Supplementary memorandum by the British
NB: This memorandum responds specifically
to your request for submissions on religious broadcasting but
overtakes and incorporates our earlier submission of May 2005.
We argue that the BBC should reflect society
back to itself so as to aid its dialogue and help shape decisions
and attitudes. It should as a public authority serving the nation
as a whole maintain an impartial approach to matters of controversy,
including religion and belief. At present, on the contrary, it
acts as a promoter of religion, especially Christianity, by providing
its proponents with extensive broadcasting time, including unchallenged
platforms, and by deliberately refusing time for non-religious
beliefs. It does this despite the clearest evidence that only
a minority of the population holds any genuine religious beliefs
while the number explicitly denying religious belief is rapidly
growing. We suggest that this denial of a platform for the exposition
and exploration of non-religious beliefs has left many people
without convincing foundations for their morality and without
a clear perception of their place in the universe. Such a lack
of bearings can only be damaging both to the individuals concerned
and to society as a whole.
1. The British Humanist Association (BHA)
is the principal organisation representing the interests of the
large and growing population of ethically concerned but non-religious
people living in the UK. It exists to promote Humanism and support
and represent those who seek to live good lives without religious
or superstitious beliefs. The census of 2001 showed that those
with no religion were the second largest "belief group"
at 15.5 per cent, two and-a-half times as large as all the non-Christian
religions put together. Other surveys consistently report very
much higher proportions of people without religious belief (see
para 12). By no means are all these people humanists, but our
consistent experience is that the majority of people without religious
beliefs, when they hear about Humanism, say that they have unknowingly
long been humanists themselvesa
point of some relevance to your present enquiry, as we bring out
2. Believing as we do that this is the only
life we have, we are particularly committed to maximising individual
freedom to make the best of life and therefore to human rights
and to the sort of societya democratic open society with
accountable institutions of governmentbest suited to preserve
individual rights and freedom. On the basis of these commitments,
we believe that government and all public bodies should exercise
a policy of disinterested impartiality towards contending beliefs
within society so long as their adherents conform to the laws
and minimum convent ions of the society. So far as concerns religion
and corresponding non-religious beliefs, we maintain that this
requires that such shared public institutions be secular, in the
sense of neutral.
3. With this strong commitment to the open
society the BHA does not seek any privilege in its promotion of
the humanist life-stance, but correspondingly we object strongly
to privileges accorded to the adherents of religion by virtue
of their beliefs. There are two major institutional examples of
such privilege being granted to religion: the education system
and the BBC. Between them they cause immense damage to society.
We therefore welcome the terms of your enquiry, especially as
it explicitly covers no faith beliefs.
4. The comparative uniformity of society
in past times has probably been exaggerated, but it is undoubtedly
true that the last half-century has seen an accelerating diversity
of both views and interests. This has resulted from the end of
social deference, the collapse of shared religious beliefs, the
increase in the number and variety of people from different ethnic
groups and cultures, and many other factors. This increasing diversity
has been accompanied by faster and more numerous channels of communication,
which in itself is potentially destabilising.
5. In this environment, the importance of
public service broadcasting
in providing a forum for public discussion cannot be over-exaggerated.
Society needs effective means to learn about itself, about changing
circumstances and emerging challenges, and to communicate with
itself and debate views and policies. Broadcasting offers by far
the most important means whereby the members of a modern open
society can communicate with each other and jointly address the
challenges that face them.
From the most trivial phone in to the profoundest of philosophical
discussions it allows members of society to learn about each other
and negotiate the terms on which they share their community. Public
service broadcasting is vital to the fulfilment of this function,
and the BBC is immeasurably more committed to meeting this need
than any other broadcaster.
6. Such broadcasting can be secured only
if the BBC's independence is guaranteed. It requires a protected
environment and cannot be expected to survive in an uninhibited
marketplace. Independence is potentially threatened by over-commitment
to commercial targets, by interference by government and by any
over-identification with particular interest groups. In this memorandum
we argue that the BBC has overwhelmingly identified itself with
the interests of religion, especially the Christian religion,
deliberately neglecting the legitimate expectations of a large
part of its audience.
