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BBC urged to improve religious coverage

October 7, 2016

By Chris Forrester

A report on the independent ‘OurBeeb’ web-site from Hussein Kesvani, who is head of communications at the Theos think tank, argues that far from scrapping the coverage of religion and ethics, coverage of the topics should be increased. Earlier this year a British Social Attitudes survey said that about half of Britons were “irreligious”.

Kesvani admits the role of religion at the BBC has always been a contentious one, and in recent years, the case of cutting- or even scrapping- the department for religion and ethics has gotten stronger. According to the BBC Charter, the organisation is bound to broadcast at least 110 hours of faith-based content per year, spanning across television and radio- considerably larger than its rivals at ITV and Channel 4.  He reminds readers that UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom will not permit religious organisations from holding many types of broadcasting licences.

Kesvsni quotes a source saying that the BBC’s coverage of religious affairs was frequently centred on “special zones” such as the weekly church-based TV music show ‘Songs of Praise’ and a few moments for ‘Thought of the Day’ on BBC Radio.

He questions why the BBC cannot move into more intellectual, high-brow broadcasting examples. He admits that the BBC will continue to lead its competitors in faith-based coverage, especially as many channels face greater cuts and more demand for viewers. “But if it is to assert relevance to a society that becomes increasingly suspicious of religious institutions, it won’t just have to be innovative with its programming – it will also have to embrace taking more risks than its counterparts.”

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