BBC staff find religion “tiresome” – so let’s have more of it says Roger Bolton

Religious coverage is seen as a “rather tiresome obligation” by “secular and sceptical” BBC television staff, Radio 4′s Roger Bolton said.

Bolton, according to the BBC today, called for the appointment of a BBC religion editor to improve coverage of faith matters.

Roger Bolton

He was speaking at the Sandford St Martin Trust awards for religious programmes, for which he was chairman of the judges.

But the BBC insists that its commitment to religion broadcasting was “unequivocal”.

Bolton, who presents BBC Radio 4′s Feedback programme, told the London ceremony that a religious perspective was often “bafflingly absent” both on air and in editorial discussions behind the scenes.

But a BBC spokeswoman said there was:

No downward trend in our religion and ethics television output.

She said there had been more than 160 hours of coverage last year, and there was increased investment this year in BBC One programming on major religious festivals.

BBC News and Current Affairs has a dedicated religion correspondent, and topical religious and ethical affairs stories are featured across all our BBC networks.

A Church of England spokesman said there was “much to be celebrated” in the BBC’s religious output.

But he added:

We have consistently called for the corporation to devote appropriate resources to ensuring high-quality provision of content reflecting and exploring religion across the breadth of its output, including news and current affairs.

Developing sufficient in-house knowledge in a topic as important to society as religion and ethics is critical to meeting this demand, which is shared by people of all faiths and none.

Earlier this year, the Church of England’s general synod expressed “deep concern” at a perceived cut in religious programming by mainstream broadcasters.

It called for more programming that “imaginatively marks major festivals”.

This report, by the way, has sparked some interesting comments here.

Meanwhile we learn that a “There definitely is a God” poster displayed on buses last year triggered more complaints than any other in 2009 and the third highest of all time, according to Advertising Standards Authority figures published today.

The failed Christian Party's silly bus poster

The battle over whether God exists caused a 10 percent increase in complaints to the regulator, to almost 30,000.

The Christian Party’s poster was a riposte to the British Humanist Association’s ad which stated “There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”.

The ASA did not, however, investigate the complaints, on the grounds that political party ads are outside its remit. It had received 1,204 complaints asserting that the existence of a divine being was offensive to atheists, and in any case could not be proven.

The ASA also did not investigate the atheists’ bus ad, though it was the sixth in the list of most complained about.

Hat tip: Kev (for the bus poster report)