In an interview marking the 60th anniversary of the Today programme on BBC Radio Four, senior presenter John Humphrys stated that Thought for the Day, a three minute slot for religious commentary broadcast as part of the programme five days a week, is not only uninteresting but inappropriate in an increasingly secular society in which more than half of the population describe themselves as having no religion. Similar views were expressed by other presenters. Humanists UK welcomes these comments and calls upon the BBC to review its policy of excluding humanists from inclusion in the slot.
John Humphrys called for the slot to become a secular moment for reflection and criticised its current format focusing overwhelmingly on Christianity. He stated, ‘It seems to me inappropriate that Today should broadcast nearly three minutes of uninterrupted religion, given that rather more than half our population have no religion at all. Certainly very few of them are practising Christians … we have Hindus of course, and we have the occasional Muslim, the occasional Jew, but by and large it’s Christian. Why?… When you’re presenting [Today], how many times have you said to yourself, “Dear God, we’ve got to cut a really fascinating programme short because we’re now going to hear somebody tell us that Jesus was really nice, and the world could be a better place if we …” You know … Oh God.’
Fellow presenter Justin Webb also expressed concerns about the relevance of the slot. ‘They’re all roughly the same. If everyone was nicer to everyone else, it would be fine. But from my cursory glance around the world, I think a lot of religious people don’t want to be nice to each other.’
Humanists UK Director of Public Affairs and Policy Richy Thompson commented, ‘The views of these presenters are reflective of much wider public opinion on the place of exclusive religious broadcasting. Thought for the Day is a religious slot that obtrudes itself on the general listener when it is featured every morning during the Today programme. It plainly proclaims to all, five days a week that reflective thoughts on the events of the day can come only from religious people.
‘There are different views about the idea of a reflective slot in the middle of a current affairs programme: some see no place for it, others think it is a valuable interlude. But so long as it exists it is entirely unacceptable to exclude some speakers just because they are non-religious. We want Thought for the Day to include humanist perspectives.’
For further comment or information contact Richy Thompson, Director of Public Affairs and Policy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 020 7324 3072.
Read more about our campaign work on broadcasting: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/broadcasting/
About Humanists UK
At Humanists UK, we advance free thinking and promote humanism to create a tolerant society where rational thinking and kindness prevail. Our work brings non-religious people together to develop their own views, helping people be happier and more fulfilled in the one life we have. Through our ceremonies, education services, and campaigning work, we’re committed to creating a fair and equal society for all.
Humanists UK recently changed its name from the British Humanist Association: https://humanism.org.uk/2017/05/22/bha-becomes-humanists-uk/