Should We Complain About the Rejection of Atheists on the BBC’s ‘Thought For The Day’?

I’m admittedly a bit biased when I say this, but I genuinely think that one of the greatest exports from the UK is the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), a.k.a. The Beeb. The BBC is the largest broadcaster in the world, employing a staff of 23,000 across all of its various divisions. In its early years it formed the blueprint for other public broadcasters around the world.

Now, one of its longest running institutions, Radio 4, has been caught up in a tit-for-tat with the National Secular Society surrounding the future of a five-minute segment called “Thought For the Day.” In the U.S., where there is seemingly infinite numbers of TV stations, you can just accept the fact that you don’t like The 700 Club and change the channel. In the UK, the way the BBC is funded allows arguments like this to bubble up all too often.

As a quick overview, the BBC is funded through an assortment of sources: government subsidies, the sale of content to foreign media companies and some commercial enterprises. The biggest revenue stream by far — a whooping 75% in fact — is generated from the TV license. Now, to a non-UK audience, what I’m about to explain may sound very weird. (Probably because it is.)

Basically if you own a TV or radio in the UK, you must have a license to do so. (Think gun license, expect less harmful. Although that is open to question given some of the content on TV these days.) Currently this costs £145.50 ($232.42) for color and £49.00 ($78.27) for black & white. (Who the hell still has a black and white TV?!)

As a result the BBC is ultimately responsible to government and, therefore, to the British taxpayers. However, we are treated to programming without advertising, high quality shows that get sold around the world (including my favorite, Top Gear), and, most crucially of all, truly impartial reporting and political neutrality. The BBC News website, TV channel and radio reporting is an international bastion of quality and trust.

So what does any of this have to do with atheism?

Well, on this little five-minute segment, “Thought For the Day,” various religious leaders or theologians deliver a short sermon on something in the news that week. Basically it is a chance to wedge God into current events.

After a recent review, the Commissioning Editor for Religion and Head of Religion & Ethics, Aaqil Ahmed, decided that, despite numerous complaints about the lack of a humanist or non-religious perspective, no changes would be made to the current format of the segment.

This has angered many secularists, led by the National Secular Society. They see this is discrimination, especially given that the latest figures on religion in public life would seem to suggest “Thought For the Day” falls on deaf ears.

Aaqil Ahmed (via The Telegraph)

The BBC released its own figures showing that the number of people in Britain who affiliate with a religion has dropped from 68% in 1983 to 53% in 2011. Those figures are even more encouraging when split into demographics. 77% of people over the age of 66 say they are religious compared to just 35% of people aged between 18 and 25.

The BBC is notorious in its pursuit of balance. For example, last week the “Thought for the Day” slot was occupied by religious leaders including the Rev. Giles Fraser (the former canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral), Akhandadhi Das (a Hindu theologian), and Prof. Mona Siddiqui (a Muslim academic). This pursuit of balance can sometimes land program makers in trouble since not all arguments are 50-50 splits. You only need think of the “Evolution vs. Creationism” debate to recognize that. Just because Creationism can be thought of as the opposite view point does not make it equally likely.

My own thought on this is that it is a storm in a tea cup, one that has been stirred up by the National Secular Society to beat down the BBC for showing too much deference to religion in the media.

This just isn’t the same as the fights in the U.S. to remove official prayer from schools and public meetings. Like it or not, the UK is a religious country and the Church of England is the official state Church. Excluding groups for a chance to speak on a radio program is not illegal.

Would I like us to become a legally secular state? Absolutely. At the moment, however, that just isn’t the case. It is a classic case of learning to pick your battles. In my opinion, the National Secular Society should continue to put amazing effort into the great things it does in other areas instead of pointlessly fighting over a five minute radio program that nobody pays any attention to.

About Mark Turner

Mark Turner was born and raised as a Catholic in the North East of England, UK. He attended two Catholic schools between the ages of five and sixteen. A product of a moderate Catholic upbringing and an early passion for science first resulted in religious apathy and by mid-teens outright disbelief.

@markdturner

  • http://profiles.google.com/sullivanjd Jason Sullivan

    I can’t believe you didn’t say Dr. Who as one of the greatest programs exported by the BBC.  It’s one of my favorites

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      Sorry Jason I’m just not a fan, unusual given I generally love Sci-Fi – just not Doctor Who!

      • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

        Now that is a way to lose all credibility, Patrick Troughton must be turning in his grave…:)

        • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

          Judging by the replies it seems I have lost whatever little credibility I had gathered! I’ll rush out now to buy the box set and set about repairing the damage :-)

          • Drew M.

             Borrow it! Don’t waste good money. ;)

      • Denis Robert

         You’re dead to me.

      • Sindigo

        I don’t like it either. There I said it. I feel a great weight lifted from my shoulders.

      • Drew M.

         You’re not alone. The show is not my cup of tea, either.

    • Gordon Duffy

       The Doctor is basically a Humanist too.

      • Michael

        “To the rational mind, nothing is inexplicable, only unexplained.” — The Doctor

  • http://twitter.com/HugAnAtheist Hug an Atheist

    True, we have a state church, but thought of the day allows other religions, not the just the country’s state religion, to contribute, so why not those of no religion? It doesn’t make any sense and it should be a no-brainer for the BBC to allow it.

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      I agree that it makes no sense and that I’d much rather that non religious were allowed a voice, my only concern in this specific case is that the National Secular Society (an organisation I fully support) comes across as more than a bit petty. There are bigger more important battles going on right now.

      I have no logic or reason to support this, but I also think that it only being 5 minutes long makes a difference. For example if it were a two hour show then I would be much more supportive of trying to get non religious voices on there – even though I can’t really explain why I think that!

      • http://twitter.com/HugAnAtheist Hug an Atheist

         I agree, there are far bigger and more important battles, but this shouldn’t be a battle, it should be a matter of common sense and reason. So I don’t think it’s petty, it should have been an easy win.
        The first few times I listened to Thought of the Day, I found myself getting really annoyed with it. Bear in mind that I’m not from this country, so I wasn’t aware at first that a segment called “thought of the day” was only open to religious thoughts. At that time I just knew that the BBC was supposed to be an impartial news organisation so I wondered what the hell was going on the BBC. When there’s a party politcal broadcast going on, they tell you in advance that it is from a certain politcal party and not the BBC. Thought of the Day didn’t come with such a warning. And unlike Song of Praise, the title doesn’t exactly lead you to be believe it’s only religious thoughts being uttered.

        Maybe if they changed the title I wouldn’t be so annoyed with it…

        • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

          Thats true, I had never really thought of it as an easy win. I guess my growing up with the BBC has lead me to think that it is just the way it always has been. Not that that tradition is any argument for its existence at all.

  • Sindigo

    This is a question I’ve often pondered as I listen to TFTD every morning as part of my drive to work and, in the days when I gave my GF (now wife) a lift to her office it gave us many stimulating debates. Usually me defending the show for giving the religious a voice in the mornings and her saying how they should get Dawkins on there once a month.

    Mostly though, the segment gave us a brief chortle because of the way that the speakers crow-barred Jesus (or whoever but usually Jesus; the Islamic, Hindu, etc speakers rarely specifically name-checked their deity of choice for some reason) into a discussion on whatever issue had hit the headlines.

    I’m a staunch, evangelical Atheist and a firm supporter of the BBC but, you know what? I couldn’t care less about the exclusively religious nature of TFTD. The same goes for Songs of Praise. Religion is a part of life and if people want to hear a little of it in the mornings then fine. There are plenty of secular voices on the BBC already. Let the religious have their shows and continue to let Stephen Fry on Qi respond to the question: “Is there a god” with a firm: “Heavens no, dear boy.”

    Besides, why give them any more ammunition?

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      Excellent points, the notion of crow-barring in Jesus reminds me of a Billy Connolly routine where he talks about Scottish radio presenters using football to make a segway into talking about jesus. I think it was his ‘An Audience With..’ performance. He refers to them as “Strange wee men often called Nigel”

      • Sindigo

        I remember that routine. Apparently, I’m not even the second person to have found this funny as Mark Steel has a joke at TFTD’s expense here:  

        http://www.freewebs.com/qitranscripts/212.htm

        The more I think about it the more I agree with you that the NSS should leave this one alone. It’s likely to be an enormously unpopular move and there are simply more important things to worry about.

        • Sue

           I’m not convinced it’s likely to be unpopular.  Online polls indicated support for including non-religious voices or scrapping it altogether.  It’s heartily mocked on Radio 4′s comedy shows.  (I remember Sandi Toksvig saying that it shouldn’t be scrapped because it’s the two minutes every morning when you know you can use the hairdryer without missing anything good.)  I’ve yet to meet a single person who actually enjoys it.

