British Humanist Association calls for more inclusive media programming

The British Humanist Association (BHA) has called on Ofcom to demand more humanist and non-religious content as part of its review of the BBC’s public service broadcasting responsibilities. According to the 2011 census, a quarter of people living in Britain today have no religion, while the most recent British Social Attitudes Survey found that over half the population is non-religious. In spite of this, the BBC continues to devote a hugely disproportionate amount of time to Christian and faith-orientated programming.

The BHA submitted a response to Ofcom’s third review of public service broadcasting, drawing the regulator’s attention to the substantial disparity between the high volume of religious content regularly produced by the BBC and the lack of any humanist or secular alternative programming. One example of this is the BBC’s radio programming. More than three hours a week are routinely dedicated to religious content on the radio through programmes such as Prayer for the Day, the Daily Service, Choral Evensong, and Radio 4’s daily Thought for the Day, but there are no comparable programmes which provide humanist or atheist perspectives. Under the Communications Act 2003, all public service broadcasters are required to air news and information about ‘different religions and other beliefs.’ The exclusion of Humanism from BBC coverage is not only discriminatory, but directly contradicts the broadcaster’s obligations under law.

Thought for the Day, a regular three-minute slot in the middle of Radio 4’s Today programme, invites a religious representative each day to discuss an ethical issue. The BHA has long campaigned for the BBC to open up Thought for the Day to non-religious representatives to discuss these same issues. These changes would not only make the show more inclusive of religious and non-religious people alike, but also also much more reflective of the demographics of 21st century Britain. To date, all efforts to make Thought for the Day more inclusive have been met with steadfast and unreasonable opposition.

BHA Chief Executive Andrew Copson commented ‘We launched our popular ‘Thought for the Commute’ campaign late last year to raise awareness of the particularly discriminatory nature of Radio 4’s Thought for the Day. It is still jarring when the Today programme, a news show many of us enjoy listening to, is interrupted with a message from religious figures. Religious programming in today’s media retains a disproportionate, privileged position which is at odds with the rest of society. I hope Ofcom takes note of this and works to ensure all public service broadcasters meet their obligations under the Communications Act and rectify the imbalance.’

Notes

For further comment or information, please contact BHA Director of Public Affairs and Campaigns Pavan Dhaliwal on pavan@humanism.org.uk or 0773 843 5059.

Read our response to Ofcom’s third Public Service Broadcasting Review

Read more about the BHA’s policy work on public broadcasting: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/broadcasting

Read about the BHA’s ‘Thought for the Commute’ campaign in 2014:

The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of non-religious people who seek to live ethical and fulfilling lives on the basis of reason and humanity. It promotes a secular state and equal treatment in law and policy of everyone, regardless of religion or belief.