Sunday, 5 September 2010

Faith and the BBC

The Archbishop of Edinburgh and St Andrews has accused the BBC of an institutional anti-Christian bias, deploring what he calls a "radically secular and socially liberal mindset" in its newsrooms. He cites, as an example, a documentary presented by Mark Dowd on 15 September, 'Trials of a Pope', about Benedict's XVI's handling of clerical sex abuse. The documentary, incidentally, also includes an item on Catholic Voices. Dowd is giving a lecture two days before the broadcast. 

Cardinal Keith O'Brien "fears" that the documentary will be biased, but Dowd is a superb producer and close to Catholics; one journalist who is reviewing the film told us it is "not hostile". Best to postpone judgement.

The Cardinal has also backed calls by a Church of England bishop for the BBC to appoint a religion editor, something which the recently retired presenter of the 'Sunday' programme, Roger Bolton, argued for at the Churches and Media Network conference back in July (hear his speech here). The point of an editor -- the BBC has them, for example, for science and the environment -- is to ensure that faith would be properly understood across the network's news programmes. Seems like a good idea.

By happy coincidence, the BBC's Jesuit-educated (and practising Catholic) director-general, Mark Thompson (pictured), has given an interview to the New Statesman in which his faith comes up:
How does his faith affect his approach to the job? "I have lots of colleagues at the top of the BBC," he says, "and had at Channel 4, of religious belief, quite a lot with no religious belief at all, and quite a few committed atheists. I think they've all got values which they can bring to work. But just as we don't have a monopoly of the web, we don't have a monopoly of virtue when it comes to broadcasting, either.

“I do think the BBC is very much - sometimes, frankly, almost frighteningly so - a values-driven organisation. People's sense of what's right and wrong, and their sense of justice, are incredible parts of what motivates people to join. I'm part of that. For me, that's connected with my religious faith but the key thing is: you don't have to be a Catholic."