BBC criticised over extent of its Halloween coverage

Mon, 1 Nov 2010

The BBC has come under fire for devoting extensive coverage to an obscure pagan festival to mark Halloween amid accusations that the broadcaster neglects Christianity.

BBC News 24 devoted considerable coverage to a riverside meadow in Dorset where a witches’ coven was celebrating the pagan festival of Samhain.

And Robert Pigott, the BBC’s religious affairs correspondent wrote a lengthy article about the pagan ceremony on the BBC’s website.

Christianity

The extent of the coverage, which comes as the broadcaster’s budget has been cut by 16 per cent, has been questioned by critics concerned about the broadcaster’s treatment of Christianity.

Mike Judge, Head of Communications at The Christian Institute, said it is “symptomatic of a much bigger problem across the BBC.

“They down-play Christianity and up-play Paganism which is unreflective of British society. It does create an atmosphere where it’s OK to marginalise Christians.”

Pushed

Andrea Williams, director of the Christian Legal Centre, said: “It’s not always healthy to represent such beliefs as Paganism as mainstream, particularly when our national faith is so often pushed to the edges.

“It’s vital that our national broadcaster remembers our great Christian heritage and all the precepts that come from it that are good for the nation. I would like to see this more clearly recognised.”

The coverage, which was the fourth item on BBC One’s 6pm news broadcast, showed a number of women from a Dorset based coven standing around a cauldron while ritualistic acts were performed.

Ram’s head

Samhain marks the turning of the year from light to dark. Diane Narraway, the coven leader, knelt before a ram’s head to say goodbye to the goddess of light.

The Dorset based coven meets regularly to make spells, and attempts to achieve its aims using potions and coloured candles.

When asked about the extent of the coverage they had provided for the event a BBC spokesman said: “We don’t have anything to say on this.”

Pagan

Earlier this year it was revealed that Pagan police officers could demand holiday to celebrate Pagan festivals, after the Home Office gave its official backing to a Pagan police support group.

The move means police chiefs cannot refuse holiday requests from Pagan officers wishing to take time off during any of the eight main festivals, including Halloween and the summer solstice.

A Home Office spokesman defended the decision saying: “The Government wants a police service that reflects the diverse communities it serves.”

Leave

PC Andy Pardy, a Pagan neighbourhood beat officer in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire, was one of the officers involved in setting up the Pagan Police Association.

He said: “The recognition of Paganism is a slow process, but the progress is evident.

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