          Except when Rabbi Lionel Blue is speaking, of course.  If they put him on every morning I’d be perfectly happy with it.

          • Sindigo

            I think it would be unpopular with the religious and the reactionary right of our media. A brief Google turned up this article from the Mail online and the comments there represent a few who it would be unpopular with: 

            http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2200593/Keep-faith-BBC-resists-calls-atheists-Radio-4s-Thought-Day-God-Slot.html?ito=feeds-newsxml

            From my own experience, my (very religious) mother would, rightly or wrongly find the inclusion of Atheists an intrusion into religious programming and arguing for it is just going to add fuel to our opponents’ fire.

            I would much rather see the erstwhile Ms. Toksvig able to say just that quote without complaints from the religious about the lack of “balance” on the News Quiz and TFTD left alone than the alternative.

            There are bigger fights to be fought for now. Both in Atheism in public life (Bishops in the house of Lords, for one) and the way the BBC spends our money (for the love of Christ stop throwing money at talent shows).

            For the record, although we haven’t strictly speaking “met”. I enjoy it and so does my wife. BTW, much love for the Rabbi here too.

            • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

              If we ran the country based on what was unpopular with the Mail’s comments section then we’d have no ethnic minorities, considerably fewer women in public life, no speed cameras, no environmental policy (except planning regulations banning development anywhere near Mail commenters’ houses), and we’d have towed the entire island out into the Atlantic lest anyone think we’re anything to do with those nasty grubby continentals.

              Thankfully we don’t.

              • Lissa

                 I’d say running the country exactly contrary to what is desired the Mail comments section would make it the best place ever!

      • Thin-ice
  • http://www.quietatheist.com/ Slugsie

    One small factual correction. The BBC license fee is for TV users only. Whilst it pays for the radio portion of the BBC, you are not required to have a license to own/listen to a radio.

    • http://twitter.com/cr0sh Andrew Ayers

      Don’t you have to pay it also if all you have is a computer (and a monitor)? I seem to recall at one point (years ago) some kind of kerfuffle over this or something…

      • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

         The BBC say that you need a TV licence to watch TV ‘as live’, so if you don’t use your computer for watching TV at all, no need for a licence. If you only use it to watch TV on ‘catch up’ services (e.g. the iPlayer), no need for a licence. If you watch the live streams of things as they’re being broadcast in the normal way as well, then you need one.

  • Jaimie

    It doesn’t matter to me. A five minute show for religious people doesn’t threaten me.

  • Keith Collyer

    Minor correction, you haven’t needed a radio licence for many a long year

  • Anonymous Atheist

    In 2007, 2008, and 2009, the Humanist Society of Scotland recorded a nice assortment of atheistic substitutes to the exclusionary ‘Thought of the Day’, which they called ‘Thought for the World’. http://www.thoughtfortheworld.org/

  • P. J. Reed

    Think gun license, expect less harmful. Although that is open to question given some of the content on TV these days.

    I know this isn’t exactly on the topic at hand, but after hitting this sentence, I’m having trouble taking this article seriously at all.  Aside from the blatant typo — “expect” should be “except” — and the sentence fragment after it, I’m not even sure how to parse this.

    Are you saying that content on TV is as harmful as gun licenses? That doesn’t make any sense, and I’ve never seen anybody claim gun licenses were harmful.

    Are you saying that content on TV is as harmful as guns?  This is so absurd I don’t even know what to say about it.

    If you were just trying to be funny, it wasn’t.

    By the way, you don’t need to use parentheses to make side remarks quite so gratuitously.  You’re the person writing the article; say what you mean inside your own sentences.

    • Drew M.

      Don’t ever read, “The Princess Bride.” The parenthesis will give you the vapours.

      And it was indeed funny.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke, who listens

      i’ll skip the style-nazi element of your comment and assert that yes, a great big fat yes: TV can be as or more dangerous than guns in society. there are plenty of studies about american TV and what it does to the minds, bodies and social function of people who consume too much. from brainwashing children into being mindless, addicted consumers of harmful things, to the softening of mental faculties too much TV generally leads to, the harmful stereotypes about minorities and ‘others’ much programming promotes, the levels of sex and violence and what impact that has on the psychology and behavior of viewer… and my personal soap box: its use as a weapon of propaganda and control of the masses. 

