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Could do better

by
02 November 2006

THE FORMER Heaven and Earth Show has grown up and becomHeaven & Earth with Gloria Hunniford (BBC1, Sundays). It is the B's sole recognition that in this overwhelmingly religious, still recognisablChristian, country, it might be reasonable to broadcast one programme on Sunday morning reflecting that fact, staying the nation's religious hungeuntil the solid theological fare of Songs of Praise feeds the soul ateatime.

Gone are the jokey youngsters, and Gloria Hunniford brings a welcome anlong-overdue gravitas to the proceedings. Last Sunday's magazinformat contained a studio discussion about Sunday trading; reports on whetheEvangelical TV programmes will be permitted to ask for donations on air; deatthreats against British girls who defy their parents' wedding plans; and aexhibition of Islamic culture. These items were presented by Mark Lawson and EStourton - serious journalists who know what they are talking about.

I watched the programme for the first time since it changed the title, as ihad an item of personal interest. It concerned Nick Clarke, who has cancer, anabout how his wife's active faith and church commitment helps him to cope withis condition. The story was told gently and sensitively.

More populist elements survive: the review of the Sunday papers waconducted by the actress Zo Lucker, whose journey of spiritual enlightenmengains extra zest from her role in the TV series Footballers' Wives, sexcoriated from the pulpit by the Archbishop of Canterbury. And the besreligious link they could muster for the musical item was the fact that thsinger had once been in a church choir.

The whole thing now feels more like Radio 4 than Radio 1 - but comparisowith programmes such as Today or PM demonstrates exactly thsame transformation that has occurred in most of the serious newspapers: mosof the items are now reflections, and magazine stuff, not breaking newgathered by investigative journalists.

There was not a single mention of the General Synod; nothing about womebishops; nothing about the apparent break-up of the Anglican Communion; nothinabout the Pope's visit to Spain. And, of course, nothing whatsoever like actuaworship or prayer. That would be far too embarassing on a Sunday morning. Sthanks for a vast improvement - but I still think there's a fundamental flaw ithe concept.

Bomb attacks on London provided the link between two fascinating programmesthe first was Real Story (BBC1, Friday), which followed up some othose injured or bereaved in the outrages of 7 July last year. Most movinglyone bereaved Muslim finally confronted the father of one of the bombers - anended up feeling that, still living in a fog of disbelief, confusion, andenial, this father was in a more pitiable state than he was.

Then Blitz: London's Firestorm (Channel 4, Saturday) was a repeaof the ambitious documentary about the raids of 29 December 1940. No shortagof religion here, although more as a cultural background: in the last war, iwas the survival of St Paul's Cathedral that people saw as the sign thaLondon, ultimately, would surviv

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