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Religion on Radio 1

Rod McKenzie Rod McKenzie | 18:18 UK time, Friday, 27 April 2007

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.

Radio One logoTwo 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.


Exactly. I'm a Catholic, I know when Easter is and I know where to get the Message from the Pope aswell.

Radio 1 is there to essentially give people the News from Subjects they want to hear from and while I'm listening to Radio 1 in the Morning trying to have a Laugh and a Joke.

I don't want to hear a two hour message from the Pope how the World is going down the Pan, I'll save that excitement for later.

Although I might be slightly bias, I think all Religous Activity should be a Private affair, granted mention if it's a Holy Day to inform others but beyond that it's just pointless.

Stick to what you are good at, don't try to appeal to Religous Leaders just listen to your Audience.

  • 2.
  • At 11:41 PM on 27 Apr 2007,
  • Jen wrote:

Absolutely Rod,
nobody wants reminding about the religion that this country, our way of life and that of the civilised world was founded on any more!!! For pity's sake how repugnant! Thank goodness your still making fawning documentaries about Islam for the betterment of us all though !!

Well a few people gathered on St. Peter's Square and a lot of them were young people. That sort of thing happens every Easter Sunday you might say, but it's still just once a year. By your logic of something has actually have to happen for it to be included in the news the Easter Sunday mass on St. Peter's square should have been included, I think.

Well, no blood was spilled, no controversy broke out so you might have a point after all.

  • 4.
  • At 02:18 AM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • Mark Bell wrote:

If Christians need Radio 1 to communicate their holiest of messages to the youth of today then I would suggest that the eternal truth might just be feeling a little less eternal what with all the empty pews and all.

So an editor feels, "For my money, the Easter messages just didn't cut the mustard."
The headlines of the day could have read "Tomb empty!" or "Dead man alive again!" Those are the Easter headlines proclaimed by the church through the centuries. Those are the headlines which shape the lives of one third of the people of the world (the Christians). Those are the headlines for which martyrs suffered persecution and death, and for which Christians are still imprisoned and tortured and murdered in some countries today.
Events in Iran and Iraq and Afghanistan and London are important. Sports results are interesting. But the life-changing Easter message that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is alive today, for my money, now THAT really cuts the mustard!

  • 6.
  • At 08:45 AM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • PeeVeeAh wrote:

"Sustained!", here, Rod!

With no intention to offend believers of any faith: Easter is one of the big marketing opportunities for the Christian denominations. God and Co. need to refresh the hearts-and-minds promo very frequently - there's always lots of 'for instance's to use in the missionary putsch.

The relevance of Radio 1 carrying 'the message' is that youngsters are the next generation of 'believers' and - without their alignment to the brand - there will be no ongoing messengers. In the West, it seems that the competition is hotting-up, what with the demographic freedom of the first- and increasingly second-world population, and there are competing brands - not just lines in the same product range!

It's a question of growing the market share. Any (bit-)Stream Will Do!

  • 7.
  • At 09:56 AM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • Frederick Serjeant wrote:

You conclude your comments:
"But God-slots by date doesn't feel right. I guess it's eternal damnation for me if He doesn't agree though."

Rod - I suppose you think that's funny.

I find it far from funny. I find it both pathetic and sad! But then, I am an "evangelical Christian" which means, of course, that my views don't count. Just lump me in with those labelled "fundamentalists" and the BBC can dismiss me and those like me and rarely, if ever give those of us who hold to a "Reformed Evangelical Christian viewpoint" air time on any channel.

  • 8.
  • At 10:39 AM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • Jack Barber wrote:

I was interested to read this comment from Rod McKenzie. I am a Christian, but don't feel it is important for secular radio stations to mention Christian, or any other religous holidays on-air. However, when Rod wrote: "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" he really hit the nail on the head of Christianity! Easter celebrates the death and resurection of Jesus which results in Christians (any human who accepts Jesus) being able to enter Heaven when they die. This is something which is happening, it is something which is interesting, it is relevant today and it is significant for all humans, let alone the 'target audience'!

"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." - The Bible.

