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)

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

  1. Janstince says:

    I always find it ludicrous that they say “religion and ethics” almost as one word. Really, I thought that horse had been beaten to death already. I guess I should got get my bat out again.

    Also, it seems to me that if they want more religious programming (as it seems they already have plenty), it should allow for more atheist expression, too. I would think that the science programs on BBC are worth more to all, while the religious only pander to a select group. But then again, what do I know, I’m just a “militant atheist.”

  2. NeoWolfe says:

    Threadhead describes, ““There is probably no God. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life”, as an atheist slogan, with Richard Dawkins standing in approval. I submit that it is obviously an agnostic slogan (“probably” being the operative word). So, I guess when the brightest minds on the planet acknowledge that some things are unknowable, that hardliner atheists can quit busting my balls. attn: Bjohn.


  3. Broga says:

    The presentation of religion on the BBC is mind numbingly boring. It is total and absolute junk. You can tell when a religious broadcaster speaks, apart from the empty comments, by the tone. That pseudo sepulchral this is a very sombre comment that irritates the listener. This is often interpersed with truly embarassing stuff from a variety of empty headed twats. They have sacrificed their intellectual and moral integrity to appear on the air.

    There is one test for these self serving preachers: confront them with the reality of what they imply. I cannot say “what they say” because they rarely get round to saying anything. They are never challenged. Ask them. Are they really saying they believe what their bible says; what do the mean by god; and every time they make some nonsensical statement this should be open to challenge.

    The coverage cannot be “improved”. Their supposed truth can only be dissembled, deflected, obscured. What is placed before us is a scandal when there is so much more that could be invaluable and actually open minds and do so much good. They could begin, to take one example from many, with the ethical, moral and intellectual explorations in his many works of Professor A.C.Grayling.

    Instead we have these mental maggots endlessly crawling over us, inflicted on us.

  4. AngieRS says:

    They want more? Way too much as it is.

  5. Barry Duke says:

    Broga, dunno whether you tune into BBC Radio 7 on digital. It has some excellent SF, crime thrillers and classic British comedy, but recently some numbskull decided it needed an injection of religion in the form of 41 fucking episodes of John Milton’s epic Paradise Lost. I listened to five minutes of this boring, mind-rotting bilge delivered in hypnotic sing-song voices – and promptly lost the will to live. As if that wasn’t bad enough, they’ve now started to inflict Paradise Regained on listeners in 17 episodes.

  6. JohnMWhite says:

    What exactly would more religious programs consist of? And by ‘religious’ methinks they really mean ‘Christian’. Some programs might allow the Jews and Muslims to tag along with a token spokesperson now and then, but really all religious programming on the BBC is Christiancentric. What about programmes on the rich history and current practice of other world religions, such as traditional native beliefs, Wicca, Buddhism? Do you think they would be satisfied with a program that critically looks at religions and how they form and how they have evolved, counting them as ‘religious programming’, or does it only count if it’s pure subservience to their concept of god and their egotistical notion that everyone in the country is a god-fearing Christian?

  7. Stonyground says:

    In the days when I had nothing but a radio in my car, I used to catch ‘Beyond Belief’ on radio 4 at 4:30 on Mondays as I drove home from work. The format was that a panel of religiots from various conflicting brands of religiosity would sit down and discuss some deeply pressing question of our times, refereed by some one called Eddie Mare. If any of the panelists disagreed, they were only allowed to do so in the most polite and tentative manner. Anyone hoping for thought provoking and intellectually stimulating radio would have been deeply disappointed. Anyone hoping for sidesplitting comedy was in for a rare treat indeed. There cannot be anything funnier than a group of monumentally stupid people trying agonisingly hard to pretend to be clever.

    The highlight for me was the Hindu argument against assisted suicide. I can’t recall the details but it basically boiled down to the ‘fact’ that having commited suicide, your arrival on the ‘other side’ would not be good. It was something like, ‘The Boll Boll Trolls won’t allow you to cross the wim-wam bridge into weeby foo foo land, so you will be forced to search in the dip dap forest for forty lifetimes for the fruit of the wobbly dum dum tree. you can then use the dum dum fruit to pay the Trolls to let you cross the bridge and head off to your next incarnation.

