A Save Sunday Half-Hour petition has been launched following the BBC's axing of the popular Radio 2 programme. A week's notice was given that one of the BBC's longest running programmes was to be scrapped last weekend.
The online petition is being started by Leigh Hatts, author of London's 100 Best Churches, who recalls that just two years ago the BBC marked the programme's 70th anniversary with a broadcast from St Martin-in-the-Fields.
He is particularly outraged that the BBC defends itself by claiming that it is planning to broadcast an hour of hymns every Sunday at 6am.
"It then compounds the insult by suggesting that those still asleep can listen on iPlayer," he says.
"Messages pouring in indicate that many people do not have access to a computer let alone iPlayer. Many are older people in remote areas for whom the programme is a weekly highlight."
Listener Jack Knight says: "The BBC is impertinent and granite-hearted to deprive us of our Sunday-evening worship."
Mr and Mrs Heath-Bullock who have already signed the petition are not alone in saying: "We find it hard to believe listeners will be up at 6am on a Sunday morning: so is this a subtle way of killing off the
Leigh Hatts says: "Outstanding past presenters, Canon Roger Royle and Fr Brian D'Arcy, highlighted with hymn requests the rhythm of the liturgical year in the great tradition of the BBC's historic mission 'to inform, educate and entertain'.
"The BBC long ago cut costs by ceasing to broadcast Sunday Half-Hour live from a different church each week.
"But now, just as choral singing is becoming popular again with young people as shown by the huge success of Gareth Malone's television series, the BBC sidelines its star programme."
Leigh Hatts says he is staggered by a reply from Bob Shennan, Controller of BBC Radio 2, who did not admit that the replacement hymn show was to be broadcast at 6am.
"He spoke of expanding the airtime for hymns although overall changes really mean a thirty minute reduction in Radio 2 religious broadcasting."
Leigh Hatts adds: "This arbitrary announcement was made after Radio Times had gone to press."
He warns: "BBC executives increasingly talk about a 'Faith Zone' which appears to mean running all religion simultaneously on Radio 2, Radio 4 and local radio from an early hour so that after 9am Christianity need not be mentioned."
He believes that the decision can eventually be reversed since BBC Radio 3 restored Wednesday's live choral evensong following protests.
To sign the petition go to: www.ipetitions.com/petition/save-sunday-half-hour/
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