Roger Bolton, presenter of Radio 4’s Feedback, today called for BBC News to appoint an editor for religion, as it has for business and finance.
Bolton said the BBC needed such an appointment to improve its coverage of religious affairs but also bring a spiritual perspective to general news stories.
“I believe BBC News similarly requires a religion editor, able to appear on the networks to interpret the latest religious story at home and abroad, but more importantly to bring a religious perspective to the vast range of areas such as foreign affairs and medical dilemmas where that perspective is so often, and so bafflingly, absent, both on air and behind the scenes in internal editorial discussions,” he added, speaking at the annual Sandford St Martin Trust awards for religious broadcasting, at Lambeth Palace, where he chaired the judging of television programmes.
The judges, though delighted by the quality of entries, noted that the overall number of TV entries was down ??? from 43 five years ago to just 27.
“With no entries to the main Sandford Awards from either the ITV Network, Sky or Channel Five, it’s tempting to lay blame in the virtual elimination of public service regulation in the commercial sector as well as perhaps a lack of imagination among commissioners generally,” Bolton said.
“But even at the BBC, television (unlike BBC radio) seems to be in the hands of the secular and sceptical, who view religious coverage as a rather tiresome obligation to be minimised rather than a rich and promising area to explore One can certainly pick cherries from the corporation’s television cake, and there are often very succulent ones such as the recent series on Sacred Music presented by Simon Russell Beale, though that was commissioned by a minority channel, BBC4, which has just had its budget cut back.
“The BBC also has a relatively new commissioning editor of religion, Aaqil Ahmed, with a proven record of success in his previous job at Channel 4, but his playing field is more the size of a fives court than a football pitch.”
Rabbi Roderick Young, chairman of the radio awards, said that though there a tendency to stick to well-known topics, “the quality of all 15 (radio programmes judged) was outstanding. “To choose four was quite simply painful,” he added.
A full list of winners follows.
Rabbi Lionel Blue was presented with a special personal award for more than 30 years of contributions to Thought for The Day
Winner: The Bible, Howard Jacobson’s episode on his loss of faith (Channel 4)
Runner up: History of Christianity, episode 1 (BBC4), presented by historian Professor Diarmid MacCulloch, also the winner of the Radio Times readers’ award
Merits: 1984: A Sikh’s Story (BBC2); Did Darwin Kill God? (BBC2)
Winner: Two Sisters: Two Faiths (Radio 4)
Runner up: The Understanding (Radio 4)
Merits: Treasures out of Darkness, from the All Things Considered series (BBC Wales); Dear God (BBC Coventry & Warwickshire); Something Understood presented by Mark Tully in conversation with Jean Vanier (Radio 4)
Does BBC TV News need a “Religion Editor” Discuss