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Religious broadcasting and the BBC Royal Charter

by
31 July 2015

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From Mr Nigel Holmes

Sir, — The amount of air time for BBC Radio and Television religious programmes may have fallen (News, 24 July), but the really significant difference over the past ten years has been the virtual withdrawal from the genre of ITV and Channel 4, both of which previously produced many of the more imaginative programmes, some aimed at a younger audience, as well as a weekly televised service of worship.

The former Director-General of the BBC Mark Thompson, when still at Channel 4, 11 years ago, said: “It’s true that there is an enormous prevailing prejudice inside broadcasting about religion. It’s not really based on hatred of religion — I’m sure that exists to some degree as well — but there’s a presumption that religion is boring. . .

“I’m in favour of mandating religious programmes on television because it’s the only way of offsetting the prejudice and making sure that religion, which is a big part of many people’s lives — and, goodness knows, a big part of our world — is represented. . .

“Religion is pretty interesting, and it is by no means obvious that religious programmes get tiny audiences. It’s an enormous, growing topic. . . It’s a mistake to assume that religion is naturally something just appealing to a minority” (Not Just on Sunday, ITV, 27 June 2004).

The changing state of the world over the past ten years has proved how right he was. The BBC Royal Charter ends next year. Two consultations are under way at present which afford the opportunity to back the case for religious broadcasting. That of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is at www.gov.uk/government/consultations/bbc-charter-review-public-consultation; and that of the BBC Trust is at www.bbc.co.uk/tomorrowsbbc.

 

NIGEL HOLMES
Woodside, Great Corby
Carlisle CA4 8LL

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