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Shock as BBC axes its religious supremo

Shock as BBC axes its religious supremo

Just weeks after Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC’s Head of Religion and Ethics, called for more religious content to satisfy Muslims and those holding other minority faiths, his job has been axed.

In what is described here as a “night of the long knives”, Ahmed and three other senior commissioners were axed.

The factual team was briefed about the restructure by factual commissioning controller Emma Swain last week, before Aaqil Ahmed, Sam Bickley, Martin Davidson and Clive Edwards were called in to separate meetings to be told their roles will be closing.

Said one source:

Most people thought it would be a straightforward restructure, not the night of the long knives. It was a massive shock. There was no sense that the changes would be on this scale.

Astonishly, superstition will now come under the aegis of a new Head of Science, Business, History and Religion, who is yet to be chosen.

Earlier, in December, Ahmed complained of a “lack of religious literacy” in modern society and said viewers from minority faiths were unhappy that television often failed to understand their beliefs and reflect them in its output. He said:

We have got to do better.

Ahmed noted that census statistics showed that 2.7 million people in Britain and about one tenth of babies are “born into the faith”.

What [Muslim viewers] want is more programmes that explain what they believe in and more programmes where they see themselves.

Highlighting the lack of religious diversity at senior levels of the industry, he said:

I’m not the first person to commission religious programmes for the BBC or Channel 4 but I’m the first person to have done [programmes on] the Koran and the life of Muhammad.

Noting that the UK is also home to substantial populations of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jews, Ahmed said religious-based programming was a way for the BBC to connect with minority audiences.

One of the things we have seen in the research is that these hard-to-reach audiences think that religion is important.

But he rejected the idea of programming for atheists, arguing that many Christian-based BBC shows were appropriate for secular audiences. Referring to the annual Christmas concert which the BBC has broadcast on radio or television for 86 years, he said:

I don’t think you have to be a Christian to enjoy Carols from Kings.

The Telegraph reports that the BBC’s now stands accused of “sidelining religion”.

Hat tip: Ivan Bailey

10 responses to “Shock as BBC axes its religious supremo”

  1. Andy Brown says:

    I don’t see what he’s complaining about, the BBC shows plenty of content regarding the muslim faith, just look at the ISIS and Boko Haram coverage on the news…..

  2. Newspaniard says:

    Wait! Wait! Wait! Don’t you remember when the government abolished the blasphemy law to much approval, then a few weeks later introduced far more draconian legislation with people currently languishing in gaol for expressing their opinion (for example) of the terrible death cult which is islam. So, again I say, Wait for the other shoe to fall before you celebrate.

  3. AgentCormac says:

    @ Andy Brown

    Nice one!

  4. Ivan says:

    We could perhaps use more religious programming like this rather wonderful 2m24s of Gay Byrne versus Stephen Fry broadcast on RTE the other day:

    http://goo.gl/jecijx

    No guessing who came out of that on top.

  5. Broga says:

    Ahmed and his religious collaborators have long thought that at the BBC they were untouchable. And they have been right in that. Could a change be on the way? Good riddance. I wonder how much they got in pay offs.

  6. Broga says:

    @Ivan: Gay Byrne expected Stephen Fry to back off right from the start. Instead, Byrne was lost with a bemused look. Thanks. Glad I didn’t miss that.

  7. L.Long says:

    Well since Mo can’t be pictured the show about is life can only be told from his point of view and no mirrors allowed. I suppose you could tell about Mo from the point of view of the 9yr-old he raped but he would have to be seen only in shadow, ya know like some creepy rapist or monster.

  8. Trevor Blake says:

    religious literacy: to refrain from applying academic standards (literacy) to one or more religions.

    As always, to understand the intent of religion see the opposite of their words.

  9. Robster says:

    What’s really needed is a Muslim tv channel. It would be a top rater I’m sure, big shows like “Black is the New Red”, “Completely Covered Up”, “The M Factor”, “No Other Idol”, “Keeping Up With Mo”and “The Virgin” would rate their socks off and satisfy the detected need for religious media diversity. I must say I’m surprised Rupert Murdoch hasn’t already identified this market for exploitation. In between all the great shows he could run ads for all the Muslim stuff like, black bags for the girls, blunt shavers and black eyeliner for the blokes, DVD’s of the fun things to do in Mecca and more. They would need to be careful regards pics of the old Mo, these days with pixelization, it shouldn’t be a problem.

  10. JohnMWhite says:

    First of all, why was ‘the factual team’ dealing with religious broadcasting in the first place, and secondly… why on earth is religion now being put in the same department as science, business and history?

    Describing this as the night of the long knives seems a bit dramatic, as well. The BBC decided they didn’t like how religious programming was being put together and are restructuring. It happens. I wouldn’t be surprised if what they didn’t like was that someone was advocating for covering more minority faiths, but that’s not a shock and hardly a power-consolidating massacre. And I have zero sympathy for someone who is so up his own arse he thinks ‘Christian programming ought to do for those secularists’. Whining about religious minorities not getting to see themselves on TV comes across as hypocritical and self-serving when you dismiss people who don’t share faith with you wanting the exact same thing.