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National Secular Society

Challenging Religious Privilege

Appointment of Jonathan Edwards to Ofcom

22nd April 2003

Dear Mr Hooper,

Appointment of Jonathan Edwards

We were dismayed to see the announcement on 10 April in the Guardian that Ofcom has appointed Jonathan Edwards as England's representative on its content board. Mr Edwards, as you know, is a prominent Christian who has made plain in his many public statements that he applies his faith vigorously in every area of his life. He has been quoted as saying: "My relationship with Jesus and with God is fundamental to everything I do. I have made a commitment and dedication in that relationship to serve God in every area of my life."

We vehemently oppose discrimination on grounds of religion (or none), but we feel that the proselytising religious agenda that Mr Edwards is bringing with him will hardly help him make decisions that are impartial and in line with the wants of the nation's viewers and listeners - the very purpose of such a role. We acknowledge, as your press office has pointed out, that Mr Edwards is only one of a number on the content board, but he is there - as we see it, somewhat incongruously - as a representative of the English regions. Nor do we see that his limited broadcasting experience such as presenting Songs of Praise to overcome the other concerns we have expressed.

In our submission to the consultation on the Communications Bill we expressed our concern that Christian pressure groups already bombard broadcasting regulators with complaints that sometimes verge on the censorious. If their pursuit of "family values" (which are not the family values that most people would think appropriate) were to be carried to a logical conclusion, British television would become bland, unadventurous and ultimately unwatchable. We asked the Minister running the consultation to ensure that Ofcom's regulatory panels did not become packed with religious people bringing a repressive agenda with them.

We are now asking you to reconsider this appointment. It is essential that the holder of this position should be an impartial professional who is well acquainted with the research that has been done on the real tastes of viewers.

If other members of regulatory committees are being sought, we would be pleased to suggest names for potential members from those whose approach to "morality" chimes more with that of the general public and who will not bring with them the weight of the very strong religious standpoint carried by Mr Edwards.

Yours sincerely,

Keith Porteous Wood
Executive Director