The BBC osculates faith on Sunday morning

Reader Michael called my attention to today’s BBC schedule, which apparently upset him. His note:

Hi Jerry. The below is my BBC radio guide for this morning. I’ve supplied exact quotes of the listing descriptions. Please note that item 8 is a different person each week and it’s very rarely an atheist.
06:00 – 07:00
[1] BBC Radio 2: “THE SUNDAY HOUR. Diane Louise Jordan plays uplifting spiritual music  – hymns, gospel, choral, classics. Plus listeners’ dedications & prayers.”

06:00 – 07:00
[2] BBC Radio West Midlands: “SIOR COLEMAN. Sunday morning hymns and the religious music you love.”

06:05  – 06:35
[3] BBC Radio 4: “SOMETHING UNDERSTOOD. Ethical & religious discussion. Poetic Rituals: Dr Sarah Goldingay searches for moments of transcendence that can be encountered through the routine & ritual of the everyday”

07:00 – 09:05   
[4] BBC Radio 2: “GOOD MORNING SUNDAY. Fern Britton presents the topical faith programme with poet Lemn Sissay & faith guest Reverend Zoe Hemming”

07:00 – 09:00
[5] BBC Radio West Midlands: “SUNDAY BREAKFAST. Llewela Bailey with the week’s news & topical conversation from a faith perspective”

07:10 – 07:54
[6] BBC Radio 4: “SUNDAY. How can churches’ make people with learning disabilities welcome? Measures to placate Icelandic elves. A LGBT chaplain for Wales. Are C of E Bishops too ‘safe’?”

08:10 – 08:48
[7] BBC Radio 4: SUNDAY WORSHIP. The Power of Peace: The Rev Steve Chalke argues that living a life of peace is the most radical response to violence & suffering. Live from Oasis Church, Waterloo, London”

08:48 – – 08:58
[8] BBC Radio 4: “A POINT OF VIEW. A reflection on a topical issue. Atheist John Gray muses on what his idea of heaven is – and why it shouldn’t be a perfect world”

I had no idea that there were three hours of religious proselytizing on the Sunday BBC. Even the last ten minutes, involving John Gray (whom I’ve often criticized on this site and called “an atheist-hating atheist”) is paying some homage to religion by discussing heaven. But really, a government-run radio station in a largely secular country—one far less religious than the U.S.—shouldn’t be purveying this kind of fictional palaver. NPR, the U.S. equivalent, though not run by the government, would never do anything like this. Any any U.S. government radio station wouldn’t be allowed to broadcast such stuff; it would violate the First Amendment. (Or, if they did, they’d have to allow all religions to do their thing, including the Pastafarians and Scientologists.)

Isn’t this what churches are for?


  1. Trevor H
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    The BBC regularly does this, on TV there’s always a ‘question’ programme discussing ‘moral issues’ on Sunday a.m. filled with the religious, and the often mocked ‘Songs of Praise’

    Just because they’re on, doesn’t mean they get an audience

    Religious programming is the least watched and least cared for

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

      They must think that at least God listens to The Sunday Hour at 6:00 AM, since they broadcast prayers. I wonder if God pays the license fee.

      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

        He used to sneakily watch it free on BBC iPlayer, but the BBC have recently closed that loophole, so he’ll have to get a licence now.

  2. Griff
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Makes me happy I don’t pay the licence fee

  3. ashdeville
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    But Jerry – Comfort yourself with the fact that nobody is listening to any of it!! Only by accident such as when I switch on Radio 4 in the morning. If you want to know the worst religious infringement into my working week mornings it is something called “Thought for the Day” where you get to listen to buffoons of all religious shades giving you their insightful thoughts every week day morning and once more on Saturdays. They refuse to let anyone who isn’t a believer to speak in the slot. The feature is parodied on a number of UK websites, the most famous being Peter Hearty’s –

    • Griff
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:00 am | Permalink

      Morning prayer, Thought For the Day and Morning service, all on R4 before 10.

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

      THAT I have heard, and was appalled! But I guess Dawkins go to do it once–and was never asked again.

      • Griff
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:08 am | Permalink

        There was a humanist once. Many years ago.

      • Griff
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

        Oh, and that’s their NORMAL week-day schedule. Not just Sunday.

