BBC director general takes Christians to task over religious broadcasting

BBC director general takes Christians to task over religious broadcasting

By staff writers
8 Jun 2005

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BBC director general takes Christians to task over religious broadcasting

-08/06/05

In a shot across the bows of those who feel that religion is being marginalized in broadcasting, most notably those who focus on 'entitlements' to religious slots, the BBC's director general has urged Christians to be more creative and 'subversive' in their broadcasting approaches.

Addressing the Churches' Media Conference in Derbyshire, Mark Thompson suggested that religion was actually at the forefront of broadcasting.

Using the example of last Sunday's 500th and last edition of Frost on Sunday he noted that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the final guest.

"How appropriate that Frost on Sunday, which has captured so many global events and interviewed so many world leaders, should end with a specifically religious perspective" he said.

"Religion pops up all over the schedules: in drama, comedy, reality TV. It produces surprise hits, our recent BBC TWO documentary The Monastery being a case in point ñ a programme which has rather gratifyingly thrashed Celebrity Love Island over on ITV. Habit trumps bikini shock." he continued.

"Many people worry about the marginalisation of religion in modern life. Let me tell you, from where I'm sitting, it's front and centre stage: dynamic, complex, potentially explosive" he continued.

But he also highlighted the potentially controversial and difficult nature of religious subject matter.

"In my first year as Director-General of the BBC, between Popetown, Springer, the service to celebrate the marriage of Charles and Camilla, the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI, there have been more difficult judgement calls to make about religious subjects than about political ones."

Thompson, himself a Christian, also implicitly criticised some of the behaviour displayed by Christians in their treatment of broadcasting issues. In a reference to the threats made to BBC executives after religious fringe group Christian Voice published their the names and personal during the controversy over the BBC Broadcasting of Jerry Springer the Opera, he said; "Pace Lord Hutton, it turns out it's not politics that puts the security guards outside the homes of BBC executives: it's religion."

Passing comment about those who complain about declining broadcasting standards he noted; "Most complainants are determined to connect the particular enormity to what they take to be a deeper and more systemic trend, whether it's dumbing down, falling quality, the denigration of traditional values or just plain old depravity."

But he also hinted that the reason Christians feel marginalized is often because the types of programming they offer and call for often don't meet the necessary standards. He suggested that future religious broadcasting needed instead "Creative renewal, fresh audience engagement, new ideas, new departures."

Calling for a new focus he urged Christians to move away from demands for religious programming entitlements. The future of religious broadcasting must be "one in which the communities themselves focus more on creative potential than on old battles about entitlement" he said.

The full text of the speech can be found here

In a shot across the bows of those who feel that religion is being marginalized in broadcasting, most notably those who focus on 'entitlements' to religious slots, the BBC's director general has urged Christians to be more creative and 'subversive' in their broadcasting approaches.

Addressing the Churches' Media Conference in Derbyshire, Mark Thompson suggested that religion was actually at the forefront of broadcasting.

Using the example of last Sunday's 500th and last edition of Frost on Sunday he noted that Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the final guest.

"How appropriate that Frost on Sunday, which has captured so many global events and interviewed so many world leaders, should end with a specifically religious perspective" he said.

"Religion pops up all over the schedules: in drama, comedy, reality TV. It produces surprise hits, our recent BBC TWO documentary The Monastery being a case in point - a programme which has rather gratifyingly thrashed Celebrity Love Island over on ITV. Habit trumps bikini shock." he continued.

"Many people worry about the marginalisation of religion in modern life. Let me tell you, from where I'm sitting, it's front and centre stage: dynamic, complex, potentially explosive" he continued.

But he also highlighted the potentially controversial and difficult nature of religious subject matter.

"In my first year as Director-General of the BBC, between Popetown, Springer, the service to celebrate the marriage of Charles and Camilla, the death of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI, there have been more difficult judgement calls to make about religious subjects than about political ones."

Thompson, himself a Christian, also implicitly criticised some of the behaviour displayed by Christians in their treatment of broadcasting issues. In a reference to the threats made to BBC executives after religious fringe group Christian Voice published their the names and personal during the controversy over the BBC Broadcasting of Jerry Springer the Opera, he said; "Pace Lord Hutton, it turns out it's not politics that puts the security guards outside the homes of BBC executives: it's religion."

Passing comment about those who complain about declining broadcasting standards he noted; "Most complainants are determined to connect the particular enormity to what they take to be a deeper and more systemic trend, whether it's dumbing down, falling quality, the denigration of traditional values or just plain old depravity."

But he also hinted that the reason Christians feel marginalized is often because the types of programming they offer and call for often don't meet the necessary standards. He suggested that future religious broadcasting needed instead "Creative renewal, fresh audience engagement, new ideas, new departures."

Calling for a new focus he urged Christians to move away from demands for religious programming entitlements. The future of religious broadcasting must be "one in which the communities themselves focus more on creative potential than on old battles about entitlement" he said.

The full text of the speech can be found here

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