BBC's Godslot: 'Deeply boring' but popular with listeners

BBC's Godslot: 'Deeply boring' but popular with listeners November 1, 2017

A poll being run by the BBC that asks ‘Does Thought for The Day still have a place on the Today programme?’ today shows that more than 46 percent of listeners want it kept ‘exactly as it is.’
The poll was launched after veteran British broadcaster John Humphrys, above, ignited a fresh row over TFTD when he described its content as “deeply, deeply boring.”

For decades, Radio 4’s Godslot has been regarded as sacrosanct by BBC and all efforts to scrap it, or open it up to secular voices have been imperiously brushed aside. Interviewed last night on Radio 4, Keith Porteous Wood, Executive Director of the National Secular Society, said that the NSS has been complaining about the TFTD for 50 years, and added that it should either be ditched or reformed, but preferably scrapped. The NSS carried a piece about it here.
Giles Fraser
Humphrys’ comments gave regular TFTD contributor Giles Fraser, the priest-in-charge at St Mary’s Newington in south London and the former canon chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedral, an opening to pen a piece for the Guardian in which he said:

A culture of sniggering contempt towards religion is endemic within the BBC. And one acceptable way of demonstrating this is to slag off Thought for the Day.

He added that TFTD has become:

A totem of the BBC’s attitude towards faith generally – that it is an embarrassing relative it has had to invite to the party, but one who can be made to sit in the corner, and about whom it is acceptable to make jokes. To the overpaid panjandrums of the BBC, religion is for the little people, for the stupid and the gullible. 

And he blathered on:

Personally, I don’t see the problem with having a slot ringfenced for a particular subject such as religion. The BBC has several for football, and for science. And then there’s Woman’s Hour. And quite right too. But for some reason, the very presence of religion, even at the homeopathic levels at which it is entertained by the BBC, is perceived as some sort of insult to the precious, godless secularity of the news.
But the news isn’t godless – just the people who report on it. About 31% of people in the world are Christians. About 24% are Muslims. About 15% are Hindus. The vast majority of the people on this planet believe in some sort of God. These faiths, and many numerically smaller ones, have shaped world history, ethics, politics and culture like no other force known to humankind. And, for good or ill, people still live and die for their faith. Quite simply, you cannot understand the world unless you understand something about the way that faith functions in the lives of its adherents.

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  • Johan

    Giles is an overblown clown in a dog collar. He is on the loosing side in all this and he knows it,so blathers, obfuscates and it has to be said, tells lies in defiance against common sense, rationality and secular values. And Giles I for one am happy to keep the privileged anachronism that is TFTD just as it is, exclusively for those that know the mind of their gods, but only because every day it is a showcase for the stupendous vapidity, primitive ignorance,arrogance, mediocrity and dishonesty of such second rate thinkers. Giles, like all TFTD presenters, really must do the christian thing and be truly humble as accords with his intellect.

  • barriejohn

    Johan: “Thinkers”? You really do flatter them!
    Whatever way you look at the poll, the majority are DISSATISFIED with the programme, but the BBC will never accept this. Anyone who has ever had the misfortune to tune in to an edition of Points of View or Newswatch will comprehend the utter patronising contempt with which the corporation regards “silly viewers” who have the audacity to complain about its output, which is, of course, above criticism. I can tell you now that nothing will come of this brouhaha, once again.

  • Johan

    Oh, and the hackneyed cliche photograph of a man in front of shelves laden with books always fails to convey a sense of learned wisdom.

  • Stephen Mynett

    Johan, I suspect the only person to have read most of those books will be his cleaner when they are being dusted.

  • H3r3tic

    My complaint about TFTD is the inclusion of the word “thought” in the title alongside the exclusion of non-religious viewpoints. To my mind this would suggest only a religious mindset is capable of providing aural food for thought. If the BBC were to change the name of the slot to Prayer for the Day, or perhaps Sanctimonious Fuckwittery for the Day I would have no issue with it.

  • Stephen Mynett

    The BBC will not change unless they are really threatened with force, the government enforcing a big reduction in licence fee or something like that.
    I know many people who have complained about various things the BBC have done but if they received a response it was nearly always condescending and might as well have read “we are right and too intelligent for you to understand,” as that was the gist of their various excuses.

  • Angela_K

    The issue I have with TFTD is that this odious three minutes of nonsense interrupts the BBC’s flagship news programme. What on earth does the god-slot have to do with news and current affairs, the news programme that frequently reports the toxic effect of religion whether that be slaughter or child abuse. Imagine the outcry if some major sport programme was robbed of time to include oleaginous religious platitudes. I’m certain our supine government, packed with god-squad members as it is, will not intervene to make the BBC more representative of the population.

  • Graham Martin-Royle

    Don’t forget “pause for thought”, another trite god slot that has no place and no meaning on the radio.