  4. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    The BBC isn’t ‘run by the Government’ as such – the BBC is established under a Royal Charter and operates under its Agreement with the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

    Famously, left wing people think the BBC is biased against them, and right wing people think the BBC is biased against them too. I prefer to think of the BBC as biased in favour of ‘the Establishment’ attempting to rise above short term political concerns. Which may explain why it is taking so long to drop the religious stuff. YMMV.

    • reasonshark
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

      Yes. It has some ties to the government but it’s hardly fair to call it “government-run”. Give the Brits some credit, Jerry.

      The BBC are well within their rights to broadcast what they want, just as we are well within our rights to change the channel or switch the TV off when we see what they are, in fact, broadcasting.

      • bluemaas
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

        Comparatively, reasonshark, how may I turn off those church bells calling all of the faithful to worship ?

        About an hour or so ago, I was out at my clothesline hanging a freshly laundered load of sheets, cases and towels, a weekend’s early morning activity that I very much enjoy along with its opportunity right aside Moxie Grace OwlFace’s gravesite to breathe down deeply on such a remembrance – day. There, during today’s however, again on another Sunday of my tasks was that wholly incessant peeling throughout it … … hailing the mindless to come to their place of magic and superstition and mythology.

        This breach encroaches such that my privacy upon my own property, thus my braining, abruptly ceases — to the point that I quit with the deep – breathing and the hanging – / pinning – task, come inside, down a second cup o’java and wait. I have to wait till those useless sounds which have invaded my and all others of The Public’s ear spaces stop. In order to be able to enter .my. air waves again to finish the job — with my freedom from that muck.

        I will not, if USA Public’s npr begins to broadcast what the bbc does, be turning the radio onto its particular air wave again. At all.


    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:37 am | Permalink

      The BBC is owned by the Government of the UK and financed in part by a mandatory fee on UK households (in other words, a tax)which is set by Parliament. The BBC is “government-run” in the same sense that the Bank of England or the USPS here is government-run. Lets not play word games.

      • Graham Head
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        The BBC is most emphatically NOT owned by the government. It is an independent body set up by statute. The government has (too much) influence over it but the management of the BBC is not answerable to government ministers (though they would like it to be).

        The BBC is answerable to the licence fee payers and that is why I am comfortable with the programming Jerry complains about in his post. The BBC has a responsibility to cater to the needs of everyone that pays the licence fee in the UK. Therefore it should carry some religious broadcasting.

        Note the details if the programmes. Across three stations (one regional) and all before 9am. If that keeps the rest of the schedule relatively religion free I’m happy.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

        Well if you’re wanting to avoid word games, then you’re wrong that the BBC is funded by

        a mandatory fee on UK households

        It is funded by an entirely discretionary fee on (1) possession of equipment capable of receiving and decoding broadcast TV signals, or (2) possession of software on devices which can decode and display programmes made available through the iPlayer service. If you don’t have the hardware (which between 1993 and 2005, I didn’t have – which is when I got word perfect on the relevant law, for telling the enforcement people to get off my property and back into the driving rain), and don’t install the software, then you are not liable for this fee.
        I just checked if I’d got iPlayer on anything – I do, though it’s months since I made any use of it. But it’s covered by the licence fee for the apartment’s TV since that phone’s bill is delivered to the same address as the licence is registered.
        I didn’t find it at all difficult to survive without a TV. It was more difficult to view videotapes from the Open University – and VHS players are frighteningly expensive (20 – 30 times the cost of a VHS recorder/ player). Until I read the law again, then I took a soldering iron to an off-the-shelf VHS recorder/ player and soldered the interior leads of the UHF-input pre-amplifier together (it’s the metal foil box with a tight-fitting lid, into which the antenna lead plugs). I was absolutely livid that the licence fee enforcement idiots didn’t come round between that piece of surgery and the next visit of the burglars.
        Do you have a car? You don’t need to have a license to drive if you’re on private ground. But if you’re on publicly-owned ground (including roads), you need a driving license and probably other continuing (annual) fees like insurance and mandatory maintenance checks. Same logic.
        (In fact, the law was bought in in 1948 to regularise wartime restrictions on the ownership of both radio reception and radio transmission equipment. It has simply been a convenience for the govt to retain this structure instead of folding it back into general taxation. Until about 1980, you could get a distinct radio license for owning radio reception equipment, but they folded that into the TV license because it cost more to run than it was bringing in. Again, I investigated this for dealing with the TV licence enforcement thugs.)

