Religious Programmes On TV: Quick, Switch To the Test Card

Only four per cent of viewers in a trial of High Definition Television (HD) would opt to watch religious programmes, a study has found. The research carried out on Freeview in the London area in 2006 has found that of all the programme categories that the 450 trial viewers would most want to watch in HD, religion comes last – by a very large margin.

“News” came top with 84 percent and “Sport” second with 80 percent, while religion came limping home at 4 percent. Square-eyed couch potatoes would even prefer watching educational programmes rather than religious ones by a factor of almost four-to-one.

This research – the latest in a long line of similar findings – cuts no ice with the BBC’s army of religious proselytisers. As Adam Kemp, commissioning editor for BBC TV said: “Religion and faith are right at the forefront of our agenda. And not just for people involved in religious programmes, but also those involved in current affairs. Religion was once seen as a little bit of a backwater in television, not one of the hottest genres, like science and history. But not any more.”

Mr Kemp revealed that the BBC has just spent £4 million on a mini-series The Passion of Christ to be shown in 2008. Future programmes will include the latest religious pin-up, Rageh Omaar, reporting from inside Iran, and series on the history of Christianity and Protestantism. Mr Kemp claims that many people who don’t know much about Christianity and religion in general are “hungry to fill in gaps in their knowledge”.

Unfortunately for Mr Kemp, every piece of research ever done into this area indicates the precise opposite. But still, the BBC’s religious enthusiasts won’t have it. Michael Wakelin, who this year succeeded Alan Bookbinder as head of BBC religious propaganda department, and is responsible for god slots such as Songs of Praise and The Heaven and Earth Show, said: “The research we have from the 2005 Ofcom report suggests that there is a growing interest in, and need for, more programmes dealing with religious issues.”

Is this the same Ofcom report into Public Service Broadcasting that asked viewers what types of programming they most valued on the terrestrial channels and found that religion came 16th out of 17? And in that same report, wasn’t it religion that came 16th out of 17 in terms of what programme genres people ranked as having societal importance (only arts and classical music programming came lower)? Or perhaps he meant the research from the Human Capital consultancy that showed that in homes that have access to Sky Television, religious programmes broadcast by terrestrial channels suffer an audience fall-off of 84%. It seems that when there is an option to switch elsewhere to something more interesting they do it en masse (and, it seems, even Open University programmes on Ukrainian tractors are more interesting than religion to the average viewer).


Details of the trial
See also: BBC to broadcast Christian propaganda on children’s channel