Personally, I want to have as little religion 'inflicted' upon me as possible.

Speaking in terms of demographics, the vast majority of Radio 1 listeners are not Christian.

The vast majority of people in this country are not Christian.

What people tend to ignore though is that we've all been given the Christianity line as children and most of us reject it, as we do other organised religion.

There is no place for a sermon or lecture on stations such as Radio 1.

That said, I would just like to comment further on this -

"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."

I do think its important that the BBC remember that it shouldn't just listen to focus groups and surveys, often there is an important story that your listeners might not say they're interested in but still should know about.

  • 10.
  • At 11:57 AM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • Freya wrote:

On the whole I do agree that it is not 'right' for the Radio 1 audience, but I do remember listening that day and one of the presenters didn't know whether Easter Sunday was the day Jesus was buried, or rose again, and there was a bit of 'funny banter' over the fact that she couldn't remember. I'm by no means religious, being a non-practising Christian, but I did think at the time that this was quite rude and slightly offensive (If she didn't know, she shouldn't have mentioned it, let alone make light of it)- I couldn't help thinking that had they been 'joking' about an Islamic celebration there may have been more than a few complaints.

  • 11.
  • At 02:49 PM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • angelofthenorth wrote:

Why not look at more general spirituality - possibly the pagan roots of the festival? Quite a lot of teenagers are interested in spirituality, but are switched off from Christianity (understandably).

I've been helping out at youth clubs and christian youth groups for the last 5 years, friends of mine have for the last 15, and I'm under 30 myself.

There's a lot of Christian influences in American music - Kanye West's Jesus Walks for example, and all of Mary Mary's stuff. Looking at this sort of side of it all, rather than the "approved message" would be interesting.

It dawned on me having just sat through 2 hours of the British Crime Survey (with a delightful person from the Home Office) that at least a third of the survey was structured around youth and their social behaviour. Perhaps issues of anti-social behaviour and youth crime and the connection they have with 'social morality' is a reason why the Bishops and priests have been commenting on the lack of religious input in BBC Radio 1 output! It seems that the young citizens have been on the receiving-end of much social criticism, rightly or wrongly, for some time. I am sure that the BBC will contemplate the issue of 'social morality' in the present and future, as it is a key factor in citizenship education within the England and Wales. Citizenship (and therefore social morality) is also part of the BBC Charter. Whether 'social morality' is 'preached' by the priests or the national broadcasters it cannot be ignored - especially if we consider the ethnic minority population in Britain is fastest growing community and national government will need to forge shared moral values amongst all.

  • 13.
  • At 08:07 PM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • Sam wrote:

As the BBC is effetively a branch of the government religeon has no place in it unless as you say it is particularly relevant to somthing in the headlines.

So mentioning god for the sake of it on a sunday has no place in my opinion.

If religeous types want to listen to religeous radio they can tune to there own stations.

So in short the BBC shouldn't be affiliated to any religeon for the same reason the government doesn't.

Trouble is though of course the BBC will often do muslim stories when the headlines don't warrant it.

  • 14.
  • At 08:14 PM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • GA wrote:

But this is the BBC through and through, putting minority religions first.

When I was growing up I got so fed up with inconsistancy of the radio 1 news (and Jo whiley!!) that I simply turned off.

I now haven't listened to Radio 1 in years.

GA - Essex - 24Yo

  • 15.
  • At 11:32 PM on 28 Apr 2007,
  • Martin Rathfelder wrote:

Why would anyone think that a God who is omnipresent and omniscient would worry at all about celebrating anniversaries?

  • 16.
  • At 09:05 AM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • Martin wrote:

Just why are the BBC meant to cover something which doesn't exist?

  • 17.
  • At 10:23 AM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • Paul Owen wrote:

I wholeheartedly agree. If people want to hear about Easter or religion they can always change station. It isn't as if the BBC does not provide this service. What the Bishops want is for Radio One to proselytise on their behalf to an audience they are afraid of losing. If the audience don't want to hear it then Radio One shouldn't do it, any more than they would play the latest record by Cliff Richard.

