BBC RE:THINK 2012: What Does Britain Believe?

Head of BBC Religion & Ethics

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Over the past few years I have noticed how religion as a subject has crept into more and more debates and festivals with one exception, the media.

TV festivals in particular have a strange ostrich-like relationship with the subject but the country as a whole doesn't seem to agree. For them it's here in our lives and it needs to be understood, debated and packaged in a way best suited for their changing needs and tastes.

That's the genesis of BBC RE:THINK 2012. It's an attempt to fuse the growing interest in the subject if not necessarily the practise of religion with how it's reported on television, radio and online. Not only is it clearly a space that the BBC, as the largest provider of religion & ethics programming, should occupy but also what better place to hold it than in the heart of its religious production community, BBC North in Salford

Taking part in and attending BBC RE: THINK 2012 will be other broadcasters, independent producers, journalists, academics, clergy, opinion formers and members of the public. It's a unique opportunity to bring all of us together for the first time.

Across the two days there should be something for everyone. From a must-watch conversation between the Chief Rabbi and Richard Dawkins, festival specials of The Moral Maze and The Big Questions to standing room-only master classes from Bettany Hughes and Jeremy Bowen there should be something for everyone.
 
The diverse nature of the subjects covered will help us explore the festivals strap line 'What does Britain believe?' Academic and broadcaster Robert Beckford will chair a panel that explores exactly this question in relation to the views of young people. This debate will reveal the findings of a startling survey commissioned for the festival. It reveals that 59% of 16-24 year olds believe that looking after family was the most important moral issue for them. Only 4% said having religious faith or beliefs was the most important moral issue.

The respondents were asked to rank eight issues in order of importance, religious faith or belief was considered to be least important  by almost one third (32%) of the respondents. This was followed by 22% who said buying ethical products was the least important, and 15% who put paying taxes at the bottom of their moral list.

Radio, TV and online programming is also central to the festival - from last weekends episodes of Sunday on BBC Radio 4 and Sunday morning live on BBC One (both still available on  the BBC iPlayer) debating the findings of the BBC RE:THINK 2012 survey to a new three part series on BBC Two, Dead Good Job, launching on the 12th of September at 9pm. This series looks at the burial business in 21st century Britain and explores how many of us now deal with burying our loved ones in a changing diverse nation.  

This series and others like it such as Strictly Kosher on ITV, The Bishop and the Prisoner on BBC Radio 4 and Making Bradford British on Channel 4 get to heart of what we want to explore during this the first of what I hope will many more RE:THINK festivals.

Religion and belief in the UK and how we portray it on television and radio is evolving. Old fashioned arguments about broadcast hours twenty years ago or how many ex theology students worked on a show are largely irrelevant to today's audience.

Our shows need to have impact and relevance and from The Life of Muhammad to Thought for the Day we have shown that it can still be the case. 

It's your output, help all broadcasters, not just the BBC, ensure we make it fit for purpose not just for today but for the future.

BBC RE:THINK 2012 Festival runs from 12 to 13 September 2012. You can follow the events live online and follow the discussion on Twitter with with the hashtag #bbcrethink

The festival forms part of BBC North’s autumn season of events and programming, which Director Peter Salmon wrote about on this blog yesterday

Further detail about the results of the BBC RE:THINK 2012 poll can be found on the BBC Media Centre website

Follow @AbouttheBBC on Twitter for updates.

 

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