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London Humanists target the BBC over exclusionary godslot

London Humanists target the BBC over exclusionary godslot

Last month the South East London Humanist Group (SELHuG) held the first of a planned series of demos outside the BBC in a bid to get the corporation to open up Radio 4’s Thought for the Day to secular voices. A second demonstration took place yesterday, July 17.

Thought for the Day, says the National Secular Society:

Is a daily slot within BBC Radio 4’s flagship news programme which explicitly and without pretence excludes non-religious contributors – the only demographic group to be singled out for exclusion.

Putting such a prominent discussion slot within Radio 4’s flagship news programme, but outside of that programme’s editorial control means that there is no right to reply when the slot is used for political or religious proselytizing.

Reforming Thought for the Day to make it an ethical/philosophical discussion slot for current issues would improve overall quality, make it relevant to Today’s audience and remove the unjustifiable discrimination. Contributors should be picked without reference to their religious or non-religious identity.

SELHuG reported on its website last month that its campaign to get humanists on Thought for the Day:

Got off to a good start  … Our banners looked fantastic, could be seen clearly by passing bus passengers and pedestrians, and hundreds if not thousands of BBC staff walking into work got an eyeful.

One of our members, Sebastian, was interviewed by Radio Cornwall presenter Donna Birrell who played it on her Sunday Breakfast programme the following weekend and invited listeners to say whether they think humanists should be represented on programmes like Thought for the Day.

She also said she would invite a Cornwall Humanists member on soon, so we have managed to get humanism talked about in the West Country if not Broadcasting House – yet!

We managed to thrust a flyer into the hands of Today presenter John Humphrys who turned and said “I started this you know”, and Front Row’s Samira Ahmed, a frontrunner to replace David Dimbleby on Question Time, stopped for a chat as well as people coming in to be interviewed on various programmes, and members of the public.

Our local newspaper, the Mercury, wrote a decent article about the campaign: in true tabloid style it was called “We’re only humanists after all” after the Rag’n’ bone Man song.

Next steps

We have agreed to demonstrate every month on the second Tuesday between 8am and 10am, except July when it will be the third Tuesday, 17th.

So the next three dates are 17 July, 14 August and 11 September.

Please sign the statement and consider writing to the BBC (there’s one ready to copy and paste into an email) if you haven’t already: go to the ‘BBC Campaign’ tab in the menu bar for full details.

We will be slowly building support over coming months: watch this space.

17 responses to “London Humanists target the BBC over exclusionary godslot”

  1. L.Long says:

    When a religion needs the gov’mint to stop atheist voices, you know the religion has deep seated problems and bigotry! But then ALL religions do have deep seated problems and are bigots, but getting the gov’mint to support you becomes tyranny!

  2. Angela_K says:

    I expect most contributors here like me, are a thorn in the side of BBC when it comes to its fawning obsequiousness of anything religious. I’ve written and emailed to the BBC many times asking them to scrap TFTD or at least include non-religious philosophers into these news programme intrusions.

  3. Jobrag says:

    The trouble with a secular thought for the day is that you can only say, “it’s all pretend” very few ways, but theists can argue about angels and pinheads endlessly.

  4. 1859 says:

    Religion provides a framework that supports ideas which are utterly insane. If humanism can be heard to challenge the insanities religion insists are facts, then we are in with a chance. When I lived in the UK I often listened to TFTD
    (Lionel Blue was my favourite) and the smug self-righteousness of the speakers always made me want to vomit.