Agreed here. Your output should be geared towards your viewers and listeners. Religious news stories on Radio 1? Sure, if they are newsworthy for the audience, and only if that is the case.

  • 19.
  • At 12:32 PM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • Richard Morris wrote:

"For my money, the Easter messages just didn't cut the mustard."

Agree totally. Easter may be important to believers but it's not news. Nor are the predictable and pompous speeches coming from the bishops.

  • 20.
  • At 04:30 PM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • John Sperling wrote:

..."God slots by date"...
Funny way to address the holiday of Easter isn't it?
I suppose that Radio One can do as it pleases for ratings, but Easter isn't just some "random date" for news of religion. It's a celebration of sorts if you are of Christian beliefs, and not something to just report on when convenient.
It wouldn't "feel right" on any other day. I'm sure "He" doesn't agree with you at all, but it is your choice...

  • 21.
  • At 07:17 PM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • alex r wrote:

am I not religious, but the simple fact is that you cannot draw an equivalence between christianity and any other religion. this country is a christian country. the culture is rooted in christianity. you can't shy away from that or choose not to reflect that for fear of upsetting a small minority.

  • 22.
  • At 09:17 PM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • Steve Johnson wrote:

Frankly, the less religious guff I have to be subjected to the better. If I wanted to listen to fiction I'd buy an audio book.

Surely true believers wouldn't be doing anything so frivolous as listening to radio 1 on easter anyway? So who cares?

  • 24.
  • At 10:58 PM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • gm wrote:

Radio 1 News is generally a broadcast version of the Sun, with a bit of 'Hello' mixed in, so it was with surprise and hesitant joy that I read in Rod's blog that Easter was competing with so many serious news stories.

I suspect, on balance, that Rod McKenzie is right about the place of religious news on his station, although I'm not convinced that just because under-30s don't want to hear about it is very good reasoning for an arm of the BBC, which once had quite high-minded ideas about what to broadcast. The under-30s would probably be happy with no news at all, so if you are simply going to cater for the lowest common denominator of what people want, you should probably abolish the news on Radio 1 altogether, and just leave your DJ's to spout commonplace celebrity gossip.

Oh, and the rather snidey end comment was, I think, a little unnecessary - but it was a helpful insight into the mind of the man who dictates Radio 1 News.

  • 25.
  • At 11:04 PM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • Douglas wrote:

Easter is a secular holiday based around a day off and chocolate - ask any of the millions that celebrated it exactly that way. The Cadbury family has more prominence than this mythical 'god' figure.

You report what's newsworthy and relevant to the country - organised religion simply aint.

  • 26.
  • At 11:22 PM on 29 Apr 2007,
  • Mark E wrote:

Perhaps if you do mention Easter next year you could point out that it was actually a pagan festival that the Christians adapted for their needs.

There is no historical proof for the resurrection, just as there is no proof of the existence of god.

  • 27.
  • At 10:21 AM on 30 Apr 2007,
  • Will wrote:

With the greatest respect to believers, the whole Easter story is not neccessarily fact. It's an ancient story which has been carried through the bible for centuries. It falls into the category of opinion more than fact so it should not be spoken about in the news. We all know what Easter is about.

  • 28.
  • At 10:34 AM on 30 Apr 2007,
  • Nerys Madhavan wrote:

1. Yes I agree with you that it was not really important to mention the celebrations for Easter.
2. I would like to hear more stories about other religions other than Islam for a change, its getting a bit boring nowadays.
3. Just to make a point, the majority of Christian youth, attend evangelical churches such as Elim, A.O.G, Baptist ect and not C of E. They do matter, they do have an opinion and they do have a voice in this country. And there are a lot more of them than you think.


  • 29.
  • At 01:25 PM on 30 Apr 2007,
  • Hannah Alsters wrote:

Radio One is a music channel for all young people, music being the one thing that unites them, whatever their religion.

Broadcasting religious messages on Radio One would alienate the young people who the channel is aimed at and they will switch over to another, commercial channel to listen to their music.

Keep the religious messages (from whatever religion) off a station for music.

