Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC's Head of Religion and Ethics, delivered this year's World Communications Day Lecture at the Mount Street Jesuit Centre in central London last night, 14 May, speaking on: 'The Future of Religious Broadcasting.'
Ahmed, who began his career in Current Affairs, also worked on Religious programming at Channel Four - before the department was closed. Diversity of output is the future, he said. "Our audiences are very diverse and we can’t expect to service all of them with the same output. We need to make programmes that interest the religious, the non-religious, the non-religious literate and the general viewer."
He explained: "Research told me that people wanted to know more about the basics of religion, they wanted to know less about the conflict and more about its roots in history and theology. Hence projects such as How God made the English, The Bible's Buried Secrets, Seven Wonders of Buddhism and Jerusalem: The making of a Holy City. They refresh the genre and fit into this thirst for knowledge".
One of the most popular programmes recently was the Preston Passion, which brought in millions of viewers. The religious slot with the consistently largest viewing figures for the last 50 years has been ‘Songs of Praise’.
Fr James Hanvey SJ, responded to the lecture suggesting that Ahmed had taken a somewhat 'sociological' view of religion and suggested that the BBC should examine spiritual questions in more depth rather than simply offering Songs of Praise or historical documentaries. Ahmed defended his department's output and commitment to religious programming, in a climate where every other television company has now dropped religion from its schedules, and the BBC is facing more and more cuts.
The lecture was organised by the Catholic Communications Network, to celebrate World Communications Day in England and Wales.
The evening began with Mass was celebrated by the Church's media bishop, Archbishop George Stack of Cardiff.
To download the lecture click here: http://bit.ly/KYfPNg
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