C of E: deep concern over decline of religion on TV

The Church of England Synod has voted to express “deep concern” at the reduction of religious broadcasting across British television in recent years.

Yesterday members of the General Synod, the church’s ‘parliament’, shied away from focussing their concern on just the BBC.

The Synod amended a motion to include other mainstream broadcasters such as ITV, Channel Four and Channel Five.

Prior to the debate in the Synod the BBC’s head of religion, Aaqil Ahmed, admitted that TV programming for Good Friday last year “could have been better”.

Speaking to the BBC’s Today programme, Mr Ahmed said the corporation had “listened” to complaints and promised this year’s TV programming would be “better”.

Nigel Holmes, who put forward the private member’s motion to launch the debate, said the BBC’s coverage was “not good enough” in view of the £3.6 billion a year it receives from licence fee payers.

Mr Holmes, a former BBC radio producer and now lay member of the Synod, said religious output on BBC radio is “stronger” now than it was ten years ago.

But he said “in television, lack of innovation combined with marginalised scheduling” would appear to suggest that TV controllers had largely “shunned” spiritual subjects.

Mr Holmes highlighted that over the past decade ITV had “virtually withdrawn” from religion whilst televised worship was “seldom” shown on the BBC.

“There seems to be an unspoken presumption that sport, natural history and the arts are at heart good in themselves and worthy of coverage”, he said.

“Those who find religion to be a valuable part of their lives today always appear to be on the back foot, having to justify their presence, to justify that it is indeed a force for good.”

He added: “A fortnight ago the BBC announced that it was commissioning research with a view to improving the representation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual people.

“Perhaps it could do the same for those who proclaim a faith and particularly for younger people for whom nothing spiritual is to be found either on television or on the radio.”

Earlier this week the BBC’s head of religion came under fire for accusing the Church of England of living in the past.

Speaking to The Sunday Telegraph Aaqil Ahmed denied that the BBC is marginalising Christianity.

He said: “If you look at the BBC’s religious output, Christianity is at the cornerstone”.

“Despite what people say the vast majority is Christian-related”, the BBC executive said.

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