The BBC is launching a new major TV programme called The Big Questions this weekend. Its aim is to move the discussion of diverse beliefs and ethics out of a narrow 'religion' bracket, and to respond creatively to the debates taking place in modern Britain.
BBC One’s new programme on the what motivates our morals and convictions takes to the airwaves on Sunday 9 September 2007 at 10am – with a discussion on the relationship of religion to public perceptions of moral decline.
The programme, which replaces The Heaven and Earth Show, will be presented by broacaster and journalist Nicky Campbell. Each week it will take a look at the belief and ethical questions behind the news, tackling a range of topical subjects and issues, say the producers.
A panel of four guests will lead the debate, offering a range of faith and non-faith perspectives, alongside contributions from the studio audience. Viewers will also be invited to call, email and text in their comments.
Nicky Campbell said today: “I am delighted to be presenting The Big Questions. It promises to be the sort of programme I enjoy most – live and topical with a studio audience debating the stories that matter."
He added: “There are few places on television where you have the time and space to tackle really important subjects, so it’s a great opportunity and very exciting.”
The panel for the first programme will be journalist Amanda Platell; Jonathan Bartley, co-director of the theological think-thank Ekklesia; Dr Jeevan Deol, an academic specialising in religion and politics; and the scientist and broadcaster Dr Alice Roberts.
The Big Questions is produced by Mentorn Oxford, makers of BBC One’s high profile Question Time. With the show coming from various locations across the country during its 24 week run, the first programme comes from Wychwood school in Oxford.
A major focus for the first programme will be a new BBC commissioned survey which reveals that 83% of an monitored sample agreed or strongly agreed with that statement that Britain is experiencing moral decline.
A majority also said that they thought religion could play an important role in moral guidance, with a significant minority (nearly 30 per cent) disagreeing.
"We need more informed debate on the role of both religious and non-religious belief systems today", said Ekklesia's Jonathan Bartley. "The Big Questions can play an important part in taking that discussion forward in the public arena. It needs to be lively, engaging and topical."
Bartley contributes regularly to BBC Radio 4's Thought for the Day, among other radio, TV, newspaper and new media commitments. He runs Ekklesia with co-director Simon Barrow, a writer and theologian.
Earlier this year Ekklesia argued that humanists and non-believers should be able to contribute to the Thought for the Day slot alongside Christians and those of other faith backgrounds.
Ekklesia's Simon Barrow on negotiaating the moral muddle - Guardian Comment-is-Free.