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BBC: ‘new approach’ to religious programming will better serve faith communities

19 March 2021

WORKERBEE TV/BBC 

A still from “Being Muslim”, one of the episodes of the BBC1 series Being, available on iPlayer from 27 March and via broadcasts on BBC 1, timed to tie in with the respective Faith festivals

A still from “Being Muslim”, one of the episodes of the BBC1 series Being, available on iPlayer from 27 March and via broadcasts on BBC 1, timed to ti...

A MORE joined-up approach across all the BBC platforms will have maximum impact and will better serve faith communities, the broadcaster’s chief content officer, Charlotte Moore, declared at the announcement on Wednesday of BBC Religion’s Faith and Hope for Spring 2021 programme.

Religious programming had been well received over “an extraordinary year, which has demonstrated the importance of faith in people’s lives”, she said. The new approach would be very evident at Easter, with collaboration across BBC1, Radio 4, BBC local radio, the Church of England, and Canterbury Cathedral for a live Easter Day service at which the Archbishop of Canterbury would preside and preach.

Conversations about faith and spirituality had come to the surface during the pandemic, when there had been higher than average listening and viewing figures from a wider range of people, the commissioning editor for radio and television, Daisy Scalchi, said. Songs of Praise viewers had increased by 29 per cent to 1.2 million weekly. One million people had watched Young Chorister of the Year.

Nineteen BBC programmes are shortlisted for the Sandford St Martin Awards, which recognise excellence in broadcasting.

A new five-part BBC1 commission, Being, will look at what faith and ritual means for individuals from Sikh, Hindu, Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities. The first will be on 27 March, timed for the start of the Sikh festival Vaisakhil. A new series of the live cookery show Celebration Kitchen will include the Passover.

The head of the Asian Network, Ahmed Hussain, reported that its programme 24 Hours of Light, broadcast the day before Diwali, had achieved record listening figures for BBC Sounds. In response to a suggestion from a Hindu individual that the Hindu voice on the BBC was “still very feeble”, there was a real push, Ms Scalchi said, “to make those people who feel under-represented feel more represented”. The BBC, Ms Moore said, was “much closer to its audiences than it had ever been, and much more agile to respond to what is needed”.

The head of religion and ethics for BBC Audio, Tim Pemberton, hailed a new series of Beyond Belief, which is due to celebrate its 500th edition. The BBC had the reputation of an “honest broker” in facilitating a good conversation, he said.

The latest listening figures showed that 40 per cent of listeners to Sunday-morning radio were tuned in to the Sunday programme on Radio 4, while Thought for the Day had four million listeners. The BBC would be celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Moral Maze, “discussion and debate of the highest order . . . The programme that helps us to think and occasionally to change our minds.”

Radio 2’s Good Friday offering is At the Foot of the Cross: an evening of music and poetry from writers and musicians recording from their own homes during lockdown. On Palm Sunday, there will be a new feature, Like a Prayer, on Good Morning Sunday, co-hosted by the Revd Kate Bottley and Jason Mohammad. It will explore “different ways in which we can find moments of calm and connection”.

Good Friday afternoon on Radio 3 celebrates the 60th anniversary year of the consecration of Guildford Cathedral with a rendition of Stainer’s Crucifixion, recorded in the cathedral in March 2018.

The BBC Singers and BBC Concert Orchestra perform the traditional Good Friday concert live on Radio 3. On BBC1, Urbi et Orbi will show Pope Francis delivering his Easter message from Rome.

The BBC was committed to bringing religion and faith into its flagship brands as well as its religious programming, Ms Scalchi said. She referred to The Real Marigold Hotel and Michael Palin’s Himalaya, with the promise of “more to come”.

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