        • Griff
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 4:35 am | Permalink

          “possession of software on devices which can decode and display programmes made available through the iPlayer service”

          This isn’t correct. You don’t need a licence for the POSSESSION or software CAPABLE of using iPlayer, you need a licence to USE such software to access iPlayer.

          Otherwise, you’d need a licence to own much any internet-capable device. Browsers are pretty ubiquitous.

  5. Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Thankfully, there’s no Supreme Governor of the Church of North America (yet). I’ve heard Queen Elizabeth II prefers a little dab of piety on her Sunday toast.

  6. Merilee
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:24 am | Permalink

    Icelandic elves??? There’s also an errant apostrophe in there…

  7. Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Perhaps it’s actually because of all this nonsense that we are such an irreligious country?

  8. serendipitydawg
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    The BBC charter contains commitments for religious programming (as does the UK education act in relation to daily acts of worship), so none of this is surprising. At least they get it over with en bloc and at a time when sensible secularists are sleeping off their debauched Saturday nights😉

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      As James Clerk Maxwell said when told that compulsory attendance at 6am church service was a requirement for his Cambridge academic position: “Aye, I suppose I could stay up that late.”

      • serendipitydawg
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink


  9. Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    This sort of thing is just one of several reasons why I continue to refuse to fork out for a TV Licence.

    • Graham Head
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

      Do you watch tv? Because if you do you are stealing. From me.

      • Stonyground
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

        Seriously Graham? If I watch TV but never watch anything broadcast by the BBC, why should I be forced to subsidise people who do? If the BBC is so wonderful, why don’t they encrypt their output and let those who want to watch it subscribe? Answer, because it is so much easier to force people to pay for their output whether they want it or not.

        • Marou
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          It’s stealing, stop pretending you’re principled – you’re a thief

  10. serendipitydawg
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    (Or, if they did, they’d have to allow all religions to do their thing, including the Pastafarians and Scientologists.)

    This was a bone of contention with regard to the BBC’s morning Thought for the day – I’m not aware of Scientologists or Pastafarians trying to claim a slot but the British Humanists were rebuffed, if I remember correctly.

    Similarly, Desert Island Discs would always automatically give a castaway the bible and the complete works of Shakespeare in addition to a luxury; the bible is now holy book of choice but secularists don’t get a substituion. Personally, I would ask for the biggest bible available printed on soft paper, preferably perforated…

  11. rom
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    While I find most of the religious programming on TV painful; regardless whether it is in Britain or NA. I don’t see a sensible method of stopping this, nor do I think it is wise. It is equivalent of prohibbiting women wearing Islamic clothing in public.

    Religious people pay for their programming the same way we do. Either by a tax, watching adverts or by direct subscription. We are not forced to watch or listen.

    If done well, it is an opportunity to get a more secular view across. If I had a complaint it would be a lack of interaction.

  12. Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    I would guess that the cost of these productions is pretty much in proportion to the audience. Comparing these, on a £ per minute basis, to for example an episode of Dr. Who, or of a David Attenborough wildlife series probably puts the investment my the beeb in context.

    Part of the deal is everyone pays the license fee and in return they do at least something for everyone.

    There are multiple radio and TV stations if you don’t like what is on at a given moment.

    In any case, I’m sure that my cable bill, due to Comcast’s bundling practices, forces me to support numerous channels (including religious ones) that I detest in order that my son can watch an inordinately large selection of premier league (and other european league) games and my wife can keep up on cooking and home renovation….. is Thought for the day worse than “Duck Dynasty”?

  13. Posted September 11, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    There’s like 50 BBC radio stations not playing religious nonsense…

    Besides they are quite good at bringing on the humanist viewpoint. And if you follow twitter during these shows the reaction to the theology is hilarious.

  14. Frank Bath
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:15 am | Permalink

    I’m old enough to remember when there was only one TV channel in the UK, BBC in black & white. Around about ten in the evening the service would close down, until the next evening, with The Epilogue. This was delivered to camera by some stern religious clown who would basically reprimand you for being up so late. In those days the BBC had religion up its a**e. Goodbye to all that!

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 12:07 pm | Permalink

      In Scotland that was called “Late Call”, brilliantly parodied by Rikki Fulton as the Rev I M jolly

  15. Tom
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I feel sorry for you in America, its from programmes like these and school assemblies that we Brits learn our contempt of religion.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      You win the thread!


