Examination of Witnesses (Questions 680
WEDNESDAY 23 NOVEMBER 2005
Professor Fabian Monds, Ms Anna Carragher, Mr Pat
Loughrey and Reverend Rick Hill
I just have one small question. We are doing religion as well
and religious broadcasting, and one of the acid tests if Thought
for the Day on the Today programme and who actually
goes on to Thought for the Day. In your Ulster programme,
do you have Thought for the Day, or the equivalent of it?
Ms Carragher: We certainly do have Thought
for the Day, yes.
Do you confine Thought for the Day to what I call the recognised
religions or do you go outside that to, for example, humanists
and people like that?
Ms Carragher: We broadly follow the same guidelines
as set out by Allan and followed by Thought for the Day
and particularly across Radio 4. It would be broadly spiritual.
We do have representatives of specifically humanist organisations,
but we would not necessarily have people who had a faith label
on them. We do not expect Thought for the Day to be anti-religious;
it would be broadly spiritual but not necessarily from a spoken
faith, as it were.
So if I came on I would not actually have to say that I was Protestant
or Roman Catholic?
Ms Carragher: Absolutely not.
I might not actually be anything.
Ms Carragher: Yes.
But I would not come on and attack the church.
Ms Carragher: You would not attack the church
but you would not be expected to go on and be from a particular
Is that acceptable to you, Reverend?
Reverend Hill: At this point one of the seven
values of public life that we as Council members are supposed
to follow is probity. I am going to declare the interest. I do
Thought for the Day on Radio 4, Radio 2, Radio Ulster,
the independent networks and broadcast services. I have experience
as a broadcaster as well.
I am amazed you have any time at all after that!
Reverend Hill: I am amazed I am here today!
There is a diverse range of voices and religious backgrounds and
I think that is to be welcomed. It is not just persons from the
traditional religious groups that you might expect in Northern
Ireland; you will find a range of opinions. Some infuriate listeners,
some challenge them and some comfort them. You have all of that.
It feels a little like Radio 2 in some ways, the Terry Wogan slot
where you have that diversity. I would suggest that the Radio
Ulster slot would have a similar kind of diversity within our
But you do not find it offensive that there are non-religious
people actually in that slot from time to time?
Reverend Hill: When you say non-religious?
I mean people who are not signed up to a particular faith.
Reverend Hill: They are people with a spiritual
perspective. It is very much a point in the day for a spiritual
perspective. They may not sign up or tick the boxes that I have
ticked but they nonetheless have a spiritual perspective on life,
and certainly the evidence from the United Kingdom is that people
are broadly spiritual; the churches may be in decline but spirituality
is on the increase. I know humanism is also there and I would
like to see it at other places in the schedule.
I am now totally confused. I go back to Anna Carragher. Just interpret
what actually this means in a programme? I understood your first
reply as meaning that someone who was, for example, a humanist
might actually do the equivalent of Thought for the Day.
Ms Carragher: They would not come on as a humanist.
People would come on who may not be of a particular faith, but
whose thought would be a broadly spiritual thought, but who would
not necessarily be signed up to be either Catholic, Protestant,
Sikh, Jewish; they may be somebody who is coming from a broad
disparity perspective, who might be a signed up member of your
Q690 Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury:
So you do not have, as on the Today programme, the name
and profession, like a Sikh who does Thought for the Day
and says, "Editor of the Sikh" whatever, which identifies
what he does.
Ms Carragher: Sometimes. It would depend on
the individual. Sometimes.
Rather than putting this at the tail end we have to investigate
it in a little more detail, but it sounds to me as though you
do go a bit wider here than the national Today programme,
but I see Lord Maxton shaking his head.
Ms Carragher: It is in broad guidelines.
Mr Loughrey: It is not significantly different,
Lord Peston: To take an obvious example,
following what Reverend Hill said, the fastest growing belief
in this country seems to be a belief in astrology. Polls show
that an enormous number of people believe in the validity of astrology,
but you would not dream of having an astrologer on, I hope, saying
that, "Today is not a propitious day for doing this, that
or the other"?
Chairman: At this point we will draw this bit
to an end! I am enormously grateful; thank you very much indeed.
I think we may have some further questions on this issue and on
others which we have dealt with before, so perhaps we could write
to you on those if we do have them? Thank you very much for your
evidence, which we have found fascinating and really very interesting