Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Written Evidence

Memorandum by A Whitehouse

  The following submission is made on an individual basis by a listener to Radio 4 who does not have a television; comments are therefore restricted to BBC Radio 4 broadcasts. The writer does not have and has never had any connection with the BBC, direct or indirect, and is a freelance Medical Editor.

1.  "Do different faiths (including no faith beliefs) figure sufficiently in BBC programmes and services?"

  (a)  Different religious faiths, all of them, figure far too prominently in the BBC's broadcasting on Radio 4:

(i)  Too much time overall is devoted to religion-related programming, whether this be religious news programmes, broadcasts of religious services, Thought for the Day, or programming about or based on discussion of faiths and faith beliefs.

(ii)  It is my perception and that of friends that the time devoted and prominence given to discussions of religious faiths has increased in recent years; this is inappropriate when all the evidence is points to active participation in religion has been decreasing, as shown by recent census data.

(iii)  In current affairs programming, too much weight is given to the opinions of clerics of all religions. These frequently fact-free opinions should be demoted to a position well below any speakers who have a handle on factual information relating to the issue under discussion.

(iv)  There are too many times in the week when no alternative to religious broadcasting is offered, in particular 7.00-8.45 am on Sundays. To the non-religious, this slot is as unlistenable as would be an hour of discussion of news from the world of racism, followed by a live broadcast of a BNP rally consisting of sermons based on readings from Mein Kampf and singing of the Horst Weissel song, along the lines of the criminal rubbish served up by Goebbels on German radio in 1939-45. Because there is no other quality speech radio station, BBC or otherwise, in the London area at such times of day, there is no genuine alternative for the listener who is not interested in medieval belief systems and their devotees.

(b)  The question is disingenuous in bracketing faith beliefs with what it chooses to call "no faith beliefs", ie in grouping programming related to flat earthers and their like in the same category as programming related to the products of logical thought and scientific enquiry. The subject of broadcasting related to the evidence-based discoveries of Darwin, Newton, Copernicus, Galileo, Einstein, etc—and the understanding of our lives and environment, and the almost uncountable improvements to the human condition that have sprung from these—cannot be discussed under the same umbrella as broadcasting related to the unfounded belief in, say, fairies at the bottom of the garden.

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

  (a)  Short answer to all three: not at all.

(b)  Programmes:

(i)  It is understandable that the BBC, being a public service, seeks to represent the interests of the public; however, if it is to broadcast on the multitudinous minority beliefs that comprise "religion" it should remember that it also has a mission to educate and inform, and therefore it should prefix all broadcasts relating to religion with a moral, ethical, intellectual and physical health message "This belief system has discriminated against women and other groups, subjecting them to [lives of misery/of illness/of physical degradation/of powerlessness/as outcasts—delete as applicable], for centuries and continues to do some/all of these [delete as applicable]. But there is an alternative: you don't have to believe any of it because no-one has ever been able to find any evidence for it".

(ii)  If the wide divergence in beliefs between different Christian denominations is fully acknowledged, it has to be concluded that there is no majority religious faith in the UK and that any religion constitutes a minority smaller than the audience for cricket. Broadcasts of all religious services should be moved to long wave and an alternative should be provided on FM for the majority who aren't signed up to that particular faith, and for the rest of us of course.

(c)  Services: see point 2b.

(d)  Governance: religious faiths should not have any representation in BBC governance:

(i)  The BBC is the broadcaster to the nation but census data for the nation do not accurately count how many people currently practise each of the many religious faiths and so, until such data are available, any representation cannot be proportionate and therefore cannot be fair representation of the beliefs of that part of the population that practises one or other religious faith.

(ii)  Religions are collections of unfounded opinions based on lack of fact and, often, denial of fact, especially on socioeconomic issues; no religious tract and its followers has any more validity than Mein Kampf and its followers. Just as religious faiths should have no special influence on or connection with the State, they should have no special voice in BBC governance.

(e)  Where is the parallel question relating to "no faith beliefs"? There is insufficient broadcasting on science and scientific thought, without the products of which most of us would not be alive.

I thank the Committee for providing an opportunity to comment on these issues.

10 October 2005

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