  • 30.
  • At 04:27 PM on 30 Apr 2007,
  • John R wrote:

Frankly I'm baffled by all those who are now claiming that the BBC is anti-Christian because it didn't mention Easter or God on Radio 1, when there was ample reference to both on other BBC radio and television stations including the broadcast of a full Church of England service on Radio 4 and a Songs of Praise Easter special on television.

Some people are never satisfied, I guess.

  • 31.
  • At 07:33 PM on 30 Apr 2007,
  • Eve S wrote:

As a young Christian who finds Radio 1 frustratingly shallow, I consider not making Easter a news item to be a perfectly justifiable editorial decision; unlike the BBC, most people can tell the difference between what's in the news and what's important, and they don't have to be the same thing. It's the flippant tone of your last comment which convinces me that you don't actually take the concerns of Christians seriously. I'd rather you didn't cover religious matters on Radio 1 if you're only going to do so in an shallow and cynical way - it's just tiresome, and it underestimates the intelligence of your audience.

  • 32.
  • At 10:12 PM on 30 Apr 2007,
  • Eric wrote:

Rod says "God-slots by date doesn't feel right. I guess it's eternal damnation for me if He doesn't agree though."
But - why "He"?
Why assume that there's only one god, and that it would be a male one?
It could be that Kali or Loki is the one we all meet if there is a life after death.
I think the odds are that we'll never find out, though. It always seems unfair that, if there is a god, I'll find out who she is; but that, if there aren't, any all those god-botherers will never know how wrong they were.

  • 33.
  • At 10:56 AM on 01 May 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

Rev Peter Thomas Wrote:
"But the life-changing Easter message that Jesus Christ rose from the dead and is alive today"

Is he? prove it!

Jack Barber wrote:
"Easter celebrates the death and resurection of Jesus which results in Christians (any human who accepts Jesus) being able to enter Heaven when they die. This is something which is happening, it is something which is interesting, it is relevant today and it is significant for all humans"

You might believe that, but your faith in it hardly makes it true.

A reputable News agency has to rely on reliable sources, impirical facts and detailed investigation, not just someones faith or belief.

Peoples religious beliefs can become news worthy when it causes them to do something newsworthy (like kill each other, more often than not) but the fact that a bunch of people called Christians believe that someone who (they believe) was the son of god died so that (they believe) they can go to a place called heaven where (they believe) they can live out eternal salvation, on a specific day (that even they can't make their minds up as to quite when) a long time ago, and as such decided to worship him a bit more than normal, very definately isn't NEWS.

  • 34.
  • At 11:14 AM on 01 May 2007,
  • Terry Connolly wrote:

No Jack.. In your humble opinion, you consider it "interesting", "significant", and "relevent" today.

I actually have no interest in Christianity whatsoever, and do not believe it is significant to me or my lifestyle.

And, in my humble opinion, the majority of the target audience of Radio 1 feel the same.

Rod McKenzie is completely right in what he has said.


At 10:39 AM on 28 Apr 2007, Jack Barber wrote:

Easter celebrates the death and resurection of Jesus which results in Christians (any human who accepts Jesus) being able to enter Heaven when they die. This is something which is happening, it is something which is interesting, it is relevant today and it is significant for all humans, let alone the 'target audience'!

  • 35.
  • At 12:24 PM on 01 May 2007,
  • Keith wrote:

Religion is a total irrelevance for the majority of forward-thinking, rational young people. Don't foist it upon them, they are better off without it and they don't care anyway.

  • 36.
  • At 05:00 PM on 01 May 2007,
  • William wrote:

What is interesting in most of these remarks is the widespread and deeply felt desire of many not to have to be bothered by religion, at all.
Wanting this space is reasonable enough but it goes with the idea that the merest mention of religious news is by definition propaganda in favour of it. I'm far from sure that that is the case. Be that as it may, it provokes the reaction: "We don't even want to have to think about it!"
So the question for news makers is: Do you give people what they want and allow their subjectivities to determine news or do you take a stand on the objectivity of the reality of the world which they might be trying to avoid? To those doing the avoiding, let's face it: Putting your fingers in your ears and going "la la la I can't hear you" is what your position comes down to. "Your" world might be non-religious as it is for many millions. "The" world, however, is very different: billions of people are religious in one way or another. Ignore them in your cocoon for as long as you can? You can try, I suppose. But didn't London 7/7 bring it home to you? Even here in post-religious Britain (where Radio 1 listeners can ignore 24/7 what is actually going on in the world) - things STILL happen because of religion. Deal with it - either stupidly because you are ignorant or intelligently because you are informed.
Welcome to reality. It generally doesn't go away - no matter how loud you play the music.

