An internal review has concluded — somewhat surprisingly and very unconvincingly — that the BBC is too Christian in its religious output.
The review said that the network should diversify to fit ‘the religious make-up’ of British society. Aaqil Ahmed, head of BBC’s religion and ethics department, has filed a report with the company’s director general, Lord Hall, describing the imbalance in the BBC’s religious output, the Sunday Times reports.
Ahmed said that Christianity still remained at the cornerstone of BBC output, but that Muslim, Hindu and Sikh programming should be increased. ‘We do look at the number of hours we produce, and measure that against the religious make-up of society’.
The number of Muslims in the UK hit three million for the first time in January this year. This represents one in 20 people across the country, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), which also found that in some parts of London nearly half the population is now Muslim. London now has a Muslim mayor; Sadiq Khan is the first Muslim mayor of a major Western city.
The head of BBC Religion is also Muslim. Ahmed moved to the corporation from Channel Four. His report is now being considered by Lord Hall, who is to decide how to deal with its apparently problematic findings.
Some religious figures have already commented on the possible changes to BBC content. Lord Carey, former Archbishop of Canterbury, said, ‘I don’t think our liberal establishment appreciates what Christianity has done for the nation, and how much of a bedrock it is for democracy and the values we believe in’.
Ibrahim Mogra, of the Muslim Council of Britain, was more enthusiastic, suggesting the broadcaster might televise Friday prayers from mosques and cover major festivals such as Eid. He noted, however, that‘We [Muslims] would not wish Christians to have any less exposure’.
Currently, BBC’s televised religion amounts to mostly Christian content, including the flagship Songs of Praise, Sunday Morning Live and Thought for the Day on Radio Four’s Today programme.