7. It has always been the duty of BBC to
"inform, educate and entertain". A crucial part of that
duty is to mirror the country back to itself so as to assist in
society's dialogue with itself. The Green Paper on charter renewal
referred to its role of "reflecting the UK, its Nations,
regions and communities" and added that it should "provide
programmes and services that reflect the UK's different regions
and communities and that make the public aware of the different
cultures and alternative viewpoints seen in the UK". It stated
the principle that the BBC should "provide a range of programming
reflecting different religions and other beliefs that is appropriate
to multifaith Britain". The BBC in its own response accepted
this, referring to the role of "serving different audiences
and . . . reflecting their diverse cultures to the whole UK".
It later acknowledged the need to be "more reflective of
the diversity of all audiences".
8. In its paper Building Public Value
last year the BBC endorsed the principles of universality,
fairness and equity, and accountability, referred to the need
to "foster [. . .] greater audience understanding of cultural
differences across the UK population" in areas including
"faith", to "faithfully reflect [. . .] modern
Britain's diversity in mainstream as well as specialist programmes",
and to "listen [. . .] to [the] concerns and priorities [of
the UK s minorities], and reflect [. . .] those concerns in the
future development of services". It pledged to "make
special efforts to connect with the UK's . . . minorities and
to encourage members of these minorities to offer their talent
and energy to BBC programmes and services".
9. Such principles are admirable, but sadly
they count for nothing when the BBC is asked to "connect
with" the very large minority of non-religious people in
the UK, to reflect their existence and to help them articulate
their beliefs. Instead, the BBC marginalises and undermines respect
for non-religious ways of life, it fails to make clear to its
audience that such ways of life are possible and satisfactory,
and it unbalances discussion of political and social issues by
largely ignoring the arguments and views of the explicitly non-religious.
When challenged it responds variously (as we show in paras 27
sqq.) by suggesting the non-religious cannot be expected to rise
above soap operas and game shows, by asserting in the face of
the evidence that it already caters for them, and by rejecting
every constructive proposal put to it.
10. We wish initially to clarify some of
the concepts we use in this memorandum. Both the Universal Declaration
and the European Convention of Human Rights refer to "religion
or belief" and both have interpreted the phrase to apply
equally to religious and non-religious beliefs. The Human Rights
Act in section 6 requires public authorities (such as the BBC)
not to discriminate on grounds covered by the Convention, including
therefore discrimination between religious and non-religious "lifestances"
or "world views" (the German version of the Convention
uses the stronger, more expressive word Weltanschauung where
the English version says "belief").
11. Contrary to the implicit position of
the BBC and much traditional discourse, a non-religious lifestance
or belief is not merely the absence of religious belief but a
positive set of beliefs and moral attitudes. Humanism is such
a lifestance, drawing on a tradition that is as old as or older
than all the major world religions. It is not a single centrally
and authoritatively dictated set of beliefshumanists are
freethinkers who acknowledge no such central authority. Rather,
the word serves as the label for a certain range of beliefs and
ethical positions. At Annex I we give a broad description of the
lifestance that would command wide assent among humanists and
serves to show the core positive content of the lifestance.
12. We refer above to the finding of the
census in 2001 that about 15.5 per cent of the UK population said
they had no religion. As we have argued elsewhere,
the census question in England and Wales ("What is your religion?"),
asked in a context of questions about ethnicity, was heavily biased,
explaining why its results were hugely at odds with all other
surveys on the question.
At Annex II we quote a large number of such surveys and further
details of the census.
13. It is significant that one such poll
was commissioned by the BBC itself for its Heaven and Earth
Show in September 2003. It showed 26 per cent of atheists
or agnostics and another 24 per cent who were "spiritually
inclined but don't really belong to an organised religion".
