Campaign launched to protect UK religious broadcasting

By Christian Today |
Michal Franczak | Unsplash

A campaign has been launched to protect religious programmes from potential cuts in a new Media Bill going through Parliament.

The Sandford St Martin Trust has published its #BeliefMatters petition – timed to coincide with the passage of the government's Media Bill to the House of Lords – and has encouraged anyone concerned about the threat to religious broadcasting to sign it.

The petition raises the alarm about how proposed changes to existing broadcasting legislation threaten the future of religious broadcasting and will negatively affect religious literacy in the UK.

Anna McNamee, Executive Director of the Sandford St Martin Trust, said: "Recent events around the world show how important religious literacy is. But in its current form, the Media Bill will put this core cultural and civic competency at risk.

"If it's passed in its current form, public service broadcasters will no longer be obliged to provide audiences with a range of programming which includes 'education, sport, science, religion and other beliefs, social issues, matters of international significance or interest'.

"Instead, they will only need to provide 'an appropriate range of genres' without saying what is 'appropriate' or what constitutes 'a range'."

The long-established Trust – that has made highly-prized awards for the best in religious broadcasting since 1978 – believes that "broadcasting is a key tool for promoting the better understanding of how religion shapes and is shaped by politics, social movements and culture."

It is calling for any new legislation to "clearly protect the future quantity and quality of religious programming."

According to the broadcast regulator Ofcom there has been a steep decline in religious broadcasting in the UK over the past decade, as highlighted by the Religion Media Centre.

Between 2013 and 2022 the total amount of 'Religion & Ethics' programming broadcast across the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5 and ITV dropped dramatically from 254 hours to 140 hours per year. By 2022 Channel 4, ITV and Channel 5 were not broadcasting any Religion and Ethics programming at all.

McNamee added: "The Sandford St Martin Trust has long argued that to ignore religion is to leave a gaping hole at the heart of public service broadcasting. We hope anyone who, like us, values religious literacy and believes broadcasters should support this through their programming, will sign and share the #BeliefMatters petition."

The campaign comes as the BBC faces continued criticism for significantly reducing local radio broadcasting, including its weekly Sunday morning faith programmes.

Originally published by Christiann Today