Commercial radio airing fewer faith programmes

The religious content of commercial radio stations is at an all-time low in Britain, according to a new study published this week.

Just 18 of the UK’s 300-plus commercial radio stations broadcast a regular religious show, according to independent Christian radio producers Whistling Frog Productions (WFP).

And many of those are burying their religious content in the early hours of Sunday morning or disbanding their religious advisory teams.

The 1990 Broadcasting Act means religious organisations are automatically deemed “disqualified persons” for the purposes of holding a licence to broadcast.

The authorities are able to grant some licences at their discretion, but these are limited.

Premier Christian Radio holds an analogue radio licence in London, while other stations such as United Christian Broadcasters (UCB) can be heard on satellite.

Colin Lowther, Director of WFP, said: “Each year we see another couple of religious shows disappear from the radar. Now must be the time for religious broadcasters to stop making programmes for an imaginary Christian audience, and to instead redirect their efforts into producing creative material that is attractive to commercial radio’s largely non-believing audience.

“We need to stop advertising the local church coffee morning and start to speak the language of the listener.”

Last month the head of Channel 4, Andy Duncan, said churches should try to be more media savvy.

“There are fewer programmes on religion than there used to be”, he said.

“There are far less money and resources.

“If we carry on the current trajectory, there will be even less about religion, including Christianity, which I think will be a real shame.”

However, religious programming from mainstream broadcasters has attracted criticism for its anti-Christian bias.

Channel 4 recently produced a series called Christianity, a History, which was unpopular with Christian and secular critics. One vicar said it was “inaccurate, and badly researched”.

The Independent’s Tom Sutcliffe described it as “a collection of pointedly personal essays, loosely arranged around the evolving chronology of the Church”.

The series was commissioned by Channel 4’s former head of religion, Aaqil Ahmed, who is a Muslim. Mr Ahmed has now been appointed as head of religion at the BBC.

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