Here we have half the population who have explicitly or implicitly
rejected religion. Does the BBC assume that none of them has any
interest in exploring what it means to live a life without religion?
to find non- religious answers to the so-called "ultimate
questions"? to articulate a non-religious basis for morality?
It would seem so from its failure to provide any platform for
such exercises even while it continues to lavish time on religion.
14. A recent paper for the BBC governors
quoted Dr Colin Morris as saying:
"In the 60s, radical theologians predicted that
from the ruins of organised religion, a maturely secular world
would emerge. Chance would be a fine thing. What emerged was a
society riven by every conceivable form of religiosity."
It is arguable that the fault lies less with the "mature
secular" population, who have articulated the humanist viewpoint
with compelling clarity, than with the major institutions of society:
the education system, bound by law to teach the young religion
but no alternative, and the BBC, stubbornly resisting for over
50 years requests by humanists and other freethinkers for access
to the most important platform of all for public discussion even
while they provide the churches with unmediated access to an often
unwilling public (as with Thought for the Day) across the
15. We think it useful to distinguish between
two types of programme dealing with religion and belief:
(a) those that offer a commentary (news,
magazine and discussion programmes)see paras 16-18
(b) those that are devoted to presenting
a religion on its own terms, offering a service to its followers
(such as religious services and homilies like Prayer for the
Day and Thought for the Day)see paras 19-21.
16. The role of commentary is unquestionably
proper and desirable: such programmes fulfil in the area of fundamental
values and beliefs and their related institutions the same role
as news and current affairs programmes do for the more ephemeral
area of politics. They inform their audience, they provide for
debate about ideas that can then be accepted or rejected, and
on balance they encourage moderation and cooperation between people
of profoundly different beliefs.
17. To a small extent the BBC already covers
matters of concern to the non-religious in such programmes, but
largely only when we issue a criticism of some religious policy
or initiative. For example, our criticisms of religious schools
have been noticedbut our constructive alternative policy,
prepared after wide consultation in the education world, has been
ignored. Our influence in the reform of religious education in
schools over many years and our current constructive role in helping
forward the equality and human rights agenda have likewise been
18. Decisions over the content of such programmes
as Sunday (Radio 4) and The Heaven and Earth Show (BBC1)
are a complex of many considerations and in any particular case
can doubtless be defended. What cannot be excused is the overall
(but difficult to quantify) bias against considered explicit non-religious
19. The second category of programme is
those in which a representative of a religion is given unmediated
access to the audience. It would be possible to make a principled
case against a public authority such as the BBC in an open society
putting its resources at the disposal of a particular religion
or belief"why should a public institution do the churches
work for them?"
We do not take that line: it may be irrelevant that programmes
such as Radio 4's daily service are sanctified by history, but
they plainly provide a valued service to a number of people (principally
the devout housebound).
20. But such provision must not be discriminatory.
Its extent must reflect not the historical predominance of the
Christian religion but the present state of belief in the UK.
There are now many non-Christian religions and a far greater disparity
within Christianity than Lord Reith could ever have dreamed of,
let alone a popular renunciation of religion as a guiding force
that would have alarmed him severely. The BBC needs to regain
its balance and neutrality by extending its programming to "new"
religions and beliefsincluding secular lifestances such
21. The present situation is far from satisfactory.
For example, Radio 4 broadcasts every week almost three-and-a-half
hours of direct, unmediated broadcasting by believers to believersmainly
but not quite exclusively Christian.
This excludes the several magazine programmes dealing with religion.
Nor are speakers on (for example) Thought for the Day,
who are amazingly given access not just to those who choose to
tune in but to a huge captive audience to Radio 4's Today programme,
confined to anodyne if (to many) irritating religious reflections:
they are even allowed to argue a case on matters of political
controversy, as the Chief Rabbi did against physician assisted
dying on the morning of the House of Lords debate on Lord Joffe's
Bill within minutes of a balanced Today item on the subject.
The position is similar but less marked on Radio 2 and on television.