  • 37.
  • At 01:33 AM on 02 May 2007,
  • Soulberry wrote:

Religion is a personal issue, worthwhile when followed in privacy of one's mind, but when it steps out into the public domain it becomes another debate, another "problem" in our already troubled and intolerant lives and times.

But this public presence of religion isn't new - down the ages, through the entire history of mankind, many have recognized the enormous power of this "weapon", and have used it if they could to propagate their agenda.

The goals of religion were order and peace in a structured society, and perhaps to be balm and inspiration to the individual, but many of those who have adopted the business of keeping religion alive have completely missed this goal.

Today, as it was in the past, public religion remains a debatable issue. I like my "religion" in the privacy of my mind where it perhaps serves some of its intended purposes.

  • 38.
  • At 04:17 AM on 02 May 2007,
  • Orville wrote:

A few thoughts:
1. The BBC shouldn't proselytize. But neither should it ignore the topic of religion.
2. Even if religion isn't mentioned in the news, religion affects music in all sorts of ways. Perhaps Radio 1 could address this in a program?
3. This is off-topic, and I may not know Arabic, but isn't it spelled "Eid" and not "Ede"?

Despite its unique message and sensational story, Easter is not 'news'. We weren't unaware of it the day before and so don't need to be informed of it today. Those who will appreciate such things being included will almost certainly be already well-informed about the Easter story, and those who won't appreciate it can't possibly be informed of all the facts of easter in a short news bulletin (more likely than not grousing even more about religion being 'forced down their throats').

  • 40.
  • At 10:25 AM on 02 May 2007,
  • Helen Steer wrote:

As a young person who listens to Radio 1, I would like to express my relief that they didn't mention Easter. Organised religion has no place on a pop radio station - the BBC should not promote religious propaganda.

Besides, (and I think I speak for many people here) I'd probably turn off the radio if it turned all 'Songs of Praise' at me. I want Christina not Christ!

Also, for all you whingers out there that are complaining about the UK being a Christian country with a Christian culture, erm, tell that to our ancestors. I think you'll find yourself severely mistaken. The word "Easter" is in fact the name given to the Anglo-Saxon godess of the dawn. And bunnies and eggs? Those traditional Christian, no, sorry, pagan fertility symbols? So. If you really want to start respecting Britain's religious roots at Easter, best be getting busy making babies...

  • 41.
  • At 04:00 PM on 03 May 2007,
  • Krista wrote:

"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."

I'm intrigued as to what under 30's where asked this and what else is on this list. The fact that it is on the list shows that some people under the age of thirty must want to hear about it! Surely if it were totally irrelevant then the subject would not even place on such a list.

  • 42.
  • At 04:59 PM on 03 May 2007,
  • jan cave wrote:

Please please keep it free of religious broadcasting.

If anything being able to listen to the radio without having to flip
over because someone comes on talking up or singing about a religion particluarly forms of religion that discriminate against women people
with disabilities & people who are lesbian gay bi-sexual and trans
people is much needed more religion free broadcasting is needed.

I've been subjected to religious persecution for objecting to people
trying to convert me to christianity while staying at theological college
that also has people who are working etc in the area renting rooms out
as well as students.

I'm disgusted by various religions attempts to sabotage free speech
undermine inclusion of groups.

Please uphold the right to listen to radio without someone preeching at
you singing religous songs or wailing about the need to maintain a
Christian state. I urge the bbc to progress the disestablishment of
christianity as state religion in order for a free and fair
representation of beliefs and philosophys to replace it including
freedom of speech.

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