BBC may open up Thought for the Day slot

By staff writers
July 14, 2009

Thought for the Day may finally be opened up to ‘minor’ religions and non-religious contributors.

The news comes after a number of campaigns for the two and a half minute section of the Today programme on Radio 4 to be changed.

Ekklesia co-director Jonathan Bartley was dropped as a contributor to the slot in the BBC's flagship news programme, after he disagreed with BBC producers and went on the Today programme to call for the slot to be broadened on the basis of equality and fairness.

A number of people within BBC Religion and Ethics, which is responsible for Thought of the Day, have long resisted such a move.

Mark Damazer, Controller of Radio 4, said yesterday that he regarded the allowing non-religious perspectives as a “finely balanced argument”. Speaking on Feedback, the station’s forum for listeners’ opinions, he said that the Trust was discussing the future of the slot. “They may well suggest . . . that we should take in a wider range of voices,” he said.

The trust will consider whether the benefits of including secular views outweigh the “distinctiveness that the slot gets from being faith-based”.

It agreed to review the section after receiving representations from listeners and secular organisations and will announce its decision in the autumn.

A Church of England spokesman said: “We would strongly resist moves to add non-religious voices to one of the few protected spots in the schedule where religious views on issues of the day can be expressed openly. Thought for the Day is highly valued by people of all faiths and none.”

A few months ago The Guardian newspaper launched an alternative to Thought for the Day which included those of no religious faith.

Contributors included Claire Rayner, AC Grayling, Muriel Gray, Polly Toynbee, Mark Thomas and the former Bishop of Edinburgh, Richard Holloway.

Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.