Though there is some very small provision of such unmediated time
for non-Christian religions, there is absolutely no comparable
provision for what is (according even to the census) the second
largest group in the spectrum of religion or beliefnamely
those with a non-religious outlook, including humanists.
22. A serious problem is that such programming
is potentially invasive of the schedules. If unfair discrimination
cannot be supported and the schedules are not to be overrun by
programming for small minorities, it suggests that whatever time
is available be reallocated roughly in proportion to some combination
of population and demand or appreciation. (The new digital channels
will provide some help, with (on radio) the BBC s popular Asian
Network well placed to provide some Hindu, Islamic and Sikh programmes.)
23. There is growing recognition that, in
line with the Human Rights Act and the European Convention on
Human Rights, the entire spectrum of fundamental beliefs or lifestances,
embracing not just the various religions but also non-religious
beliefs with a comparable function, should be treated without
discrimination. This is what the Human Rights Act itself requires
(see Annex III), as do (for example) the Employment Equality (Religion
or Belief) Regulations 2003 and the current Equality Bill. The
BHA at the invitation of Government departments is taking a constructive
part in the steering group for the new Commission for Equality
and Human Rights and in other aspects of the equality agenda.
24. Moreover, as the result of an amendment
introduced by the Government itself, the Communications Act 2003
(at section 264(6)(f)) requires that public service broadcasters
should provide programmes about "religion and other beliefs"
(characterised as "collective belief[s] in, or other adherence
to, a systemised set of ethical or philosophical principles or
of mystical or transcendental doctrines"section 264(13)).
In introducing the amendment, Lord McIntosh of Haringey explicitly
referred to Humanism:
The second [amendment] is to add a reference
to other beliefs, which would include ethical systems or philosophies
such as humanism or secularism.
Lords Hansard, 1 July 2003: Column 784
25. The BBC, the principal public service
broadcaster, has never acknowledged that this legal change requires
any action on its part. It has never referred to it in any of
its policy statements in connection with charter renewal or otherwise.
Its language in policy documents remains exclusive, referring
only to religion rather than inclusively to religions and beliefs.
26. What is more, an enquiry by the BHA
under the Freedom of Information Act early in 2005 revealed that
the BBC had generated not a single item referring to the new law.
Despite this complete absence of consideration, it has numerous
times asserted to us its confidence that it meets the requirements
of the Act.
THE BBC IN
27. We should like to illustrate the BBC
s attitude by quotation from correspondence.
(1) In November 2002 the BBC s head of religion
and ethics, Alan Bookbinder, was quoted in the Church of England
Newspaper as saying:
All our licence payers are entitled to see their
belief reflected back to them. Broadly we try to keep a balance
according to the composition of the audience. It is not a direct
mathematical formula, but we are aware of the make up of our audience
as we try to reflect that.
A BHA member wrote to him, saying:
Given that about 30 per cent of the population
do not believe in God, and that a substantial proportion of them
are Humanists and/or lead effectively humanist lives, would you
please tell me what you are doing to reflect back our beliefs
The 30 per cent who don't believe in God and
"lead effectively humanist lives" (whatever that means)
have acres of TV and Radio time devoted to secular concerns.
We find this reply revealing, first, in its
disdainful reference to humanism and secondly by its suggestion
that people without religion need no programmes about their fundamental
values but can be satisfied by the "acres of time" devoted
to (presumably) game shows, comedies, sport and soaps.
(2) On 23 July 2003, a letter from Alan
Bookbinder in the Daily Telegraph included the claim: "our
recent success fighting off the atheist lobby demonstrates that
[Radio 4's Thought for the Day] is still very much a religious
slot". This followed an approach by about 100 distinguished
persons coordinated by the BHA, the Rationalist Association and
the National Secular Society asking that occasional comments from
a non-religious viewpoint be included in Thought for the Daya
suggestion roundly rejected by the BBC even on appeal to the Governors.
