New BBC schedule promises to ‘shine a light’ on faith and spiritual values in modern Britain

01 February 2019

BBC Studios/Russell Leven

A Sikh pilgrim prays at the Golden Temple in Punjab, India, during the Sikh New Year celebrations. The pilgrimage site is featured in Earth’s Sacred Wonders (BBC1)

A Sikh pilgrim prays at the Golden Temple in Punjab, India, during the Sikh New Year celebrations. The pilgrimage site is featured in Earth’s Sa...

THE BBC has promised to “shine a light” on faith and spiritual values in modern Britain, particularly for young people, with a year of programming dedicated to religion and ethics.

It comes one year after the BBC said it would “raise our game across all output” in the way that it treated religion, as the result of a year-long review of its religion and ethics output (News, 20 December 2017).

The Year of Beliefs 2019 schedule, announced on Monday, includes a new BBC1 series, Earth’s Sacred Wonders, on the rituals and monuments of faith around the world; a one-hour documentary, Medical Ethics, filmed at Great Ormond Street Hospital; Surrogacy with Tom Daley (working title); and Pregnant and Platonic — a documentary on people who have children without being in a romantic relationship.

A new survey would also explore attitudes to contentious issues, and responses to ethical dilemmas past and present, the BBC said in its release. “We’ll also look at differences in attitude according to age, gender, and broad geographical region of the UK, to get a unique snapshot of what unites and divides us.”

The Bishop of Repton, the Rt Revd Jan McFarlane, who chairs the Sandford St Martin Trust, welcomed the BBC’s efforts to renew religious broadcasting, which, she said, had “got off to a shaky start” after it cancelled its longstanding Radio 4 programme Something Understood. Only repeats will now be aired.

BBC/Oxford Films/Tim CraggPope Francis during the filming of Inside the Vatican (BBC2)

Bishop McFarlane said on Tuesday: “The Trust particularly welcomes the BBC’s commitment to bringing issues of faith, belief, and ethics to as wide an audience as possible, and to find ways of engaging with younger audiences through a new Youth Panel and its major new survey exploring attitudes to contentious issues and responses to ethical dilemmas.

“And, while they were not mentioned, the huge popularity of series such as Broken and Call the Midwife clearly demonstrate that audiences are eager for such stories to be told.”

The Year of Beliefs highlights the BBC1 programme Too Gay for God?, in which the Revd Jide Macaulay, Assistant Curate of St Margaret with St Columba, Leytonstone, will explore the place of the LGBT Christian community in the Church.

A new two-part film, Inside the Vatican, on BBC2, will show a year in the life of the Vatican community, including Pope Francis, his head of security, the choristers of the Sistine Chapel, the papal gardener, and the chief of the diplomatic corps.

And, in the second series of Pilgrimage, eight celebrities, including the actor Les Dennis, the dancer Brendan Cole, and the Olympic athlete Greg Rutherford, will attempt to walk the 1000km ancient pilgrim route Via Francigena, starting in the Swiss Alps and ending in St Peter’s Square, Rome.

The schedule also highlights established programmes such as Songs of Praise on BBC1.

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