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Home Front - Omnibus - 25-29 May 1915
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The Moral Maze is 500. Tonight's programme at 8 p.m. is thus somewhat special - taking place in front of an audience. It is almost always live (and then repeated on Saturday nights at 2215) which gives it a certain sort of crackle. The subject tonight is suitably large - "Can a post-religious society be a moral society?"

The programme - like many of the best things on Radio 4 - divides opinion sharply. There are those who regard the heat/light ratio as inappropriate to a radio station that prides itself on reason, tolerance, and a certain temperate tone. There are those who dislike the avowedly adversarial format. And, of course, there are those who dislike particular members of the panel.

On the other hand - the combative tone can be fun (and nobody is forced to appear), it is a different way of examining contemporary concerns, it rarely leaves me (or many others) unengaged and shouting at the radio (which I do sometimes during transmission) is not a bad indicator of a programme's ability to stimulate thought. And Michael Buerk - after nearly twenty years - is very good at both stopping outbreaks of physical violence in the studio - and adding a certain stylish reasonableness.

From which you will gather that I am a fan.

Why not at 0900 - where it was for the first half of its life? Tricky. It would come after the Today programme - itself not without abrasion - and I think the feeling when it was moved was that there was a surfeit of argument on days when the Maze followed Today. It is far from an unreasonable point of view. As a result of the Maze's transfer - various other interview formats developed and have done well. One of them (The Choice) stars none other than Michael Buerk. So we have not got the room to do everything I'd like at 0900 and bring back The Maze. But the problem sits there... Meanwhile I am endeavouring to increase the profile of The Maze by trailing it more on the days of transmission. Michael's trails have a certain... relish.

Comments

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  • Comment number 30. Posted by ramagel

    on 26 Feb 2009 11:41

    Dear 'thepoetlauraeate':

    Couldn't you turn your excellently brief and perfectly cogent post (no 28) into a similarly brief poem - then we could have it read out at regular intervals during each issue of "Poetry Please".

    It might just stop me nodding off as I normally do: do the readers and presenters get special training to be THAT soporific?

    It could also be made mandatory to broadcast your poem to viewers and listeners before ANY program (or indeed utterance) which might cause offence to those who believe that religion occupies no more worthy a place in our lives than any other rationally-derived way of being.

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  • Comment number 29. Posted by ramagel

    on 26 Feb 2009 08:43

    Of all the output in this genre, this has to be the most listenable and - for me at least - actually provokes genuine thought about the topic being discussed rather than rage at the crass naivety of or lack of preparation by the interviewer/presenter.
    Compare the quality of the debate and hard information often (but not always) available herein with the dreadfully saccharine "Something Understood" (which I have NEVER understood and has me dashing to turn the damn radio off the moment it comes on); ANYTHING with that awful Bel Mooney struggling to make connections where none exist (what was it? Devout Sceptics? or "Desperate to be on the Radio Again"?); or with the pointless and irritating daily Christian prayer (echoes of a 1960s CofE Primary).

    Thought for the Day, however, can be an absolute hoot - especially with my favourite Rabbi - too many of the others simply try too hard to be topical and/or amusing.

    Yes, Claire come across as awful old harridan sometimes, but at least she comes from a place of some intellectual grounding rather than the playground spitefulness exhibited by "you know who" on "You and Yours".

    Oh well .... rant over. Thank you for quickly moving along

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  • Comment number 28. Posted by thepoetlauraeate

    on 23 Feb 2009 12:11

    Of course we do not need religion to be a moral society.

    Religion is just a man-made construct anyway and as faulty as any of the men who made it.

    http://thepoetlaura-eate.blogspot.com

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  • Comment number 27. Posted by Steve Bowbrick

    on 23 Feb 2009 00:59

    Hi everyone. Just for clarification, the Radio 4 blog is reactively moderated but you'll sometimes see a comment marked 'held for moderation' where that comment is from a new user. This automatic precaution helps prevent users from creating multiple accounts. It's the same across all BBC blogs and message boards.