Sat: Prayer for the Day (2 mins) + Thought
for the Day (3 mins)
Sun: Something Understood (30 mins * 2) + Sunday Worship
Mon-Fri: Prayer for the Day (2 mins) + Thought for the
Day (3 mins) + Daily Service (15 mins)
R4 total = 3 hours 23 mins / week direct committed pastoral religious
broadcasting. At times of religious festivals, this provision
is substantially expanded.
(3) Greg Dyke as Director-General summed
up the BBC's position in a letter of 28 August 2003: ". .
. demand for programmes [about Humanism] is . . . met by items
on programmes such as The Heaven and Earth Show, or radio
programmes presented by humanist scientists". The appearance
of humanist scientists in programmes is unsurprising, given that
so many eminent scientists (not to speak of writers, philosophers
and other public figures) are humanists, but it is irrelevant
to our demands since they do not appear as humanists but as scientists
etc. And while it is true that the non-religious are sometimes
asked to appear in religious magazine programmes, they are almost
invariably asked to respond to religious speakers on a religious
agenda, so that they are positioned as foils to the religious,
and can explain their views only in the context of religious belief.
Not only that, but of course humanists can have little idea when
such items will appear, so that the BBC apparently expects them
to listen or watch in hope through hours of religious material
in order to hear the odd contested word supporting their own views.
(4) When the Communications Act was passed
in 2003, we wrote to the then Director-General, Greg Dyke, saying:
"We believe we can be helpful and constructive in assisting
you meet this new public service obligation and we look forward
to a productive dialogue". The offer was rejected as was
the suggestion that any change of policy by the BBC was necessary
following the Act. The correspondence is reproduced in Annex IV.
(5) When we wrote to him when he became
Director-General, saying: "what is lacking is even the slightest
parallel to the unmediated presentation of religion that is so
pervasive in the BBC's output", Mark Thompson asserted in
reply (16 August 2004) without quoting any evidence: "the
BBC's programming schedule meets all public service requirements
with regard to religion and other beliefs imposed on the BBC by
the Communications Act". In a later letter (15 October 2004)
he stated "Our Religion and Ethics department regularly meets
representatives of a wide variety of faiths and belief systems
specifically to ensure that such views are appropriately represented".
There are no such regular meetings with us or any other body representing
non-religious lifestances. The head of religion and ethics has
met us once, at our request, in January 2004, when we put forward
a list of ideas for programmes to which, after much prompting,
he responded the following October by rejecting them one and all.
(6) A BHA member received in May this year
the following response to a complaint:
As a public service broadcaster the BBC has a
responsibility to meet the needs of all audiences. Over 75 per
cent of the adult audience claim some religious allegiance (2001
Much of the BBC's output approaches the world
from a secular, non-religious point of view. A minority of the
BBC's output has specifically religious contentsome of
it celebratory and affirming, some of it journalistic and scrutinisingwhile
other programmes, such as Jonathan Miller's Brief History of Disbelief,
have addressed atheism directly.
This response, typical of many, is worth some
(a) "Over 75 per cent of the adult audience
claim some religious allegiance (2001 census)"but
(i) no-one is questioning the need for some religious programmes;
(ii) the BBC implicitly admits that there is another 25 per cent:
do they not deserve proper attention? (iii) the adherence of many
in the 75 per cent is in any case merely nominalwe have
already quoted the BBC s own poll that found 26 per cent of atheists
or agnostics and another 24 per cent who were spiritually inclined
but don't really belong to an organised religionHumanism
might well be very attractive to them if they were allowed to
hear about it.
(b) "Much of the BBC's output approaches
the world from a secular, non-religious point of view"The
suggestion here seems to be that those without a religious belief
cannot be expected to rise above programmes about make-overs,
sport and travel. Do those without religious beliefs, in other
words, not have any serious philosophy of life that is worth examination?
If the BBC's answer is that they do not, they are saying that
the many serious thinkers who embrace Humanism have nothing to
say that is at all worthy of attention. If on the other hand the
BBC admits that positive non-religious beliefs are worth examination,
why do they deliberately and consistently refuse to pay any attention
to them whatsoever?