    The funniest part was the sage nodding of the other panelists before they proceeded to give their religion’s entirely contadictory but equally stupid take on the issue.

    I do of course realise that the subject of assisted dying is very serious and these imbeciles are perpetuating immense quantities of suffering because of their delusions.

  8. NeoWolfe says:


    Excellent post. Wicca? LOL. Why not Voodoo, a hybrid of Haitian tribal lore and catholicism. Can you picture the virgin mary dancing to the tribal drums while possessed by a pagan spirit?

    I have no objection to studying religion, it’s influence in our history, and it’s role in modern society. After all, one must, “know thy enemy”. But, I would have no interest in hearing dogma and propaganda. Particularly if it was focused on a christian perpective.

    I have dozed off on the couch with the TV on, only to wake in the early hours of the morning with some nematode talking about the “power of christ”. It pisses me off, because my cable box is hard wired to the Neilson rating system, and it actually records that I was watching that mindless shit. One more vote for the holy spirit. Damnit!!


  9. William Harwood says:

    I cannot read minds. But it strikes me as a logical deduction that the bus ads read “there is probably no god” because the designers of the ads concluded that they would be less effective if they appeared to be dogmatic. If they had posted an ad that portrayed their true position, the word “probably” would have been omitted.
    The concept of agnosticism was invented at a time when the nonexistence of the character mistranslated as “God” in English bibles had not been as definitively proven as the nonexistence of Alice in Wonderland (see Victor Stenger’s God: The Failed Hypothesis). My article, “Is agnosticism defensible?” reprinted in A Humanist in the Bible Belt, concludes, “Religious dogmatists have labeled agnostics ‘chicken atheists’. They just might be right.”
    Note that I say ‘might’.

  10. Broga says:

    @Barry Duke. I am a fan of Radio 7, Barry, at least from time to time. I enjoy much of their comedy, often from the past, and I like many of their dramas. I usually just pick it up as it comes. I didn’t know they were into the Milton stuff. I hope it does not presage more religion. One of the attractions is that it is largely a religion free zone. I think I heard Rowan Williams, on Radio 7, a while back commenting on T.S. Eliots “Four Quartets” and he almost avoided going into the real religious stuff but not quite.

    I also listen to a lot on the World Service as again, to a large extent, I avoid the religious stuff.

    Some of the BBC religious coverage isn’t just dire, it is too much for me. Varies between a whiny simper eg Aled Jones and a smug self congratulatory gurgle as in some vicar called Roger Royle. I listen to them, rarely and briefly, but they and many others provide the temporary fascination of making me wonder if they really are this repellent – they are. Bit like being sprayed with sugar coated puke.

  11. Broadsword says:

    I’m unaware of much religious nonsense from the BBC here in Wales. We get Songs of Praise that I only ever watch briefly to look down on the religiots. Radio Wales gives a two minute slot on Friday morning to some random wizard but that’s about it as far as I’m aware. My viewing and listening is somewhat limited so I’m sure someone will be able to widen my list.

    It’s one thing for the Beeb to show us fuckwits gurning their best as they struggle to remember the words of some 19th century dirge, but what if they start evangelising?
    And Broga, Aled Jones, a name that slips easily into a sentence that includes the word “garotte”.

  12. Har Davids says:

    If religious coverage is seen as a “rather tiresome obligation” by “secular and sceptical” BBC television staff, maybe it’s the same for the viewers. Has anyone ever tried to find out how many people enjoy ‘Songs of Praise’, to name just one program? Maybe less religion is a better idea; the time-slot could be used for a more intellectually challenging programs, where people discuss about things that really matters to us all.

  13. Angela_K says:

    The Bible Broadcasting Company clearly ignore the OFCOM report into public service broadcasting that asked viewers what types of programming they most value on the terrestrial TV channels, that resulted in religion coming almost last at 16th out of 17! The same report found that religion came 16th out of 17 in terms of what programme genres people ranked as having societal importance.

