Religion on Radio 1
Radio 1's attitude to religion has attracted a few headlines this week. The Trust is being asked to look at how much religious programming Radio 1 offers to its 10 million plus young listeners - Bishops lined up to say we should do more. One soon-to-be ordained priest fired a shot at our news bulletins saying that on Easter Sunday there had been no mention of, well... God.
Two issues here: so I'll leave the bigger "How Much God for Radio 1" to one side for the network bosses and the Trust to debate, and tackle the news agenda issue. In short Arun Arora, a Newsbeat listener, said he'd heard no mention of Easter on Radio 1 bulletins while listening on Easter Sunday...
- "While every other BBC news bulletin made reference to the Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Archbishop of York, there was no mention on Radio 1. You would not have known, listening to Radio 1, what Easter was about, or the fact that Easter was a Christian festival just by listening to Radio 1."
So has he got a point?
Do we mention Diwali, Ede or Passover - or Christmas Day - just for the sake of it? In my view, no. To be a news story there has got to be something happening. That something needs to be interesting, relevant and significant for the target audience. Clearly a statement from the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury may be highly relevant and interesting for some audiences - but not for others.
Like it or not, our audience research demonstrates what most of us instinctively feel - that organised Christian religion isn't exactly, well, massive for younger audiences. It currently rates near the very bottom of a list of subject areas under 30s want to hear more about, according to work commissioned by BBC News.
On the day in question there were some very interesting news stories around competing for attention: The 15 sailors and Marines held captive by Iran had been told they could sell their stories to the media, and a storm was breaking over that decision. The Mujahedeen Army had posted a message on the internet claiming responsibility for a roadside bomb that killed four British soldiers in Iraq. Nato forces were claiming success against the Taleban in Afghanistan, we carried a police appeal over the stabbing of a teenager in south London, there was a Grand Prix and Premiership action - and just a couple of minutes an hour or less to cram it all into. For my money, the Easter messages just didn't cut the mustard.
Does this make us anti-religion? No. Recently we've made documentaries about sexual abstinence linked to religious belief and are making another about forgiveness. We've tracked the growth of Islam among young Britons and its impact on aspects of modern life and will continue to cover and uncover stories with a religious or moral theme.
But God-slots by date doesn't feel right. I guess it's eternal damnation for me if He doesn't agree though.