    Steve Bowbrick, editor, Radio 4 blog

  • Comment number 26. Posted by time_for_lunch

    on 22 Feb 2009 20:49

    Jem/Mark,


    This was my first time listening to TMM. Overall I enjoyed the program, although I must say I found it hard work when Claire came on as she always sounded so agressive.

    The moral maze is much better than Thought for the Day could ever be. I am a bit bedazzled that you don't think (for instance) Michael Portillo could make a well-structured statement any better than he could make a well-structured argument in Maze though. Maze is a much more challenging arena for anyone's opinions.

    Please give secular voices the same respect as they were offered in Maze.

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  • Comment number 25. Posted by Miss Terri Poster (NOT)

    on 21 Feb 2009 23:43

    Why is this blog being 'advertised' - immediately above the 'Comment' box - as "reactively moderated".

    This is not a truthful statement.

    Bliogs and message boards which are reactively moderated have comments checked "only if a complaint is made"; yet, comments posted here are initially designated as 'awaiting moderation'.

    So, not only not "reactive moderation" but not even "post-moderation" (where comments are published immediately but checked some time thereafter); instead, we are subjected to "pre-moderation."

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  • Comment number 24. Posted by Miss Terri Poster (NOT)

    on 21 Feb 2009 23:37

    #23, newlach wrote:

    "The anticipated response of the audience might act to curtail questions or comments of a ridiculous nature being asked or made. "

    I agree with this comment, and feel it provides adequate counsel as to why The Moral Maze should NEVER be recorded before an audience.

    There is no point to debating issues of morality, if the panellists are subjected to group pressure not to give voice to outlandish or extreme views.

    ... and it would be oh such a very boring radio programme!

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  • Comment number 23. Posted by newlach

    on 21 Feb 2009 22:11

    Thought For The Day

    Thank you Jem for posting a link to all those comments critical of TFTD.

    The Moral Maze

    I enjoyed listening to The Moral Maze, and am going to have a second helping in 5 minutes time. I think it is good when the show is recorded in the presence of an educated audience. The anticipated response of the audience might act to curtail questions or comments of a ridiculous nature being asked or made.

    The last edition I remember which was before a live audience brought howls of derision from the audience when Melanie Phillips questioned Darwin's theory of evolution. She used the discredited analogy of a wind blowing through a scrapyard to create a jumbo jet. In the studio her nonsense would not have come over so clearly.

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  • Comment number 22. Posted by BernieR

    on 20 Feb 2009 21:33

    Beddgelert,

    I am perfectly happy to tolerate religion in its proper place, that is to say, in private.

    If it appears in the public sphere I feel at liberty to express my disagreement with it within the limits of the law. This is a public discussion, about the behaviour of the public service broadcaster.

    There's an important distinction between tolerance of people and tolerance of ideas. I guess expressing intolerance of people would break the rules of the forum. Intolerance of stupid, damaging ideas is still perfectly legal.

    I'm not imagining no religion like Lennon, I'm imagining it put in its proper place. At the moment in this country religion is too much in the public sphere, notably in education and in politics.

    Religion depends on conning and bullying people into giving it a respect and privilege it doesn't deserve, it unreasonably demands the sort of insulation Mark gives it in the Thought for the Day slot, seats in parliament, compulsory worship (!!!) in schools.

    I don't accept that I have to tolerate religion intruding that far into my life.








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  • Comment number 21. Posted by lordBeddGelert

    on 20 Feb 2009 18:34

    Mind you, BernieR may have a point that it is not really possible to have the 'Teflon Tony' view of 'Drawing All Faiths Together' [daft-ness..] all-roads-lead-to-god with a small 'g' inclusivity in a world of monotheistic religions, but while we wait for a couple of thousand years for the John Lennon 'Imagine' culture to take over, I do think we have to be a little bit tolerant to people with views different to our own.

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