Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary evidence from Senior Members of Faith Communities

  Following the appearance of senior members of faith communities before your committee on Wednesday, I undertook to send you further information. I hope it will assist the committee to have this information about the numbers of adherents and worshippers.

  The Census gives the following[13]:


Other religion
All religions
No religion
Not stated
All no religion/not stated1

  In terms of attendance, the UK population attending Church on Sundays is just under 4 million[14].

  In the Church of England there are 1.7 million worshippers a month attending services across the week (just over one million on an average Sunday). Attendances rose 1 per cent overall in 2003, the last year in which published statistics are available.

  Across all faiths, one in four adults attend a service of worship once a month or more.[15] The majority but not all of these will be Christian.

  Towards the end of the giving of our evidence we were asked about worship on television. I would like to offer the following to assist the committee over this matter as I consider the continued inclusion of such programmes within the specialist portion of the BBC's output is required.

  Whilst it must be acknowledged, as it was by the panel, that worship is often better on radio than on TV, this is not because of any intrinsic reason to do with differences between these mediums. As was said during the oral evidence, considerably more skill is required to "bring off" the broadcast of worship on television, conveying the sense of awe and transcendence that taking part in person can bring. The venue can also influence the quality of a television audience's experience. This goes some of the way towards explaining why broadcasts such as Tuesday's from St Paul's Cathedral remembering the lives of those who died in the 7 July bombings are so memorable and successful.

  However, because communities at worship authentically express a distinctive element of the lives of those amongst the faith communities, we believe it is essential that this continues to be portrayed as part of the output of public service broadcasting. This is essential for some disabled and housebound people who depend on programmes depicting their faith communities for the sustenance of their faith, often in the twilight of their lives. Furthermore, for those from minority communities, such depiction could be said to be literally a lifeline which connects them to their faith at these times. As well as this, the portrayal of communities at worship de-mystifies and makes accessible the practices of different communities at worship, and preventing these from becoming a private matter.

  The Communications Act recognised the importance of this in s 264 (6) and it is undoubtedly the case that the expertise necessary for portraying communities at worship authentically resides primarily within the BBC. It goes without saying that fulfilling this function requires the depiction of genuine communities authentically at worship, not staging an event for television. If that was sufficient the informative and educative element would be lost. I would therefore say I see enormous value in the continued inclusion of uninterrupted complete acts of worship within the BBCs output and that the restoration of greater frequency of such broadcasts of ordinary communities at worship may well be something that audiences will welcome, given their response to the special services at times of celebration and sorrow in our nation.

  I hope this further information is helpful to the committee. Could I close by re-iterating my thanks and that of my colleagues for inviting us to appear before you?

13   Office for National Statistics. Back

14   Religious Trends, 2005. Back

15   Opinion Research Business survey 2003. Back

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