Monday, March 30, 2009

CofE and BBC clash over religious broadcasting

The Church of England has criticised the BBC for sidelining Christians in its broadcasting.

Earlier this month the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, is understood to have challenged BBC Director General Mark Thompson on ignoring Christian viewers, reports The Times.

As evidence, he highlighted cuts in religious broadcasting and the removal of Michael Wakelin, the head of religious programmes.

Wakelin, 47, is a Methodist lay preacher who produced Songs of Praise for five years before being promoted to the head of the Religion and Ethics department at the BBC in 2006. He also set up Radio 2’s Faith in the World week 17 years ago.

Following a restructuring of BBC commissioning, Wakelin needed to reapply for a new post of commissioning editor and head of production.

His application was not successful and he became the fourth of seven executives in the religion department to become unemployed in 2008.

The post he applied for has still not been filled, although possible successors are Aaqil Ahmed, the Muslim commissioning editor for religion at Channel 4, and Tommy Nagra, a Sikh who produces Songs of Praise, reports The Times.

Since 2001, religious programming on the BBC has declined significantly from one and three-quarter hours to 30 minutes.

Last week, Dr Williams told the Archbishops’ Council that the future of religious broadcasting was under threat.

Christina Rees, a member of the Church’s General Synod, was quoted as saying, “We need to be concerned ... We have had a productive and positive relationship with the BBC and there was no intention to be hostile. But it is an abrogation of our responsibility as the established church to ignore what is going on with the BBC in terms of religion and ethics right now.

“I know [Archbishop Williams] wants to see the role of religion enhanced in the media and covered accurately and well. He had a meeting with Mark Thompson. They are friends and they meet from time to time.”

The BBC has responded by saying, “Changes to the religious and ethics department in Manchester are being made to strengthen the BBC’s offering, not diminish it.” +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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(Source: CT)