THE BBC has announced a big increase in religious programmes for Holy Week and Easter. The move comes after last year’s offering had been criticised as sparse. Next week, the General Synod will debate a motion criticising broadcasters for “completely ignoring the Christian significance of Good Friday 2009”.
In the vanguard is Easter at King’s, a variant on Carols from King’s, from King’s College, Cambridge, which was shown on BBC2 at Christmas and attracted an audience of 2.57 million.
Aaqil Ahmed, head of religion and ethics and commissioning editor for religion, BBC TV, says in an interview this week: “Hopefully it’s going to be a returner. We’ll see how people take to it.”
Also on BBC2 is The Private Life of an Easter Masterpiece, featuring The Descent from the Cross by Rogier van der Weyden, described by Susie Nash, head of the Renaissance section at the Courtauld, as “the greatest work of Northern art of the 15th century”.
Two religious documentaries have been planned for BBC1, although no details have been announced. One will be broadcast on Good Friday, the other earlier in Holy Week. On Easter Day, in addition to the broadcasting of the Pope’s Urbi et Orbi address, BBC1 will show a special edition of Songs of Praise from the Holy Land, presented by Aled Jones.
The quality and amount of religious broadcasting on the BBC has been criticised by Nigel Holmes, who tabled the private member’s motion to be debated in Synod next Wednesday morning. In a background paper, he writes: “There is hardly any religion on television in peak time, even at festivals.”
Mr Ahmed defends the BBC’s record: “164 hours of well-funded programming is something that should be applauded.”