Items of Various Interest

Why Can't the BBC Understand That We Are STILL a Christian Country?

By Stephen Glover
Last updated at 8:02 AM on 13th May 2009
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[caption id="attachment_4764" align="alignright" width="233" caption="Aaqil Ahmed: The BBC's new head of religious affairs is a practising Muslim"]aaqil-ahmed[/caption]

The BBC's director-general Mark Thompson has said that religious broadcasting gives rise to more controversy in his job than any other subject. I am afraid he hasn't seen anything yet.

On Monday, the Corporation announced that it has appointed a Muslim as head of religious broadcasting. This is not a joke, I can assure you.

The person responsible for overseeing the BBC's "” so far "” largely Christian output will be Aaqil Ahmed, a practising Muslim.

Let me say at once that I have nothing whatsoever against Mr Ahmed, who is, I am sure, an excellent broadcaster who may have much to contribute to the coverage of religion.

Some say that he has done a good job producing religious programmes in his present job at Channel 4, though he has been accused of intellectual shallowness, and last year some Roman Catholic priests alleged he had commissioned documentaries that appeared to contain a pro-Islam bias.

Nor do I doubt that Britain’s three million Muslims have every right to expect the BBC to provide some religious broadcasting directly aimed at them.

They pay their licence fee like everyone else, and their views should be properly and proportionately reflected in the Corporation’s programming.

That said, they still constitute a small (though doubtless devout) minority of this country’s population of 60 million.

Some 70 per cent of adult Britons describe themselves as Christian, though a far smaller proportion regularly attend church.

Culturally, this still remains a Christian country with a national Church, the Church of England, whose supreme head is Her Majesty the Queen.

I realise there are also millions of atheists, Muslims and Hindus, and a smaller number of Sikhs and Jews, who may not embrace Christian religious broadcasting.

But I suspect that most of them are happy to put up with it, partly because they respect this country’s Christian traditions, and partly because, in any case, the BBC is producing fewer and fewer specifically Christian programmes.

My quarrel is not so much with Mr Ahmed as with the BBC. Despite being required under its charter to provide religious programming, and despite being funded by licence-payers who overwhelmingly describe themselves as Christian, the Corporation has been increasingly pursuing what can only be, at best, described as a non-Christian agenda and, at worst, as an anti-Christian one.

Do I exaggerate? I don’t believe so. Religious programming on the BBC has dwindled over the past ten years, and what remains is usually anodyne "” calculated not to offend non-Christians, and therefore likely to provide very little inspiration to those who have Christian leanings.

Songs Of Praise, for example, has become little more than a jolly sing-a-long with very little Christian input.

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