BBC to boost religion coverage after review criticises its portrayal of believers

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The BBC will increase its coverage of different religions following a year-long internal review published today which found that people of all faiths were ‘often absent, poorly presented or satirised’.

The Church of England's senior spokesman on communications has said ...

The corporation’s religion and ethics review reportedly proposes a variety of improvements such as including religious themes in popular dramas and soaps on both TV and radio, the commissioning of more documentaries covering religious and ethical issues and for popular programmes such as The One Show to celebrate Hindu, Muslim, Sikh and Jewish holy days.

The BBC newsroom’s global religious affairs team will be expanded and, according to the Guardian, the Thought for the Day slot on Radio 4 will be more closely linked to news items with women and young people.

Figures from a wider range of religions will be invited to contribute, and the slot will remain in place despite criticism from presenters of the Today programme in which it features.

The plans come after Ofcom in October ordered the broadcaster to show more religious programmes on BBC One and BBC Two.

The director general of the BBC, Tony Hall, told the Times: ‘[The plans] will ensure the BBC better reflects the UK, the world and the role that religion plays in everyday life. They will also raise understanding of the impact religion has on decisions made at home and abroad.’ Hall added that the BBC was still committed to covering Christianity.

More than 150 experts and faith leaders were consulted for the review, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Chief Rabbi and senior Muslim figures, as well as groups such as Humanists UK.

Those who were consulted reportedly complained that programmes ‘don’t reflect the everyday role of faith or [the] diversity of communities in mainstream drama and comedy’.

The BBC will also strive to represent the views of those who ‘are not engaged with traditional religion but are spiritual’.

The BBC currently produces 7,000 hours devoted to faith programming, but the review found that much of this consists of traditional shows such as Songs of Praise as opposed to prime-time TV or radio.

The corporation has cut religious programming in recent years, culminating in the closure in April of its religion and ethics television studios in Manchester.

Last Thursday, the Today programme broadcast its programme from Lambeth Palace.

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