Select Committee on BBC Charter Review Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 80 - 85)


Ms Hanne Stinson and Mr David Pollock

  Q80  Bishop of Manchester: I suspect that Alan Bookbinder, were he to be here, would be able to show that there have been occasional programmes of that kind. The issue which seems to be being presented to us at the moment is not so much whether or not that kind of programme has or has not been put on: it is whether or not the British Humanist Association specifically has contributed to such programmes. Is that right?

  Mr Pollock: No.

  Ms Stinson: No, it is a different question. You asked earlier for whom we speak. I would say quite specifically that we are not looking for a British Humanist Association slot on the BBC; that is not what we are looking for. If the BBC were suddenly to say they would like some humanist features on Thought for the Day we would come up with a pretty impressive list of people they might want to choose. It would not include me; it would not include the BHA. It would include humanists who I would feel could express a view on topical issues. What we are looking for is not that our view is represented. What we are actually looking for is a service to non-religious people. In fact the people who need that service most are not the people who currently join the British Humanist Association, they are not the people who call themselves humanists, they are the average person with non-religious beliefs who are struggling to find a foundation for their morality, if they think about it at all and many people do think about it. We are looking for a service to that group of people. We are not looking for the BHA to be represented on the BBC.

  Q81  Chairman: To the extent that it is said to you that there are lots of other programmes on television and radio, that rather misses the point of what you are trying to achieve.

  Ms Stinson: Absolutely; it totally misses the point.

  Q82  Lord Maxton: I should have thought, for instance, if there were a news item—almost the case you were making about Lord Joffe's Bill—on genetic science in some form or other, it would be totally wrong, though it often happens that you get the discussion and then you get the religious point of view basically saying they are opposed to it.

  Ms Stinson: Absolutely.

  Q83  Lord Maxton: Surely at that point we could have—

  Ms Stinson: A humanist view.

  Q84  Lord Maxton: — a humanist, or even better a genetic scientist, who probably does not believe in god, putting his point of view, exactly why he thinks this is right.

  Ms Stinson: Yes.

  Q85  Bishop of Manchester: Or a separate religious viewpoint saying they are in support of something. I should not like you to get away with saying it is always negative.

  Mr Pollock: The situation which Lord Maxton mentions is typical. When something in the genetic field, or whatever it might be, comes up, the BBC looks to a clergyman, a bishop, some religious commentator to provide the moral view on it. They never look to a humanist moral philosopher to do that. So you get the impression that you have a politician or scientist who is taking a thoroughly pragmatic view of a matter and then the morality comes in when religion comes in. It gives a very false impression.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. I am afraid we have rather gone over our time, but thank you very, very much indeed. It was very interesting and I think you put your case very clearly indeed. If we have any other points, perhaps we can come back to you. Thank you so much.

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