BBC to air more religious programming

The Boy with the TopknotImage copyright
BBC/Parti Productions/Kudos

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One-off drama The Boy with the Topknot looked at generational differences in a Sikh family

The BBC has pledged to “raise our game” on religion by increasing the portrayal of all faiths in mainstream shows.

The corporation said it would “enhance” the representation of religion on TV and radio dramas and documentaries.

It said it would also create a new global religious affairs team, headed by a religion editor, in BBC News.

The BBC will also keep Thought For The Day on Radio 4’s Today programme – despite presenter John Humphrys saying it’s often “deeply, deeply boring”.

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BBC religious affairs correspondent Martin Bashir met Pope Francis in April

The corporation has just published the conclusions of a review into its coverage of religion and ethics.

Director general Tony Hall said audiences of all faiths and none have said they want to learn more about those topics.

“They recognise that, if we truly want to make sense of the world, we need to understand the systems of belief that underpin it,” he said.

He added that he wants the corporation “to do more about Christianity and other beliefs as well”.

The report pointed to programmes like Boy with the Topknot, Broken, Muslims Like Us and Radio 4’s Living with the Gods as recent examples of how it had tried to address stories about a range of religions in engaging ways.

Image copyright
BBC/LA Productions

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Sean Bean played a troubled priest in BBC One drama Broken

The plans include:

  • There will be more about non-Christian festivals like Diwali, Passover, Rosh Hashanah, Ramadan and Eid on mainstream programmes like The One Show, The Chris Evans Breakfast Show and Newsround
  • There will be landmark programmes to “explore religion in all its forms”, including a major TV series about the world’s sacred sites, a Radio 4 series on morality in the 21st Century, and a Radio 2 initiative to encourage young people to discuss issues about peace
  • 2019 will be “A Year of Beliefs”, with programmes looking at how people make big decisions and where they get their moral values from
  • There will be more “people-led stories that have warmth and depth”, such as observing vicars working in local communities
  • There will be tie-ins with music and comedy, and more digital-first video and social media content
  • The role of the religious affairs correspondent – currently Martin Bashir – will be upgraded to religion editor, leading BBC News’s new global religious affairs team
  • BBC News will also broaden the range of interviewees and contributors to represent a wider range of opinions and practices

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