Channel 4 is to launch a two minute religion and ethics slot, opening its airwaves to commentators with a “plethora of beliefs and opinions”.
The programme, which will air daily after Channel 4 News, has been compared to BBC Radio 4′s Thought for the Day.
Channel 4′s slot is to be called 4thought.tv and will begin on 5 July with a series of programmes marking the July 2005 London terrorist attacks.
A Christian police officer and a Muslim surgeon will be among those reflecting on how the atrocity affected their faith.
Ralph Lee, Channel 4′s Head of Specialist Factual, said 4thought.tv will “give voice to a plethora of beliefs and opinions and the tone of the films will also be as varied as the views expressed – featuring a mixture of hard-hitting polemics, contemplative monologues, as well as songs and comedic takes on issues”.
“Crucially, it will provide a space for views about religions and ethics that receive virtually no coverage on any other channel”, he added.
The National Secular Society’s president, Terry Sanderson, said: “We hope that secularists and rationalists will be invited to challenge the idea that religion has a monopoly on all the ‘big ideas’. We certainly have plenty to say”.
The BBC has come under sustained pressure to include secular and atheist speakers in its Radio 4 Thought for the Day slot.
Prof Richard Dawkins has slammed Thought of the Day, saying that “religious people do not have the monopoly on morality and ethics”.
Hanne Stinson of the British Humanist Association said of Thought for the Day: “If it’s right to have a slot within the programme for people to have an ethical perspective on issues, then it should be open to all kinds of people.”
But in November last year the BBC Trust rejected these calls, saying that “the current arrangements do not breach BBC editorial guidelines”. A Radio 4 spokesman said there were no plans to change Thought for the Day.
The Church of England said: “We are glad that the BBC Trust has protected a unique slot in Radio 4’s schedule where religious views from across the faith communities of the UK can be expressed openly.
“Thought for the Day is highly valued by people of all faiths and none as a distinctive slot that, if diluted, would have become nothing more than just another comment slot”, the spokesman added.
Revd Giles Fraser commented: “It would be like allowing hockey on Match of the Day, which does not make any sense”.