  5. barriejohn says:

    Secular contributors to TFTD , much like secular chaplains, wouldn’t be using the slot to attack religion, but to put forward a positive rational outlook on life. My uncle died recently, and my aunt chose a humanist funeral, which really surprised me. It made a refreshing change from the norm. My mother didn’t want that, so I felt that I had to respect her wishes, even though sitting through all usual the nonsense made the whole experience even more depressing (my cousins thinking that it was all quite wonderful, of course). I do think that a gloomy humanist chaplain cheering everyone up by telling them that there’s no point to it all would make a great sitcom character. Does anyone else remember the late, great Richard Griffiths in A Kind of Living? “The way I see it, you’re born, and then you die, and you’ve got to fill in the bit between the best way that you can”!

    https://youtu.be/T4jBzUCfq1Y

  6. RussellW says:

    barriejohn

    Yes. Filling the gap between birth and death isn’t so easy, particularly after the loss of a partner. There really isn’t any point to human life apart from what we invent for ourselves.

    The poor deluded religiots think that life has meaning which one would think would make them happier, often it doesn’t.

  7. 1859 says:

    Once, when living in Germany, I saw this graffiti scrawled across the side of a church – ‘Geburt – Schule – Arbeit – Tod’. Humourous graffiti was not their strong point.

  8. H3r3tic says:

    The BBC could simply avoid all controversy by renaming the slot “prayer for the day”, as to my mind the current title and the exclusion of atheist views implies that unless you have a religious viewpoint your “thoughts” are not worth transmitting to a wider audience. Given the the BBC has proved to be massively resistant to including non-religious thoughts would be not be better of campaigning for the slot “prayer for the day?” If that works I can then entertain myself by posting links to all of the peer-reviewed,double blind tests that show that, at best, prayer has no effect.

  9. AgentCormac says:

    Maybe they’re just scared that someone will go on air and mention uncomfortable truths, such as: ‘Dumping religion can seriously enhance everyone’s wealth’. This being the conclusion of a recent study by academics from the universities of Bristol and Tennessee.
    https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/losing-religion-can-be-seriously-good-for-your-wealth-hg6m6sfm8

  10. barriejohn says:

    @1859: I think Shakespeare managed it better!

  11. Brian Jordan says:

    @Jobrag
    Does it have to be different every day? Why not just repeat something like:
    “Take this thought with you through your day:
    There’s probably no god.”
    That would be enought make people think – and take quite long enough, at that time in the morning.

  12. andym says:

    If humanists went on the slot just to trash religion, religion would have won. Far more important to highlight a view of the world where religious belief is no more than minority right to be defended.

  13. Vanity Unfair says:

    To H3r3tic:
    There already is a “Prayer for the Day” at 5:45 a.m.-ish. On rare occasions I have been awake to hear it. It’s very similar to TFTD. There’s also a “Morning Service” on LW and Digital (one reason to stick to FM) and “Choral Evensong” on R3. But then we all know how the BBC ignores religion. Did I mention there’s more on Sundays?

  14. andym says:

    Plus “Pause for Thought” on Radio 2. Well it’s a pause, anyway.

  15. StephenJP says:

    Come and join us on the Rev Dr Peter Hearty’s “Platitudes of the Day”: http://www.platitudes.org.uk/platblog/index.php. You’ll get a few laughs, and a lot more intelligent comment than you ever get on TftD itself.

  16. Stuart H. says:

    From experience, I’d agree with ‘andym’.
    Over here (IOM) we achieved parity with the religiots on the national radio version of TFTD well over a decade ago.
    After the first ground-breaking week of talks, the biggest challenge was finding something (well – anything) to say that the religiots weren’t already saying. It got to the point where we had to vet our volunteers’ talks because, frankly, most were crapper than the average small town vicar until challenged to come up with something better. Of course, as many admitted to me, local vicars faced the same challenge and, to be fair, also upped their game – a gain for the station and all listeners.
    The linked problem is that having opened the doors to those of all faiths and none locally it triggered an additional rule for the radio staff – that talks couldn’t be used to knock other (or in our case all) religions.
    Good luck to SELhug and, as ever, I’ve responded to appeals for change & pointed out to the Beeb that they really need to learn from smaller stations and act more like a national broadcaster and less like a sad hospital radio station.
    But when you get such a freedom you will quickly find yourself asking what – if anything – humanists have to say apart from knocking religion. The answer is not a happy one unless you’re prepared to work at it.