      TV has been critical in the launches of wars of choice, reduced the safety levels of minorities and homosexuals, contributed to the abuse of women and loss of their reproductive rights. the list goes on and on. i haven’t had TV or cable since 1998 or so, and i’ve never looked back. the idea that exposing a child to for 6 hours a day or more isn’t harmful is ludicrous. i’ve watched TV in england and i will admit the quality of the programming is much, much higher than in america. but it’s still fluff that will soften  and fool your brain and rational abilities, taken in too high a quantity.

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      Apologies for the spelling mistake, it was late at night and this isn’t my day job. The parentheses were an editing addition not in my draft. The TV thing was a glib comment about violence on TV and meant as sarcasm not to be taken literally. If you don’t find sarcasm funny just click next and read the next post by a different author and I hope that is more suitable to you’re tastes.

  • Bryan Schear

    If the NSS doesn’t fight for recognition in all areas that it should have equal opportunity and treatment then it would be the same as admitting that they do not have a leg to stand on in that arena. Secularism is a game of inches.

    Just curious but  what did you mean by, “Think gun license, expect less harmful”?

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      The gun thing was just a glib comment linking violence on TV to violence with guns, and the fact it was the only thing I could think of quickly that I knew the US has a licence for other than a driving licence. It wasn’t really intended to be making any point at all really, apologies if you thought I was trying to make a serious point.

  • http://stevebowen58.blogspot.co.uk/ Steve Bowen

    The point about “Thought for the Day” is that it is a segment of the BBC’s flagship morning news and analysis programme. For this reason allowing only religious comment in this spot is perpetuating the myth that religion has a morally  superior perspective to an atheistic one. It is perfectly reasonable to allow secular humanism to make an ethical observation about a current affairs story in the same slot as theologians and priests and I support the NSS in pointing this out.
    By the same token I have no issue with “The Daily Service” or “Songs of Praise” being exclusively religious programs as they are made by the faithful for the faithful to watch, they’re not gratuitiously slipped into a news setting aimed at a general audience.
    Secular humanism is a relevant and growing moral perspective and should be properly represented in programs that invite social comment in the way that TFTD does.

    • AxeGrrl

      The point about “Thought for the Day” is that it is a segment of the BBC’s flagship morning news and analysis programme. For this reason allowing only religious comment in this spot is perpetuating the myth that religion has a morally superior perspective to an atheistic one. It is perfectly reasonable to allow secular humanism to make an ethical observation about a current affairs story in the same slot as theologians and priests and I support the NSS in pointing this out.

      This.

  • Gus Snarp

    Maybe as an American I just don’t understand, but it seems to me that whether or not secularism is part of British law, the BBC ought to want to be inclusive of other views and ought to listen to its funders (i.e. the British people). So it seems to me that it’s perfectly appropriate to complain and raise a stink about this. How hard would it be to get a Humanist or atheist or plain philosopher on every so often? Why shouldn’t people be asking for that? Is there something about the way they’re complaining that is unseemly? It seems to me to be a reasonable demand and a reasonable thing to be upset about, regardless of the law.

    • Earl G.

      Exactly.  This is so easy to fix.  What’s the hold up, BBC?

  • Tim

    “My own thought on this is that it is a storm in a tea cup, one that has been stirred up by the National Secular Society to beat down the BBC for showing too much deference to religion in the media. ”

    Absolutely agree with this.  Which is why I agree with the NSS on TFTD.

    It isn’t about getting religion off the radio.  It is about objecting to the privileging religion by only allowing them and noone else the chance to make unchallenged assertion about current affairs in the middle of a programme which strives to achive a balance of views.

    So a politician on the right can’t appear on the show without a politician on the left havingtheir say also (and vice versa).  That is the rule that applies to everyone else (and in rooted in the BBC Charter) except religious contributions who are somehow permitted to spout their guff without challenge. 

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      I’m starting to come around to the idea that is more important that I had previously considered, however I do think that there is a certain way of handling issues like this with a bit of tact. I’m glad that the NSS fights its corner, but its daft battles like this that add to atheism’s reputation as being dour and negative. A reputation undeserved I think, but one that it has to some extent none the less. If this were one of the few things left the needed ‘secularising’ for want of a much better word, then I’d be all for it. I just worry that it damages the NSS public image, and in turn damage its important work in limiting faith schools and pushing for lords reform.

  • Mommiest

    I don’t know how well the NSS is presenting their argument, but I’d say they absolutely should complain about this. If, as you say, people generally ignore TFTD, an atheist perspective would make it more relevant. Official church or no, non-religious folks are funding it, and they should insist that the program hold itself to the standards implicit in the word “thought.”

  • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

    The NSS is quite right to make a fuss about this – it may not be the biggest bit of religious discrimination around, but it is one of the easiest to fix.

    Religion is also a protected characteristic under the Equalities Act, so discriminating against an atheist specifically because of heir atheism is already illegal. If this were a specifically christian programme (as is, say, Songs Of Praise) then they’d be OK – you’re allowed to make things for a specific group defined by a protected characteristic (so you can still have, for example, a gay golfers society) but you can’t exclude a specific group based on a protected characteristic (so a normal golf club can’t have a ‘no gays’ rule). However, with TFTD not being for a specific group, this discrimination against a specific group (atheists) based on a protected characteristic (religious belief) is quite clearly unlawful.

    And before anyone asks – the Act specifically defines all references to religion within its text to also include a lack of belief, so the provisions do cover atheists.

  • Lissa

    I have to disagree on two issues: like many other posters, I think the NSS is quite right to take the BBC to task on purposely excluding non-religious voices, and two, the BBC’s reputation for impartiality is rather overstated. BBC Scotland in particular is somewhat infamous for its utter lack of neutrality, particularly as regards the question of Scottish independence. When the SNP won a landslide majority in the last election, Sally Magnusson on Reporting Scotland asked Nicola Sturgeon (in a rather huffy tone of voice), ‘Isn’t it dangerous for one party to be in control of parliament?’ when just a year earlier everyone on the BBC was hand-wringing about the dangers of there NOT being just one party in control of parliament a few hundred miles south. On BBC Scotland’s website the two main political blogs stopped allowing comments, whereas every other political blog on the BBC website allows them. In the recent council elections, they reported the results completely differently from every other network, making it look like the SNP had lost the election to Labour, when in fact the SNP had the largest share of first choice votes and got more councillors than any other party. Just the other week Alex Salmond gave a speech about what public broadcasting would look like in an independent Scotland, and Reporting Scotland did not report any of the content of his speech (all the papers and other news channels did), instead showing a repeated speech by Gordon Brown and a response by Salmond to that. The list goes on and on. So no, the BBC may be better than things like Faux News and MSNBC in terms of neutrality, but at least north of the border they are anything but.

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      I can’t really comment on what goes on North of the border, but I feel some of your pain; being a Geordie we often get neglected from national news. Nowhere near to the extent that you seem to get it I must admit. 

      I’ve made a couple of other comments in this thread basically saying that I do think it is important the NSS fights these battles, but that they need to be careful they don’t damage their public image and therefore their other more pressing battles elsewhere. I’d prefer changes to TFTD but not at the expense or setbacks in lords reform or education reform for example.

  • Keith Collyer

    TFTD did allow Dawkins a slot a few years ago, but it was made pretty clear at the time that this was a one off.
    Most of the people on there are pretty harmless. The one I cannot abide is Anne Atkins, who comes across as a genuine foaming at the mouth nutter, even assuming you can actually follow her twisted logic. Apart from her, pretty much everyone else is well to the moderate side of their religion, and often the points they make are reasonable and well-made, only let down by relating them to magic man in the sky.

  • Guest

    The most shocking thing about this post was finding out that Britain still has anything left that devotes itself to a religious program.  Who in the world is it aimed at? 

    • http://twitter.com/davehodg Dave Hodgkinson

       We have an established church. Yes, it’s awful.

  • http://friendlyatheist.com Richard Wade

    Take a step back from this pervasive, and often unquestioned idea that small battles are not worth fighting.

    The fact that a battle is small and is easier to win is a good reason to fight it rather than a good reason to pass it by. Winning small battles has a cumulative effect:

    I once had an old, ugly, obsolete structure on my property that was built of cinder blocks. It was an obstructive nuisance, and it had to go. I didn’t have the funds for a bulldozer or a crane; all I had was a hammer and a chisel.  I only had the strength to lift and move one dismantled cinder block at a time.  If I had dismissed each cinder block as “a battle too small to fight,” then I’d still have that old, ugly, obsolete structure standing in my way.

    Guess what: It’s gone.

    • http://twitter.com/markdturner Mark Turner

      I agree that the small ones are easier to win, but I still think that tactically it is the wrong move at this time for NSS – education reform, faith schools and lords reform are at a critical stage that need public support. If the NSS damages its public reputation by appearing to be petty then that will damage those efforts. I’m not saying don’t pursue TFTD changes – just that things need to be done in the right way and in the right order.

