Bishops question BBC’s values

10 December 2008

by Bill Bowder

Friday slot: Jonathan Ross, high-earning BBC presenter PA

Friday slot: Jonathan Ross, high-earning BBC presenter PA

THE BBC has been criticised for in­con­sistency by Anglican and Roman Catholic bishops in its treat­ment of religious and entertainment pro­grammes.

In a joint submission to OFCOM, the Bishop of Croydon, the Rt Revd Nicholas Baines, and the Roman Catholic Auxiliary Bishop of West­minster, the Rt Revd John Arnold, argue that the public would have a fairer deal if public-broadcasting responsibilities were shared between the BBC, Channel 4, and others.

The Bishops compare the BBC’s treatment of Songs of Praise, which has a regular audience of about three million, with Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, which has a regular audience of four million.

Songs of Praise (first broadcast in 1961) is funded in a way that reflects a BBC view of it as an “unprofitable” religious broadcasting slot, they say. Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, whose star, Mr Ross, is paid £18 million (for a three-year contract), has an audience of about four million people weekly, and is re­garded by the BBC as “a wild success”.

“There still remains both con­fusion and inconsistency about how religious output is viewed and its value to audiences, mostly around the definition of religion on TV,” the Bishops say. “The survival and flourishing of public-service content is not just an economic or political question: it has implications for the kind of society we want to be.”

The public, they suggest, expect public-service broadcasters to have integrity and credibility.

Mr Ross was suspended last month after he and the entertainer Russell Brand were heard on Radio 2 making lewd telephone calls to a retired actor, Andrew Sachs.

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