Speaking after a debate with Controller of Radio 4 Mark Damazer on the BBC's PM Programme, concerning the BBC Trust's report on Thought for the Day, Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley said:
“The BBC Trust’s report is, predictably, an attempt to defend itself against charges of discrimination. It has hidden behind a rather flimsy justification of ‘due partiality’ which argues that BBC listeners don’t expect anything else from Thought for the Day, so it isn’t discriminatory to continue to exclude those from minor religions, humanists, atheists, agnostics and secularists. As such it is rather defeatist, and shows that the argument against broadeneing the slot has effectively fallen apart.
"The Trust's judgement takes no account that throughout the BBC’s regional programming similar slots have been widened. Neither does it acknowledge that Thought for the Day has been continually broadened and widened over the years.
“Mark Damazer’s comments reveal a growing realisation at the BBC that hiding behind a contentious argument about ‘listener expectations’ leaves the Thought for the Day slot impoverished. The BBC’s main concern is to produce quality programming, and whilst it is following one creative and progressive model in its regional output, and another sub-standard and narrower one on Thought for the Day, it is clearly doing a disservice to the output of its flagship news programme. It now a question of 'when', not 'if' the slot will be broadened.”
You can read Ekklesia's research report on the development of Thought for the Day here: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/research/thought_for_the_day
You can listen to the debate between Jonathan Bartley and Mark Damazer here (at 5.24pm): http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b006qskw