  • Jimmy

    But it drives me crazy every morning listening to the theists. Surely we can have some sense occasionally in there?

    And please not Top Gear? please – anything but that climate denying, anti-science, misogynist, ableist bollox? How about a nice bit of In the Night Garden or something?

  • http://twitter.com/davehodg Dave Hodgkinson

    You misunderstand the BBC. The “corporation” is funded by the license fee to the tune of a couple of billion pounds a year. This is what pays for your Doctor Who and other programmes. It pays for regional programmes and the Olympic coverage we were privileged to have. The corporation has a mission to “inform, educate and entertain”.

    BBC Worldwide is a totally separate entity charged with making money from the rest of the world. You’re welcome. You get David Attenborough, Hitchhiker’s Guide and so much goodness at a bargain price.

    Having worked for the Corporation, I can say that everyone was at pains to be “fair and balanced”, inclusive and so on. In any company I’ve worked for, I’ve not seen so many “alternately abled” people working and fine jobs they did too.

    Leave the BBC alone. It’s GREAT.

  • http://twitter.com/davehodg Dave Hodgkinson

     Oh, but the TFTD thing is annoying.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish Cuttlefish

    How often does this question come up? I remember writing about it back in 2009.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/cuttlefish/2009/01/09/thought-for-the-day/

  • http://www.facebook.com/jsouthward James Southward

    Three words “Infinite Monkey Cage”. The BBC podcast it and it takes quite a different view of religion. (Well worth subscribing to! Back episodes available)

    • http://therecoveringcatholic.wordpress.com/ Georgina

       It is amazing! I download the podcasts *ahem* religiously.

  • http://therecoveringcatholic.wordpress.com/ Georgina

    Good post but I disagree that the NSS are wasting their time with this. The more that atheism is seen as equal is all parts of society, even in the entertainment/BBC sphere, the better. Why should we not be asked questions and be allowed to participate on TFTD? While it may not be “illegal” for atheists to be excluded, it certainly is a bit rude. Yes we have a state religion but that does not mean it has to permeate everything and affect free discussion and debate on the radio and TV.

    Also, I’m interested to know that the bigger battles are that the NSS should be fighting? As you said yourself, we’re not the US so our battles are often very different. Sure, equal marriage rights a definitely a big part of the current fight in this country but what else are we battling that isn’t the small stuff? NHS chaplaincy isn’t killing people but it is still a NSS campaign. Council prayers could be seen a petty but it is still listed as a campaign. Even ritual slaughter is listed, is this also a minor petty point? Many would argue that they are (I personally wouldn’t), but they are still being fought and they are still issues that need to be addressed.

    If atheists are not allowed to be represented by the BBC, then why aren’t atheists being given a reduction on their license fees? We all pay a massive amount of money for excellent programming, but it is still a big whack of cash. As a service provider, the BBC has an obligation to represent all of its fee payers, not just the religious ones. I think this is a fight worth fighting. As someone else said, the little battles often add up to a lot in the end. Plus, if we let this “minor” thing slide, what else are we letting go? 

  • Bernie

    Hi Mark,

    Did you listen to Aaqil Ahmed, Head of Religious Fuckwittery at the BBC on a recent  Feedback programme? This moron doesn’t believe TftD is controversial, it doesn’t seem to have penetrated his thick head that the very existence of an exclusively pro-religious slot in what is otherwise a current affairs programme  is itself highly controversial.

    Asked about the lack of balance this demonstrates, he replied “we don’t have balance, it doesn’t work like that”.

    Asked why religious programmes and speakers should be privileged in this way he replied “because it’s religious”. Later he said “it’s part of the Establishment”.

    He entirely failed to defend Thought for the Day, because it is indefensible. And yet on the say-so of this fuckwit, defending his own little empire, we’re told that this daily insult to rational listeners will continue in its present form.

    I think this is a good battle to fight, because it is symbolic, because winning it would have an impact, and because we can win it.

  • universal_cynic

    You say ‘Like it or not, the UK is a religious country’, yet the figures show this isn’t really the case if the religious make up slightly over half of the population. That’s something the BBC should recognise by giving the non-religious a voice in Thought for the Day on Radio 4 and even Pause for Thought on Radio 2. It’s only a couple of minutes and it would show people that we atheists also have positive messages to give.


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