C of E to debate BBC’s marginalising of faith

The Church of England is to debate the BBC’s marginalising of religion at its upcoming General Synod.

A private member’s motion launched by former BBC producer Nigel Holmes calls on the “BBC and Ofcom to explain why British television, which was once exemplary in its coverage of religious and ethical issues, now marginalizes the few such programmes which remain”.

Mr Holmes, who is a lay member of the General Synod, also criticises other broadcasters’ portrayal of religion.

He says Channel 4 takes an “unduly critical” and “sensationalist” attitude towards Christianity while ITV shows “next to nothing” about faith.

He also said BBC 3 tackles the subject “from the angle of the freak show”.

In a separate background paper Mr Holmes slams the Corporation’s coverage of religion last Christmas.

Pointing to Fern Britton’s programme on how religion has impacted famous people, he asks: “Was this yet another indication that the teaching and devotional aspect of religious broadcasting must now bow to the celebrity culture?”

Last month the Church of England said the BBC risks treating people of faith like an “increasingly rare species”.

It was responding to a consultation on BBC 1, BBC 2 and BBC 4 television by the BBC Trust.

The BBC’s Big Questions programme, which airs on a Sunday morning, was specifically criticised by the Church of England for its format which “makes it difficult to explore subjects in detail” and the fact that a “significant part of its potential audience is in church during the transmission time”.

Senior spokesman on communications, the Bishop of Manchester, prepared the report which also added that the Church would “wait to see” whether a new comedy about a vicar, Handle with Prayer, relied on “stereotypes”.

The submission also said there was a “significant lapse” in the BBC’s 2009 Good Friday programming, which it called “at best, a deeply regrettable oversight”.

This month Simon Mayo, a BBC radio presenter, said religion is “increasingly driven to the margin” at the Corporation.

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

He commented 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, who is known as a Christian, also believes there is an anti-Christian theme apparent in television comedians.

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

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