(c) "Jonathan Miller's Brief History
of Disbelief" was shown on BBC4 and has still not been scheduled
for showing on a terrestrial channel. In any case it did not deal
with positive non-religious world-views such as Humanism but only
with the rejection of religionie, good as it was, it was
essentially negative, not suggesting any positive alternative
(d) "On Friday 13 May the BBC Governors
held a seminar". The British Humanist Association made a
detailed submission to the Governors specifically for this review.
It seems to have been ignored: there was no reference to it in
the Governance Unit paper prepared for the meeting (to which their
web link leads) or in the report on the seminar posted on the
(e) "The BBC has a public service responsibility
to provide religious programming." This is a blatant distort
ion of the truth by omission: the duty as set out in the Communications
Act refers (as stated above) not to religion but to religion and
other beliefs, including Humanism. The Act cannot be quoted as
a defence for the BBC's failure to provide programmes about Humanismit
specifically requires them to do so.
28. We could multiply these quotations many
times over: all show that the BBC persistently refuses to respond
to our arguments other than by bland assertion of its own blamelessness
and by arguments that carry no weight.
29. At a time when religion is in decline,
it should not be the role of a public service broadcaster in an
open society artificially to sustain religious belief, whether
by providing religion with a disproportionate amount of airtime
or by excluding rival beliefs from the principal medium whereby
groups in society can make themselves heard. Rather than provide
a platform only for those who lament the alleged rootlessness
and immorality of the present generation, or indeed the increasing
secularisation of society, the BBC should also be helping those
with constructive and coherent alternative life-stances and non-religious
answers to "ultimate questions" to test them on the
public. If society is suffering from moral confusion and spiritual
anomie as is often alleged then it is vital that alternatives
to the failing tradition of supernatural religion be explored,
30. Religious programmes, and religious
teaching in other contexts, often claim that only religion can
provide the basis for morality. This not only insults the large
number of people who lead ethical lives without religious beliefs,
but also undermines the moral commitment of the large number of
people who reject the religion they were brought up in. While
the vast majority of non-believers find that they are perfectly
capable of living moral lives without recourse to any external
authority, there can be little doubt that programmes which explore
non-religious lifestances that base morality in our common humanity
would help to ground people's moral values, and hence would also
benefit society as a whole. If the BBC were to produce programmes
of this kind, it would be an excellent example of public service
31. It may be useful to reiterate what we
32. We want the BBC to cease discriminating
against non-religious beliefs by recognising that they are part
of the same spectrum as religion and should be treated on equal
33. We therefore want programmes specifically
for the non-religious, so flagged, recognising that much of the
public will (owing to the prevailing religious bias of the school
system and the media) have a confused and unarticulated world-view
at best. After all, for several generations both religious education
and broadcasting have set up religion as the preferred basis for
life and implied that morality depends on it: when millions have
rejected religion and but neither schools nor the mass media have
provided any coherent alternative, many end up confused and unsure
about the basis of morality.
34. The programmes we seek would not be
attacks on religion (any more than Christian programmes are attacks
on Islam, for example) but reflections on the basis of secular
morality and on particular moral issues, on a secular spirituality
and living a non-religious life, drawing on the tradition of non-religious
lifestances (Confucianism, Epicureanism, Stoicism, the philosophy
of the Locke, Hume, Mill, Russell, etc, etc) from ancient times
down to present day.
35. Such programmes would help the large
number of people who do not hold religious beliefs to explore
what they do believe, and how those beliefs affect the way they
lead their lives. They could be expected in a small way to yield
a social dividendto help social cohesion and commitment,
to combat the moral anomie, cynicism and selfishness that some
commentators perceive in modern society.
36. Given the immovably entrenched position
the BBC has taken over decades in defending its bias towards religion,
we believe that aspirations such as that in the Green Paper, at
pp 40-1, which refers to a requirement to provide programmes about
"different religions and other beliefs" are inadequate.
