Thursday, 22 January 2009

BBC Religious Programming

The BBC boasts of its impartiality. But where can one find  the balance to the wearying succession of religious programmes. It certainly  isn't provided by the mass of non-religious broadcasting. The balance should be flagged anti-religious programmes  by humanists,  atheists etc. providing positive messages of life without reliance on ancient superstition. 


  1. I agree Nuts and Reasons. Didn't Richard Dawkins have a programme on the BBC a while ago? Or was it Channel 4?

  2. I think it was Channel 4. As far as I know RD has only had a 5 minute slot on Radio 4. Someone like Pat Condell of course would never get a get a look-in on the BBC. Too many religiosi in the upper echelons of the organisation. The Religion & Ethics Department treats atheism like just one among a mulitude of religions. I think it should be reorganised into an Ethics & Morals Department with Religion & Atheism as sub-departments on an equal footing.

  3. How about lobbying the Equalities and Human Rights Commission to see if they can put pressure on the BBC?

  4. Yes that's a possibility. But perhaps the BBC Trust should be the next step. I think some campaigners have individually contacted them without success. Probably its a case for the Secular Society to step up their campaign.

  5. Here is my last letter to Controller of Radio 4 about "Thought for the Day":-
    Dear Mark Damazer

    Thank you for your reply regarding balance in TFTD.

    I think you find this a difficult question because you are searching for arguments to defend the indefensible: to find plausible excuses for disregarding the BBC's own guidelines within the TFTD slot.

    You are right that it is is a unique slot. This makes it all the more important that it should embody the principle of balanced broadcasting. You refer to the the balance of religious/non-religious voices elswehere in your programming but this is not being questioned and seems irrelevant..

    You say that the slot is intended to offer "a brief, uninterrupted interlude of spiritual reflection" (it often doesn't succeed in this) but are you suggesting that only religious people are spiritual? Exactly how would including an occasional humanist detectably "broaden the brief" in view of the already bizarrely wide range of faiths represented, and how would it "detract from the distinctiveness of the slot"? Do you know anything about humanism?

    Yes I do realise that you are "broadcasting to the general Radio 4 audience which regularly engages with the comments and ideas expressed by our contributors from the world's major faiths - whether they are believers or not", and I am sure that many of them have no problem with TFTD. But I am writing as a listener who does feel strongly about the matter and who feel that the essence of your reasoning for maintaining the status quo amounts to no more that that some listeners might like TFTD to remain exactly as it is and you agree with them.

  6. And here is his reply received today:-
    Thank you for your further email reply.
    As I intimated this is a genuinely difficult issue, but I don't think I can add anything of real substance to my original email. If you would like to pursue this further, it is open to you to write to the BBC Trust at 35 Marylebone High Street, London W1U 4AA. Full details of the complaints and appeals process are on the BBC Trust website:

    So it looks as if BBC Trust is the next step.

  7. I personally think he is being leant on by somebody.

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  9. If their are any faiths out there that would object to the occasional TftD from a humanist or atheist speaker they are surely faiths that must be very insecure in their foundation and should not be occupying this slot anyway.

  10. My letter regarding TftD to BBC Complaints Depart:-

    Dear Sir

    I am writing to you at the suggestion of Mark Damazer to register a complaint of lack of balance in the "Thought for the Day" slot in the "Today" programme.

    By lack of balance I am not implying that countervailing opinions should be presented within the 5 minutes allotted to each presentation, but I regard it as both inexplicable and inexcusable that in a programme that is broadcast on nearly every day of the year not a single one is given over to the atheist, humanist, or secularist viewpoint.

    The web page of the Religion & Ethics Department, provides a list of "featured religions & beliefs". This list is headed (alphabetically) with "Atheism". The R & E Department is evidently able to regard atheism as just another belief system among the 19 listed.

    Why is atheism included in this list yet never included in the TftD slot?

    According to the 2001 census returns about 20% of the UK population stated that they had no religion or left the question blank. About 3% of the population is muslim and 0.5% is jewish,

    If the number of TftD broadcasts were to be allocated to atheism and the other religions in the same proportion that atheism and other religions occur in the UK population it would suggest that there should be about 60 atheist/humanist TftDs per year. Whereas there would only be 1 muslim TftD about every 5 weeks and 1 jewish one about every 8 months.

    Why are each of the latter beliefs thought worthy to be represented on TftD every other week but the atheist/humanist viewpoint never? Who at the BBC is responsible for this value judgement which goes against the distribution of belief in the UK population and what advice has he/she taken?Are 20% of non-believers of no account to the BBC? Or is it because someone has decided that non-believers have no "Thoughts" worth sharing with the general public?

    It is self-evident that this bias breaches the BBC's own editorial guidelines. I look forward to your response.