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Humanists UK patrons call for reform of Thought for the Day to reflect modern-day British audiences

Humanist campaigners are calling for an end to discrimination against the non-religious on Radio 4

More than 32 high-profile humanists have launched a new bid to reform Radio 4’s flagship reflective slot, Thought for the Day writing an open letter to the BBC calling for humanist and non-religious voices to be included on the programme.

The letter, signed by 33 Humanists UK patrons including Sandi Toksvig, Simon Singh, Julian Baggini, Nick Brown MP, Ed Byrne, Alice Roberts, Peter Tatchell and others, calls attention to the BBC’s bias against non-religious voices in the programme and highlights how the slot is out-of-touch with modern-day British audiences who are overwhelmingly not religious. The letter has been published in The Guardian newspaper along with a story covering the letter. 

In the letter to BBC Director-General Tony Hall, the patrons state: ‘More than half the British population do not belong to any religion and around a quarter have a humanist worldview. By barring humanists from TfTD, the BBC is blatantly failing its remit to reflect the diversity of beliefs of its audience and wider population, and its legal duty to treat non-religious and religious beliefs equally.’

It continues: ‘To many, the exclusion of humanists from Thought for the Day sends a very clear message that humanists do not have as much to contribute as religious people to one of the BBC’s most high-profile ethical slots.’

Humanists UK has led a 16-year campaign on TfTD and has repeatedly called for the programme to include secular, humanist and non-religious voices in its broadcast. The programme is one of the BBC’s most high-profile ethical slots and touts itself as offering ‘reflections from a faith perspective on issues and people in the news.’

The BBC has conducted numerous reviews of the programme over the years, including most recently its 2017 Religious and Ethics Review when they rejected changing TfTD. The BBC has consistently stated that the exclusion of non-religious voices including humanists is justifiable because these views are sufficiently represented across the whole of the BBC’s output.

Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson said:

‘It is deeply concerning and frankly undemocratic that despite decades of humanist and secular campaigning to reform Thought for the Day that the BBC still will not budge, and instead, continues to shut out our voices time and time again.

‘At a time when religious fundamentalism, state violence and anti-democratic political movements are increasingly in the news, it would seem obvious sense, and in the best interest of its audiences, that the BBC would want to capture the valuable views that humanists have to offer on these issues.

‘Society has changed so much since Thought for the Day began – and more non-religious people are living in the UK now than ever before. We are at risk of losing our liberal democratic values if public institutions like the BBC continue to have a blatant disregard for a collective group of people who actively want to contribute but are being barred from doing so.’

Chair of the South-East London Humanist Group, which is the local group behind the national campaign, Hester Brown, commented:

‘Two local BBCs have their own Thought for the Day equivalents, to which they invite humanists. If it’s OK for the people of Humberside and Shropshire, why isn’t it OK for the national audience?

‘Humanist groups up and down the UK, along with a strong following of Humanists UK’s 70,000 members and supporters, are very passionate about getting alternative views on Thought for the Day. It really is time for the BBC to finally allow humanists to be included.’

Notes

For more information, contact Humanists UK press manager Casey-Ann Seaniger at casey@humanism.org.uk or phone 020 7324 3078 or 07 393344293.

Read the full letter here.

For more information about Humanists UK campaign on broadcasting, visit https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/human-rights-and-equality/broadcasting/

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 community and campaigning work, we strive to create a fair and equal society for all.

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