Catholic and Anglican bishops challenge BBC over lack of religious coverage on Radio 1

 A Catholic and an Anglican Bishop have together called on the BBC to include religion on Radio 1, describing the omission as the 'most striking exclusion of religion from the BBC 's output'. The bishops say that the BBC Trust, which now governs the BBC, sometimes includes religion under its duty to 'Reflect the nations, regions and communities of the UK' and sometimes does not. They state: "Religion figures strongly in the output of Radio 2, 3, and 4 under the proposed licences for individual BBC services, but it does not appear under Radio 1." Bishop John Arnold, Chair of the Strategic Communications Board, Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales and the Bishop of Manchester, the Rt Revd Nigel McCulloch, Senior Church of England spokesman on Communications, raise this and other issues in their response to the BBC Trust's consultation on its Service Licences and Purpose Remits which will help the Trust to govern BBC output. The bishops argue that the exclusion of religion from Radio 1 is illogical and inconsistent. Radio 1's young target audience has a thirst for spiritual input that a recent survey for the charity Tearfund shows is greater than for older age-groups. Church of England Cathedrals also attract a growing number of 16-24 year olds, according to recent Church of England figures. The bishops' concern is that this inconsistency in the way religion is treated will not help the Trust to govern effectively. In their submission, they also observe: 'Unless religion is appropriately included in the Radio 1 licence, audience needs may not be met.' The bishops also say that the Service Licences as currently drafted do not provide for any regulation of the amount of religious output in general programming such as dramas, soaps and documentaries or news, which the Director-General has said he wants to encourage. The bishops also express doubt that the coverage of religion can be properly regulated unless it is included under more than one of the BBC Purpose Remits. At present it is only included under 'Reflecting the nations, regions and communities of the UK'. They call for an explicit commitment in the BBC's Purpose Remits to better-informed coverage of religion, citing the recent comment of BBC Governor Richard Tait about "how important religion is as a factor influencing major political and social events." The bishops are surprised that the BBC's purpose to 'Bring the UK to the world and the world to the UK' does not expressly mention religion. The bishops are worried about the confusion in the public mind between multi-cultural and multi-faith. It should be part of the BBC's public purposes to address 'the clear distinctions between culture, ethnicity and faith, which are a key part of how different communities understand themselves,' they argue. Source: CoE press office

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