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
(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, etcand the understanding of our lives
and environment, and the almost uncountable improvements to the
human condition that have sprung from thesecannot 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.
(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
outcastsdelete 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
(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
(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