  14. Broga says:

    @Har Davids. The oceans of religious coverage is dreary and vacuous so you might think that one conclusion is that there is too much so cut it. Not a bit they want more and they want to appoint someone else. No doubt on a high salary. Rather like prayer. If it doesn’t work you must do more. Or religion. Two thousand years of christianity, with mainly disastrous consequences, and they want more.

    Why does this drivel not face serious and critical questioning? How many want it? I suggest one answer is that there is a religious mafia in the BBC, with rather cushy sinecures, thanks very much, and they dread exposure. They, and their priests, make the most outrageous statements even to supposedly objective journalists, and the obvious questions are not asked.

    Instead a respect and protection is provided that is denied anyone else.

  15. Broga says:

    @Angela K. Thanks. Useful information. This religious pap is forced on us regardless of what we want.

  16. AngieRS says:

    William Harwood, as I understand it, the word “probably” was inserted to keep the ASA happy as by their standards there is no definitive proof either way.

  17. JohnMWhite says:

    I’m curious how one can enjoy their life by worrying that when it ends some capricious entity may deem them unworthy and toss them into a lake of eternal fire. The Christian Party’s message seems rather contradictory there.

  18. Adam Tjaavk says:

    I’m quite fond of the ‘probably’ – just the right touch of haughty litotes. Though ‘Probably no gods’ would have expressed the point better.

  19. Broadsword says:

    When I was a kid, if you wanted to watch telly Sunday teatime then Songs of Praise was the only game in town. Everyone then thought it was shite but it would have been tolerable if they put this on instead:
    or this:

  20. JohnMWhite says:

    I honestly think that many who adhere to monotheistic religion would have assumed the ad didn’t apply to them if it had invoked the plural, unfortunately.

  21. NeoWolfe says:

    Angie said:

    ” the word “probably” was inserted to keep the ASA happy as by their standards there is no definitive proof either way.”

    Question: Then why can the fundies say: “There is definitely a god”? Ludicrous. The sign said what it meant.


  22. Adam Tjaavk says:

    John – a false hope to enlighten them all
    – the shitheads will always be with us.


  23. barriejohn says:

    For fuck’s sake – not again! Why the hell am I being singled out for criticism yet again, NeoWolfe? I’m getting absolutely sick of this, as I don’t even remember being party to this ongoing argument that you are apparently having with other conributors to this site. The whole business is getting rather tiresome, as you seem to want to raise the subject whatever the topic of discussion might be; but in any case I don’t want to get drawn into it! I’m not going to continue visiting a site where all I read every day are snide comments aimed in my direction by someone who seems to have an agenda of his own.

  24. NeoWolfe says:

    (NeoWolfe desires to go kicking shit around the room because Harwood got the last dumbfuck word) WordPress lost my post again. Oh, well, I guess I’ll go watch TV. That is so irrelevent it will undoubtedly post.



  25. barriejohn says:

    All anyone has to do is to look up the facts on the internet. Ariane Sherine was the instigator of the campaign, and these are her words:

    Why only ‘probably’ no god?

    As with the famous Carlsberg ads (‘probably the best lager in the world’), the word ‘probably’ helps to ensure that our ads will not breach any advertising codes. The Committee of Advertising Practice advised the campaign that “the inclusion of the word ‘probably’ makes it less likely to cause offence, and therefore be in breach of the Advertising Code.”

    Ariane Sherine has said:

    There’s another reason I’m keen on the “probably”: it means the slogan is more accurate, as even though there’s no scientific evidence at all for God’s existence, it’s also impossible to prove that God doesn’t exist (or that anything doesn’t). As Richard Dawkins states in The God Delusion, saying “there’s no God” is taking a “faith” position. He writes: “Atheists do not have faith; and reason alone could not propel one to total conviction that anything definitely does not exist”. His choice of words in the book is “almost certainly”; but while this is closer to what most atheists believe, “probably” is shorter and catchier, which is helpful for advertising. I also think the word is more lighthearted, and somehow makes the message more positive.

  26. barriejohn says:

    Tom Harris, MP, also raises the subject on his website:

    Some of the complainers have claimed that the ad was “offensive” to atheists, although I guess the decision by the ASA not to launch an investigation indicates that that claim was treated with the seriousness it deserved. My, you must be a delicate little flower indeed if the mere affirmation of faith by others is “offensive” to you!

