Sunday, 24 January 2010

Religious broadcasting

The General Synod of the Church of England is preparing to debate the ‘lack of sympathy’ and sensationalist and unduly critical nature of religious programming on British television amid growing discontent about a decline in output.

Bishops, clergy and lay members of the Synod will vote on whether to demand that the State Broadcaster explains why its coverage of Christianity on television has declined so steeply in recent years.

In a Private Member’s Motion, Nigel Holmes, a member of the Synod from the Carlisle diocese and a former BBC producer, explains that output of the BBC’s religious programmes has dropped by a third in a decade.

In his background paper, circulated among more than 480 members of the Synod, Mr Holmes says those who work in religious broadcasting believe that a ‘lack of sympathy for, and ignorance of, religion leads to poor decisions in the corridors of power’. He also cites evidence for his arguments.

The reported statistics show that output has fallen from 177 hours of religious programming on BBC television in 1987-88 to 155 hours in 2007-08, while the number of general programmes has doubled.

Mr Holmes has also pointed out that the BBC’s main religious show last Christmas was presented by Fern Britton, the former daytime TV presenter.

‘Was this yet another indication that the teaching and devotional aspect of religious broadcasting must now bow to the celebrity culture?’ he asked.

He adds that the BBC 3 tackles the subject ‘from the angle of the freak show’ and Channel 4 takes an ‘unduly critical’ and ‘sensationalist’ attitude towards Christianity while ITV shows ‘next to nothing’ about faith.

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