There was a short debate in the House of Lords this afternoon on BBC Charter renewal. Allotted one hour, this meant that each speaker was limited to one minute. In the event the debate ended after 45 minutes with a good deal of frustration about process.
I wished to make three essential points for consideration, but, having agreed with points made strongly by previous speakers, limited myself to one.
There was strong support for (a) the independence of the BBC from government or political interference – an independence that must be guaranteed by establishing renewed governance that does not allow for a majority of board members to be appointed by government, (b) proper funding of the BBC by the licence fee, (c) transparency in the BBC's decision making – therefore, no deals between a pressurised Director General and the Chancellor over licence fee or who pays for pensioners, and (d) continuation of the public service remit.
I simply made a point no one else was going to make. It wasn't a matter of special pleading – were I an atheist, I would make the same point.
The BBC has three Reithian 'purposes': inform, entertain, educate. I proposed a fourth: interpret. The world needs to be interpreted, not just reported. And to do this effectively, the lens of those being reported to needs to be looked through and understood. This means that religion needs to be taken more seriously by the BBC in its future shape and remit. Religion is a primary motivator of individuals and communities, inspiring and informing their political, economic, ethical and social behaviour (probably also their emotional engagement with what is going on in the world and in them).
The BBC, therefore, needs more religion, not less. Ofcom expressed concern about just this in July 2015.
(I chair the Sandford St Martin Trust and, along with others, remain concerned about this.)