BBC is marginalising religion: Simon Mayo

Tue, 12 Jan 2010

Religion is “increasingly driven to the margin” on the BBC, a popular radio presenter at the Corporation says.

Simon Mayo, who is known as a Christian, also says there is an anti-Christian theme apparent in television comedians.

He said: “They are at the forefront of the new atheism.”

Mr Mayo said: “I was listening to a BBC news bulletin during Easter 2008 about services to mark ‘the rebirth of Christ’”.

He said that the line was “clearly written by someone who had no contact with or understanding of the concept of resurrection”.

He said: “My brother works for the BBC religious affairs unit and I told him I couldn’t believe it.”

Mr Mayo added he had listened to actor David Tennant on Desert Island Discs and that the presenter on the show had viewed the fact that his father was a minister as a “problem”.

Last year BBC presenter Jeremy Vine said he believes Christ is who he says he is, but doesn’t think he could say so on his show.

He told Reform Magazine that it has become “almost socially unacceptable to say you believe in God”.

“You can’t express views that were common currency 30 or 40 years ago,” he said.

“Arguably, the parameters of what you might call ‘right thinking’ are probably closing.”

Mr Vine is a practising Anglican, but he says he is unable to discuss his faith on air.

In May last year the BBC appointed a Muslim as head of its religious broadcasting.

This followed the Corporation appointing a member of the British Humanist Association to its new religion board and a Sikh as producer of its flagship religious show, Songs of Praise.

Several commentators said at the time that the BBC was pandering to minority groups at the expense of Christianity.

In 2008 Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, said that Islam should be treated more sensitively than Christianity because Muslims are less integrated and more of a minority group.

Mr Thompson was speaking at an event organised by religious think-tank Theos.

He said: “My view is that there is a difference between the position of Christianity, which I believe should be central to the BBC’s religion coverage and widely respected and followed.

“What Christian identity feels like it is about to the broad population is a little bit different to people for whom their religion is also associated with an ethnic identity which has not been fully integrated.

“There’s no reason why any religion should be immune from discussion, but I don’t want to say that all religions are the same. To be a minority I think puts a slightly different outlook on it.”

Last year the Conservatives called for the BBC to redress its “innate liberal bias”.

Jeremy Hunt, the Shadow Culture Secretary, quoted the phrase applied to the BBC by its former political editor Andrew Marr in 2007.

Mr Marr has also described the BBC as “a publicly funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnic minorities and almost certainly of gay people compared with the population at large”.

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