Broadcasters view religion as a “toxic contaminator of decent culture” and an “embarrassing problem”, according to a Church of England bishop.
The remarks came as the Bishop of Bradford, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, criticised TV executives for the lack of ‘serious’ religious programming on the box.
Mr Baines, who is one of the frontrunners to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, singled out the BBC for its “lazy intellectual sidelining of religion” and questioned why the corporation did not have a religion news editor.
The Bishop of Bradford asked: “How does the BBC fulfil its public service remit by transcending the lazy intellectual sidelining of religion – challenging the ridiculous assumption among some in the corporation that the ‘non–religious’ world view is neutral?
“The BBC has a sports editor, an economics editor, a political editor and editors for other areas of life. It has no religion editor.”
Writing in the Radio Times, the Bishop commented that broadcasters suffered an “ideological knee-jerk” response to religious programming.
He added that ITV saw “no need” to have religious content, despite more people practising faith than attending sporting events.
“The point is not that religion should be privileged or protected”, he wrote.
“It is not to argue that religious propaganda should find space in the schedules of broadcasters.
“But it is to maintain that we can’t understand people, events and the way the world is if we don’t take religion seriously.”
In 2010 the Church of England General Synod voted to express “deep concern” at the reduction of religious broadcasting across British television channels.
The same year a series of letters from commercial television stations revealed that ITV planned to air just one hour of religious content in 2010.
Both ITV and Channel 5 blamed the absence of religious coverage on a lack of interest, and claimed that faith based programmes were no longer commercially viable.