC?

4.  Most importantly, there is absolutley no justification for denying the validity of sensible, rational thought while essentially promoting the lies of the religious minority, which is exactly what happens on a daily basis. As an obvious example, Radio 4's Thought for theDay supposedly speaks to the people of the nation about matters of morality and how we live in the world; yet, for no valid reason whatsoever, only representatives of several seemingly randomly picked religions are chosen as the spokespeople for our inner lives. This is not to do with "thought" in any sense of the word, still less to do with fairly representing how we deal with issues of morality and the inner life in this country. Whichever religion is being spoken for on any given morning, the majority of people listening do not believe in that god—whether they believe in another god or, like the majority of people, have no god, whichever religious group is being given airtime that morning does not speak for the majority. The majority of people in the UK in 2005 are decent, thoughtful and moral—they do not get this from the Koram or the Bible but from thought, both rational and instinctive. God and other faity tales have no place in creating a civil, morally upright society.

5.  It is not just Thought for the Day which shows the BBC pandering to the needs of religious groups to spread their word. The majority of news programmes contain at least one issue on which it is thought proper to have comment from leaders of a couple of the (noisier) faiths. What valid reason is there that representatives of secular groups are not given equal platform? We are the majority after all. If an issue is important enough in its social resonance that it seems reasonable to invite someone to comment on its effect on the fabric of society, why does the BBC instinctively go for a Muslim cleric and a Church of England Bishop? The prime purpose for these people is to spread their religions; that is their raison d'etre—and indeed the raison d'etre of all religion is to propgate itself. It seems only sensible—only fair to my mind—that non-religious people are chosen insetad from now on to comment on societal events of import and to host Thought for the Day; to present programmes on morality based on morality, not on religion. There is no shortage of these commentators—the philosophers, scientists, sociologists, writers and thinkers who make up our intellectual world are the people who have valid opinions, based on thought and reason, not blind faith in fairytales.

1 September 2005

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