    I don’t believe for a second that a single atheist was remotely offended, and even if that were the case, it’s hardly a reason to ban an advert. Unfortunately, what seems to be happening is that individuals and organisations are using complaints procedures, not necessarily to maintain standards of decency or whatever, but to stymie an opposing point of view.

    Don’t MPs have more serious matters with which to occupy themselves?

  27. Graham Martin-Royle says:

    A Church of England spokesman said “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”.

    Appropriate resources? That’s none then.

  28. pipkin1972 says:

    @ Barry Duke.
    I’m a frequent listner of Radio 7 and mostly love it.
    When they started advertising Paradise lost i thought it was because of easter but here we are 41 episodes later and in the credits it says its been abridged,i mean bloody hell.
    I couldn’t believe it when they said that regained was going to start ( i’m sure they didn’t announce this until the last episode of lost probably thinking that if they left it to the end it would avoid alot of close at hand objects been thrown at the radio as people would still be high at the thought of it finally being over)Although i’m sure they said it was only going to be 9 episodes but i could have mis-heard as my brain had turned to jelly by that point.

  29. NeoWolfe says:

    Probably = agnostic. And I don’t know if it was BDuke or WordPress, but I’m pissed off about my evaporating post. I get accused of being a “chicken atheist” and I don’t get a chance to defend myself? That’s total bullshit.


  30. chrsbol says:

    barriejohn said…

    I’m not going to continue visiting a site where all I read every day are snide comments aimed in my direction by someone who seems to have an agenda of his own.

    Don’t stop posting bj I quite enjoy your posts unlike one or two others that I seem to skip mostly due to this ongoing war.

  31. Adam Tjaavk says:

    I never felt the ad to be wimpish – I’d say playfully condescending.

    O&BTW Continuing a previous thought: Though we pick fights with the ineradicable shitheads, it’s the millions of nominals and vaguely deistical intelligent befuddled who are the audience we should be aiming to influence and recruit.


  32. Vatra86 says:

    If they want more, why not create a religous BBC channel (or making BBC3 religious before 7pm) – moving all the current shows (songs of praise etc) over to that channel. Would then please both sides, and freeing up some time slots for more secular shows – more from Prof. Brian Cox would be nice.

  33. Broadsword says:


    Just backing chrsbol’s to you.

  34. Broga says:

    I suppose in a universe of infinite possibilities, or a multi verse, there might just be a god who subscribes to the bible description as christians seem to imagine it. By the same reasoning there might be a pink rat with two tails and five ears running the show. In other words vanishingly unlikely. And that is why I am an atheist.

    The mass of people have no idea what they believe and wander along in a fog of what they think they might believe if they thought about it. They don’t read and they don’t think sceptically. The one’s of this type I meet get no further than, “There must nbe something there or how would we be here.” How they connect that “something” with there christian god is never considered.

    This is the indiference and ignorance that makes then such patsies for the churches who state definetely what is “true.” The career priests themselves don’t believe this shite. But it is the only career many of them have available. And being vain bastards they do love standing up there lecturing there flocks and, especially, appearing on radio and TV.

  35. elainek123 says:

    Lets get real, religion is big business and the BBC are trying their utmost ro keep it alive. Anyway thank goodness for the ‘off’button.
    I have noticed on the soaps now they are tackling religious bigotry. As in Corrie the question was asked ‘but you dont believe in god’ the reply was Well I do when I feel like it. In Eastenders some wrongs which are in the Muslim doctrine are also being tackled, so maybe there is some hope..

  36. Broadsword says:


    Corrie’s Roy Cropper character stated he’s an atheist. Ken Barlow may be too, but I’m not sure.

    Lucas, the preacher in Eastenders, is a murderer. Their recent gay muslim storyline stretched reality as we know Islam doesn’t have any homosexuals….

  37. chrsbol says:

    William Roache is I think a true believer in real life. The opposite of the character he portrays.Not that I watch it ahem! btw.the church that they film all the weddings and funerals in is pretty much on my doorstep and that’s my claim to fame! Sorry to have changed channels Barry.

