Whatever The Archbishop Says, Viewers Want Less Religion On TV, Not More

Press Release - 30 March 2009

The Archbishop of Canterbury’s plea for more religion on the BBC is not supported by viewers, says the National Secular Society. According to the Corporation’s annual report, the amount of religion broadcast on the BBC is already out of proportion – and rising.

On BBC1 there were 105 hours – 25 hours more than they had committed to. BBC3 promised five hours and delivered two. BBC 4 was committed to 15 hours and delivered 36.

Radio 4 committed to 200 hours of religious programming but in the end, unsurprisingly, delivered 223 hours. This did not take into account the large amount of religious input into programmes such as Today, Woman’s Hour, You and Yours and other current affairs programmes.

Radio 2 promised 170 hours of religion and delivered 186. Overall, the amount of religion broadcast on BBC radio rose from 1,078 hours in 2006/7 period to 1,114 in the 2007/8 period.

And yet, according to recent research by Ofcom, only 6% per cent of viewers watch religious programmes on the main TV channels - the lowest score of any programme genre.

When Ofcom asked viewers which type of programme was most important to them, only 5% said religion. And only 9% of viewers thought there should be more religion on TV - with no indication that they are all Christian.

Terry Sanderson, president of the National Secular Society, said: “We know the BBC is a public service broadcaster and must serve all sections of the community, but let’s take the needs of the licence-payer into account as well as the Archbishop. They clearly want less religion on TV, not more. The BBC cannot be used as a recruiting officer for the churches. The fact is, religion is no longer very important to the majority of people in this country and the BBC should reflect that.”

30 March 2009