  16. Steve Pollard
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    The BBC is required by its charter to serve the whole of its audience in the UK. This includes religious people, of whom we still have a fair few.

    Moreover, we should remember that the BBC is under continual attack, not just from Murdoch’s media interests who would much sooner they didn’t have any competition, but from right-wing politicians who are viscerally opposed to the whole concept of independent public service broadcasting. Any move by the BBC to eliminate, or even reduce, religious programmes would play right into their hands. As it is, most of the religious broadcasting is got out of the way early on Sunday morning, when most right-thinking people are recovering from their hangovers. There is very little on weekday primetime.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      I should add that “A point of view” at 0845 on Sundays very seldom has any religious content. Yes, John Gray seems to be on quite a bit; but not usually talking about religion (and in any case I have always seen him as not so much anti-atheist, although he is that, but anti-Enlightenment). But more often the speakers are people like Will Self or A L Kennedy, neither of whom appear to be particularly interested in plugging religious issues.

  17. Diana MacPherson
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    It would have to be on a government run radio station because no one probably listens to it so if it were a private station, they’d quickly learn it was a waste of money.

  18. Posted September 11, 2016 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    Shush! Sunday morning is the one morning my radio-alarm clock doesn’t go off for precisely this reason! It’s the perfect excuse to oversleep! Thank God for religious BBC I say!

    • Dominic
      Posted September 12, 2016 at 5:01 am | Permalink

      I hop over to Radio 4 Extra!

  19. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    The bias of the Beeb’s “spirituality” programming towards the monotheistic religions, with a tip of the hat towards Sikhism and Hinduism, is a continuing source of complaints. Either scrap the lot, or put out humanist/ secular messages in some sort of metered proportion to their representation in the population.

  20. Merilee
    Posted September 11, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    Speaking of crap programming, our closest PBS station, out of Buffalo, showed two or three straight hours of Lawrence Effin’ Welk this evening, right through our regular NewsHour. They ARE having a pledge drive, but is there anyone under 90 who might conceivably watch this???

    • Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

      But without Lawrence Welker we wouldn’t have this!

      • Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

        Not even Google spellcheck knows Welke…

      • merilee
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:18 pm | Permalink

        Hilarious! Not sure how I missed this on SNL. What’s with the woman with the tiny hands? A Donald precursor?

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted September 11, 2016 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      Haha! Don’t you watch PBS Boston?

      • merilee
        Posted September 11, 2016 at 11:19 pm | Permalink

        Do you get PBS Boston? We only get Buffalo or Detroit.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted September 12, 2016 at 9:28 am | Permalink

          I get Buffalo and Boston.

  21. Dominic
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 4:58 am | Permalink

    The BBC has to do this as part of its remit as a public broadcaster. Unfortunately. I sometimes listen to the religious news programme [6 above] to keep tabs on their lunacies…

    My mother used to sing along with hymns on the radio services which drove me nuts!

    However A Point of View is NOT a religious slot – it is a Friday night thing repeated on Sunday & replaced the late great – irreplaceable ! -Alistair Cooke…

    And Gray is one of ‘those’ atheists…

  22. Glandu
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 8:14 am | Permalink

    Same in France, as the main TV channel, France 2, is religious from 0835 to 1205 on sundays – covering various religions.

    The protestant part is a small window in the middle, watched for around 100k people. The church where my wife did go once had a special 15 minutes religious office because it happened in their own church.

    There are buddhist, muslim things, but the lion’s share is catholic. My neighbour in his 40s is looking for the catholic part. He’s paying his TV fee, too. It’s a niche, but a TV program is an addition of niches : soccer, TV games, series, info….. fans of one or more niches pay their TV fee, too.

    It’s a public thing, but paid by the viewers. So if that program has demand, well, it’s tough to frustrate my neighbour from his favourite sunday morning program. He pays, too.

  23. saxonrooinek
    Posted September 12, 2016 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for this !  About time something was done to halt this pesky proselytising on our Sunday morning radio. We listen to Radio 4 every morning but it’s truly horrendous on a Sunday morning to have all this religion pumped into our ears. Can a petition be started online ?  Please let’s do something more than whine about this unacceptable state of affairs !  Diana.

    Sent by my 4G Ready Samsung Galaxy S III on Three

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