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The BBC Trust's Thought for the Day ruling

Wednesday 18 November 2009, 10:46

Mark Damazer Mark Damazer

religion books

The Thought for The Day ruling by the BBC Trust was never going to be greeted with universal applause - or anything like it.

In a nutshell the Trust says that restricting Thought for the Day to speakers who espouse a faith does not breach the BBC's obligation to impartiality - but the Trustees say that it is up to the management to decide whether to include non-believers.

As I have said before I think it's a very finely balanced argument. I know humanists, agnostics and atheists are frustrated. They tell me so - loudly. (And mostly politely). But the slot has its merits. It is distinctive and even if you sometimes scream at the radio when it's on - and I have done this myself - it nevertheless often gives a sharply different perspective on the news - and thus can be stimulating. Maybe infuriating - but different.

One more thing before I duck for cover. We do many programmes and items on religious and ethical issues. There are many perspectives on offer - and many of them are not rooted in faith at all.

I discussed the state of play on Thought for the Day on yesterday's PM. Here it is:

Mark Damazer is Controller of BBC Radio 4


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  • rate this

    Comment number 1.

    I guess there's no spotting people who believe in made up things having a sincere belief in them, by definition.

    But thinking that there a better viewpoint from a number of old made-up stories is plain silly.

    It's a shame that non-believers pay most of the BBC's money and yet we have to have this crud every morning.

    Perhaps when we don't have a religious DG the BBC will start acting rationally.

  • rate this

    Comment number 2.

    This is a quality issue. The Today programme is important as an introduction at the start of the day to issues that matter and have a basis in fact. It's quality rests in the accuracy of its reporting and the integrity and relevance of its analysis. Amidst this come these few moments of sanctimonous claptrap for which it appears there is no quality control or editorial input. It appears that the contributors have comlete freedom to say whatever they like. All that is required is that they owe affinity to a power structure which is proud to be irrational. There are other problems with the Today programme but this slot really does it damage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I think the important question now facing BBC management is: Why should non-believers not be included? If no satisfactory answer to this question can be given, then non-believers should not be barred from appearing on the programme.

    Mr Damazer speaking on PM stated: "It's become better. It had a narrow range of speakers and we've broadened it."

    Broadening the range of contributors to the programme yet further to include non-believers would be a logical and just step. Non-believers also have insightful and challenging thoughts, and it is clear that many licence-fee payers would like to hear non-religious voices on Thought For The Day.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    Exactly what is it about religion that bestows upon its adherents, and nobody else, the ability to produce a worthy TFTD?

    Religious people are reluctant to think for themselves, otherwise they would not follow their parents' religion like sheep, and they are not fully rational because they hold supernatural beliefs. Their contributions may make "a sharply different perspective on the news", but I cannot remember the last TFTD which was interesting and reasonable, they are much more likely to be boring, unoriginal, and even stupid.

    What is wrong with having contributions from scientists, for example, who can provide a more rational and informative opinion on the news? It would surely be more distinctive and stimulating, partly because it is their own thinking and not based on some primitive and predictable mythology.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    It's a misnomer. I rarely, if ever come away from it any better informed or wiser and it never provides me with a "thought". Mostly I am irritated or annoyed by the sanctimonious tone, or the preachiness of it. I agree with Mr Clark, give us a scientist or other acedemic who can impart some knowledge, not this procession of fairy-tale believing propogandists.


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