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How we're renewing our religious content

James Purnell

Director, Radio & Education

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks explores what morality means in the 21st Century

Last week I was speaking at an event to launch Morality In The 21st Century, a week-long series which finishes today on Radio 4 but is still available on BBC iPlayer Radio and as a podcast.

In it presenter Rabbi Sacks asks whether we still have space for morality. It’s a big idea and a complex subject, so we’ve taken time to explore it in depth.

The Telegraph’s Jemima Lewis called it “terrific” and said “exactly what I want from a public service broadcaster - a huge can of difficult questions prised open by a determined mind”.

That’s good because when we reviewed our religious output at the end of last year we said we wanted to help people celebrate, interrogate and understand the world around them through the lens of different beliefs and religions. 

We already do this through programmes like Pause for Thought, The Big Questions, Thought For The Day and the Moral Maze.

But we’ve also been raising our level of ambition.

In BBC News we’ve appointed Martin Bashir as the BBC’s Religion Editor. He’s already having an impact, whether accompanying the Pope, examining Trump’s links to American evangelicals or returning to Manchester to see how faith leaders are helping the city heal.

We’re recruiting a new global religious news team, funded by the World Service.

Religion and ethics has been a strong area of focus for TV too with programmes like Pilgrimage: The Road to Santiago,  Stacey Dooley: Face to Face With ISIS and We Are British Jews.

We’re trying to reach younger audiences too. Every survey tells us they care about spirituality. That’s why we’ve experimented with CBeebies animation Treasure Champs; Radio One documentaries for BBC iPlayer like Gangs, Drill & Prayer and the BBC Three comedy Man Like Mobeen and the BBC News Crossing Divides series.

And there’s more to come in 2019 - watch this space…

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