The BBC has announced it will “raise our game across all output” in terms of religious content, after a year-long review of religion and ethics programming.

It was only in 2015 that the BBC was accused of sidelining religion when it axed the post of head of religion.

The broadcaster now plans to appoint a religion editor for news, employ a global team of specialist religion reporters, report on a wider range of religious festivals, and make 2019 a ‘Year of belief’.


The BBC is expanding its religious output, but with atheist James Purnell in charge
The BBC is expanding its religious output, but with atheist James Purnell in charge


The move comes after the review reportedly found that people of all faiths were “often absent, poorly presented or satirised” – the kind of issues that Christians have complained about for many years.

David Aaronovitch at The Times criticised the move: “Given that for the first time since the Black Death a majority of Britons are not actually religious, this new emphasis seems perverse.”

The Guardian agreed: “The increased focus on religion is set to raise eyebrows, given more than half the population say they have no religion whatsoever, according to recent figures from the British Social Attitudes survey.”


Angry listeners

The review pointed out that globally religious affiliation is 84 per cent, and predicted to rise above 90 per cent.

However, the BBC seemed to have shot itself in the foot when it was revealed that the new head of religious programmes is an atheist, and his role is just part of his wider BBC job. Ex-Labour MP James Purnell made the revelation about himself on Radio 4’s Today programme, and faced calls to quit from angry listeners.

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