Church concerned over BBC religious output
Wednesday, February 10 2010, 11:59 GMT
By Andrew Laughlin,
The Church of England's Synod is to further investigate concerns expressed by its members about the BBC's limited religious output, it has emerged.
Some members of the synod, including former BBC producer Nigel Holmes, who recently compiled a report on the matter, believe that there has been a significant reduction in religious coverage at the corporation.
The BBC's remaining religious programmes, such as Songs Of Praise, are also being marginalised to the fringes of its schedule, the members claim.
In response, the BBC argued that its religious output has actually increased over recent years to reach an annual total of 168 hours, up from 155 hours in 2004/05.
Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph, BBC head of religion and ethics Aaqil Ahmed said that the Church's criticism is simplistic and based on an outdated view of the world.
"I don't believe that we should be basing the debate on 20-year-old figures, the conversation is far more complicated than that," said Ahmed, whose appointment last year attracted over 100 complaints.
"It's very easy to live in the past, but we live in the present. In a few years' time the way we're going to view television will change radically, so the conversation will become even more redundant. We'll listen to what they say, but we're clear that we know what we're doing and we'll stick to that."
Yesterday, the BBC unveiled a raft of programming to run over the Holy Week of Easter, including Easter Day coverage on BBC One from Winchester Cathedral and of Pope Benedict XVI's traditional blessing.
According to research by the National Secular Society (NSS), religious programming on television is not popular or valued by viewers so the BBC must not be forced to increase its output.
NSS president Terry Sanderson told BBC News: "It is important the BBC is not bullied into becoming an evangelical tool for the Church of England while ignoring the clearly expressed wishes of the licence-payer."