  • CoastalMaineBird

    more than 46 percent of listeners want it kept
    Well, duh. Not really a valid use of polling.
    If you poll the people who listen to a program, you’re bound to get an outsize sample who like it – those who don’t like it AREN’T LISTENERS !

  • Broga

    CoastalMaineBird : Good point. They didn’t poll me.
    John Humphreys opts for agnosticism on the basis that we cannot know whether or not God exists. But what God does he mean? As he says this within the context of TFTD then he must mean the Christian God whose character is revealed in the bible. In that case the likelihood of such a God existing is vanishingly small and that is being generous.
    Giles”of the books” Fraser is an excellent representative for TFTD – an exponent of religious verbiage which cannot be regarded seriously.

  • Stonyground

    Is everyone here aware of the Rev. Peter Hearty’s wonderful blog which offers a platform for anyone who wants to let off steam after listening to this daily offering of drivel?

  • AgentCormac

    @Graham Martin-Royle
    Agreed. I don’t know how Chris Evans gets away with having his own daily version of TFTD at the licence fee payers’ expense. It’s yet another propaganda platform for the religiots to disseminate their nonsense to millions of people without fear of censorship or debate. And Evans just laps its all up – especially when his own personal god gurus, Archbishop John Sentamu and Reverend Kate Bottley are given free access to the mic. Nausea-inducing broadcasting in the extreme.

  • barriejohn

    When I was in town the other day, the vicar was walking down the High Street wearing a long black coat, dog collar not visible. As he progressed, he was smiling inanely at everyone he passed, obviously thinking that they all knew who he was, and most just gave him a funny look as much as to say: “Who’s that odd chap grinning at us?”. It really pisses me off that Anglican clergy consider that we are all members of their “flock”, whether we attend their lunatic asylums or not, and think that they have some responsibility for us. I’m afraid it is this presumption that is responsible for TFTD (and Evans’s nonsense) interrupting radio programmes, and for that little line of Pontipines that will emerge to take its place at the Cenotaph in few days’ time, and for the endless hymn-singing and meaningless prayers at the Festival of Remembrance the night before (is the British Legion a religious organization?). As long as the sovereign remains head of the church, and the CofE remains the established church, this sort of thing will continue, and they are not going to give up their privilege and power without a fight!

  • AgentCormac

    @ barriejohn
    Living as I do these days in rural parts, we have a vicar whose ‘patch’ includes a number of local villages. She tips up at pretty much every kind of community event, smiling in exactly the way you have described and happily making herself the centre of attention in any way she can. Sadly, there are a good number of obsequious people in these parts who fawn over her and seem to think that being seen with her is a show of standing and respectability. Personally, I try to make eye contact with her as often as I can and then immediately look away with an expression of disgust on my face. You can tell she doesn’t like it. Which of course encourages me to do it even more.

  • andym

    @ H3r3tic There already is a “Prayer for the Day” at 5.45-really worth putting the alarm on for. If anything it’s even more vapid than TftD.
    Fraser is being consistent with the history of his religion. If people fail to get the message of their religion, it can never be that the message or its delivery is faulty.It’s always the fault of us lazy sinners.

  • Brian Jordan

    Radio 3 isn’t a safe zone either – there’s Choral Evensong to be avoided for a solid hour twice a week.

  • Angela_K

    Brian Jordan. Yes, that makes me change stations too. Also BBC local radio is infested with god nonsense Sunday mornings.

  • Broga

    andym: I listened to Prayer for Today this morning and it was as good i.e. bad, as you said. Some vicar, I think she was called Stalky(?) wittered on about the dangers reporters face in war zones.
    I wondered how she was going to get the God bit inserted. No problem, the need to ease in with a link would be too much trouble, and she just switched during the last 20 seconds to some quotes of what Jesus was supposed to have said.
    I knew it was even worse than I thought when my dog, notoriously indifferent to religion, pawed at my leg . I concluded he was telling me he could take no more. However he wanted go outside to pee so I can’t be sure.

  • 1859

    46% want no change, therefore 54% (a majority) do want change (either no TFTD or one that includes a secular viewpoint). So if democracy is to prevail, as I think it should, the BBC must CHANGE it.

  • Stuart H.

    I suspect there’s a much better way to get TFTD off the BBC.
    Instead of demanding that it’s opened up to the non-religious or taken off air, simply demand that the BBC stops paying the contributors. They’re already professional religionists, so why is the general public being made to pay them twice to air what are effectively adverts for loony tune cults? I’ll bet most – maybe all – would suddenly find their diaries mysteriously fuller if there was no nice little cheque in the post. Think about it, if this was commercial radio, these twonks would be paying the station to spew their PR!
    My local radio has included non-religious voices for around 15 years now, and at one point the station was such a shoestring job that not only the contributors, but even the engineers, were community volunteers. As I never tire of pointing out to the Beeb each time this question comes up, even an operation run by enthusiastic amateurs like me makes the BBC version sound like the out-takes from some sad small town hospital radio station. And yet we either pay the Beeb around £150 in licence fees annually or end up in court?