Bishop addresses BBC in first Lords speech

By staff writers
23 Apr 2004

Bishop addresses BBC in first Lords speech

-23/4/04

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, has called for the renewal of the BBC Charter and the retention of the licence fee in his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

Bishop Graham became the 26th member of the congregation of Anglican clerics at Westminster, when he claimed his seat on the spiritual benches in the House of Lords last month.

The Rt Rev Graham James, introduced to the House by the bishops of London and Newcastle, pledged to be a regular attender, and hoped to speak on issues such as rural affairs and medical ethics.

But in his first speech the Bishop, who may be one of the last bishops to enter the upper house as it is currently

constituted, chose instead to address broadcasting issues.

As a maiden speech in the Lords is supposed to be non-controversial, and the BBC licence fee is an issue of some political contention, Bishop Graham had to measure his words carefully reports Norwich news provider EDP24.

Bishop Graham did however take time to defend the quality of religious broadcasting by the BBC on television and radio, whilst simultaneously lamenting the fact that over Easter weekend religious programmes were "conspicuously absent or found only in graveyard slots".

Speaking specifically about the BBC, the Bishop said; "It does need to connect with a wide audience, otherwise the licence fee will be resented. So it seeks to be a popular broadcaster"..

"Yet the public service remit alone cannot be the sole determinant of its success. To interpret its public service remit simply in terms of programmes that the market wouldn't otherwise provide would be to marginalise the corporation. Public service broadcasting does not have to be mind-dumbingly dull."

"The output, and indeed the organisation of the BBC, should assist its public purposes informing as well as entertaining our citizens, helping to build community and providing some of that social glue that all societies need to cohere and have a common identity."

Bishop Graham said he hoped it was not controversial to recognise "the huge contribution the BBC still makes to the public good" and "to express a hope that the renewed charter will give it the capacity to build on its very best traditions".

Declaring an interest as the chairman of the Central Religious Advisory Committee of the BBC, he also said that this body's very existence was "at least of symbolic significance in the quest for religious understanding and harmony in a world beset by division and incomprehension".

"That is a public and social good which deserves investment", he continued. "I believe it accurately reflects the wider public value of the BBC, which should continue to be supported by means other than commercial interests and advertising".

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, has called for the renewal of the BBC Charter and the retention of the licence fee in his maiden speech in the House of Lords.

Bishop Graham became the 26th member of the congregation of Anglican clerics at Westminster, when he claimed his seat on the spiritual benches in the House of Lords last month.

The Rt Rev Graham James, introduced to the House by the bishops of London and Newcastle, pledged to be a regular attender, and hoped to speak on issues such as rural affairs and medical ethics.

But in his first speech the Bishop, who may be one of the last bishops to enter the upper house as it is currently constituted, chose instead to address broadcasting issues.

As a maiden speech in the Lords is supposed to be non-controversial, and the BBC licence fee is an issue of some political contention, Bishop Graham had to measure his words carefully reports Norwich news provider EDP24.

Bishop Graham did however take time to defend the quality of religious broadcasting by the BBC on television and radio, whilst simultaneously lamenting the fact that over Easter weekend religious programmes were "conspicuously absent or found only in graveyard slots".

Speaking specifically about the BBC, the Bishop said; "It does need to connect with a wide audience, otherwise the licence fee will be resented. So it seeks to be a popular broadcaster"..

"Yet the public service remit alone cannot be the sole determinant of its success. To interpret its public service remit simply in terms of programmes that the market wouldn't otherwise provide would be to marginalise the corporation. Public service broadcasting does not have to be mind-dumbingly dull."

"The output, and indeed the organisation of the BBC, should assist its public purposes informing as well as entertaining our citizens, helping to build community and providing some of that social glue that all societies need to cohere and have a common identity."

Bishop Graham said he hoped it was not controversial to recognise "the huge contribution the BBC still makes to the public good" and "to express a hope that the renewed charter will give it the capacity to build on its very best traditions".

Declaring an interest as the chairman of the Central Religious Advisory Committee of the BBC, he also said that this body's very existence was "at least of symbolic significance in the quest for religious understanding and harmony in a world beset by division and incomprehension".

"That is a public and social good which deserves investment", he continued. "I believe it accurately reflects the wider public value of the BBC, which should continue to be supported by means other than commercial interests and advertising".

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