An obligation should be firmly embedded within the Charter (and
wherever else the aims of the BBC are to be expressed or monitored)
that the BBC cater, without discrimination, for the different
belief groups in our society, explicitly including such non-religious
groups as humanists. Otherwise we cannot trust the BBC to turn
bland general assurances into real programmes.
37. In keeping with our general views, we
would oppose any religious (or humanist) representation on the
BBC board of governors or any trust that might replace it, and
likewise on any BBC regional or national boards.
38. The BBC has a Central Religious Advisory
Council. We wrote to the BBC in 2004 pointing out its obligation
under the Human Rights Act not to discriminate on grounds of religion
or belief and asking that the terms of reference of CRAC be extended
to cover non-religious lifestances. This request was rejected
by Mark Thompson, the Director-General, on the illogical grounds
that the BBC was confident that its programming met all the requirements
of the Communications Act to provide programmes about nonreligious
beliefs. (If it needs advice on its religious programmes, why
should it any less require advice on its alleged programmes on
non-religious lifestances?) We have been told subsequently that
a review of all the advisory bodies is pending. We hold to the
view that an advisory council limited to religion is discriminatory
and that its terms of reference should be widened to cover all
religious and non-religious beliefs and that its membership should
include a representative of Humanism as the principal non-religious
lifestance in the UK.
39. We take this opportunity to point out
that there is confusion about where any duty to enforce section
264 of the Communications Act lies. The BBC has consistently seen
the duty as lying with Ofcom: for example, in a letter of 16 August
2004 Mark Thompson wrote to us: "Under Section 264 of the
Act, Ofcom reports on the fulfilment of the BBC's obligations
under section 264(6) and we remain confident that Ofcom will report
favourably in this respect". On the other hand, Ofcom in
its recent review of public service broadcasting ignored section
264 and in a letter to us of 8 March 2005 said: "The performance
of the BBC in respect to its duties as defined by section 264(6)(g)
is a matter for the Governors and, through the Charter Review
process, the Government". The Act seems to us to place the
obligation on Ofcom but the evident confusion is frustrating to
ourselves and anyone else wishing to see the BBC held to account
for the multiple obligations that Parliament plainly intended
to impose on it as the principal public service broadcaster.
9 October 2005
21 This is true, for example, even of our President,
the comedian Linda Smith, who had not heard of Humanism until
we contacted her after she appeared on Radio 4's Devout Sceptics. Back
We do not intend in this memorandum to deal with the very many
other functions of public service broadcasting (education, the
arts, sport, etc) except to say that we recognise their great
importance and the generally high achievement of the BBC in these
We regard it as more important than the press because of the
breadth of its audience and (in the case of the BBC) its mandated
We would add that the value for money it offers is off the scale
when compared with the cost of cable and satellite offerings.
This is not to say that the BBC is perfect: we share the widespread
view that scheduling on both the principal BBC television channels
is often depressingly unambitious (other than in terms of audience
maximisation). But by contrast (for example) the offering of Radio
4 is incomparable. Back
In a submission to the Office of National Statistics on the census
in 2011. Back
This is borne out even by the census itself: a different question
in Scotland produced a total of 27.6 per cent with no religion,
whereas in England with the question quoted here the figure was
only 14.6 per cent. Back
Evidence of this is found in the rapidly growing demand for non-religious
ceremonies-baby-namings, weddings, and funerals. Back
Its statements of programme policy for 2004/05 proposed 80 hours
of religious programming on BBC1, 20 hours on BBC2, over 150 hours
on Radio 2 and at least 170 hours on Radio 4, as well as unquantified
totals on other channels. Back
We note that some countries are organised on a confessional basis
with separate provision of broadcasting (and other services) by
and for (for example) Roman Catholics, Lutherans and Humanists.
A case in point is the Netherlands. Organisation of the state
into such columns would be impossible to substitute for our profoundly
different British system and anyway we object to it in principle
as too limiting. Back