  38. Broga says:

    Aunty Marian, deeply devout christian and chapel goer, is the resident bigot, gossip, scandal monger, sanctimonious hypocrite on Pobol y Cwm (People of the Valley) on the Welsh Language Channel. Deserves a wider audience. E.g. Very anti the local bookie but sells lottery tickets in her shop; very pro family but deceives local parents over their off the rails daughter; and much else.

    They do have some fun on this. The previous chapel minister turns out to have been shagging prostitutes and then kills one. His widow lies, gets her boyfriend appointed to a promotion in the school, and pays a glamorous female to try to seduce her new boyfriend to “test his loyality.” Generally everybody seems to be shagging everyone else without the benefit of matrimony. Lesbian activity frequent. Same with homosexuality. In fact, one of the most talented and attractive men is gay. Pity it isn’t in English.

  39. Diamond says:

    I had the misfortune to switch on the telly on Sunday morning to be confronted by a church full of zealots raising their arms to the heavens and imploring the almighty to “Send the Fire” so that the world could be cleansed. You could see by the looks on their faces that they were all excited to be on TV and thought they were sharing a really important message with the world. Scary.

    I wonder if the BBC would consider this family viewing if it were a mob of Islamists calling on Allah to “Send the Fire”? Two sides of the same coin if you ask me.

  40. Broadsword says:


    That’s an excellent advert for S4C.
    As with all soaps, the men are constantly parading around with stiffies chasing sticky women. You won’t beat a Welsh tart (unless you’re a muslim). In my “cwm” I have an aunty Marion who isn’t quite as lewd. When it’s my turn to drive the van for deliveries, at this time of year all I see are girls out in their flimsies. I spend all day fantasising until I get home. Any amorous thoughts get nagged out of me after five minutes with Mrs B.
    If I were muslim, I couid’ve just gone and done it.

  41. shargraves says:

    chrsbol – in real life, William Roach – is apparently king of the druids! (or somesuch chaff)

    And he is officially not boring – having won a libel action to that effect!

    And barriejohn – don’t go fella. Ignore the sniping. I know e-arguments can get frustrating, as theres no one in front of you to plant a fist on, but count to 10 and let it lie mate.

    This site wouldn’t be the same withut some of the more colourful personalities on here.

  42. Broga says:

    @Broadsword. That’s it. You have it summed up perfectly.

  43. Rrr says:

    Not being subject to teh Beeb on a regular basis, although I do vaguely recognize the name, I am reduced to this simplistic comment: Maybe the Radio Star should change its name to “Rodger Strap-on”? if naught else then in order to keep feeding the back-feed.

    Signing off NOW.

  44. NeoWolfe says:

    Broga said:

    “I suppose in a universe of infinite possibilities, or a multi verse, there might just be a god who subscribes to the bible description as christians seem to imagine it.”

    Perhaps you missed the point. Being skeptic or agnostic is not about religion, in fact it is the opposit. While religion flies in the face of science, it proves itself to be rubbish. But, if we assume that the universe is an accident, we have made the same mistake. Assuming to be true, that which we have yet to prove. I am not an “chicken atheist” as harwood implies, I just await emperical evidence before I say, “I believe”. I deny that I am a milktoast, afraid to believe anything, and allow me to demonstrate. I believe that organized religion is a fraud, and I believe that harwood is a fraud. The key point is you only go where the evidence leads you.


  45. Xepharian says:

    My fear is that there may be another series of annoying unintelligible episodes after this one – am I in for a surprise? I listen to R7 a great deal of the time and love the drama – often imported from R4 – greatly. I really do not understand a word of the Milton diction. Not only is the language 400 years old but both the subject matter and the general approach belong in the dark ages. What the F is going on BBC – who decided that this should be broadcast and who is on the make from it’s presentation because that’s the only reason I can see that it was run. I’ve been turning off for the 15 minutes because I cannot stand it and don’t always remember to tune back. Be warned.

  46. Kenny Howse says:

    I totally agree with Janstince, if we are to have more religion then let us also have more secularism, more agnosticism and more atheism!