For decades, BBC Radio 4 (which is funded by the British government) has aired a segment called “Thought for the Day” which is really just a way to wedge a minutes-long religious opinion into a morning news program. The National Secular Society, in 2012, called the segment “discriminatory” since it never aired non-religious views. They wanted secular voices included in the mix. Their pleas didn’t go anywhere.
That was unfortunate. The implication was that religious voices needed to be heard on state-run media, and that only religious voices needed to be heard in that segment. If this was a show nobody listened to, maybe the relevance would be minimal, but this was the flagship news show for a major radio station.
A couple of years ago, a longtime host of that show, John Humphrys, said in an interview that he found the segment “deeply, deeply boring.”
Asked what he thought of Thought for the Day he said: “Deeply, deeply boring, often. Sometimes not. Sometimes it’s good and the guy or woman is delivering an interesting thought in a provocative way. Usually not. It seems to me inappropriate that Today should broadcast nearly three minutes of uninterrupted religion, given that rather more than half our population have no religion at all. Certainly very few of them are practising Christians… we have Hindus of course, and we have the occasional Muslim, the occasional Jew, but by and large it’s Christian. Why?”
He also expressed his annoyance about how they might be airing a fascinating segment only to have to cut it short because people needed to talk about how “Jesus was really nice.”
Humphrys, who’s now retiring, got more blunt this morning during an interview with Good Morning Britain, the ITV show co-hosted by Piers Morgan. He reiterated how much he hated that religious segment, but he also said part of his frustration was that he himself is an atheist.
“I could not do it. I do not believe in any…” Mr Humphrys continued, before Piers said: “How interesting.”
Concluding the talk on the subject, the broadcaster added: “I would say it’s discriminatory,” after admitting he thought the segment should be scrapped.
“Why shouldn’t I as somebody who — I regard myself as being a fair middle of the road kind of bloke but I feel quite strongly about certain things and I would love to express my opinion about certain things — not allowed to because I cannot approach it from a religious perspective.”
Humanists UK Chief Executive Andrew Copson expressed solidarity with Humphrys:
‘John Humphrys rightly illustrates the blatant discrimination that exists when he, as an atheist, is rejected from contributing his views on Thought for the Day but Piers Morgan, who is a Catholic, is allowed — just because of his faith.
‘Thought for the Day is the epitome of unfair religious privilege in this country, giving religious voices a huge vantage to share their views on one of the biggest political programmes while the non-religious, who make up 52% of our population, are continually silenced.
‘The non-religious have equally rich contributions to make on discussions of morals, ethics, and how to live well. The BBC must reconsider its position and ensure that its programming is fair and equally inclusive to all voices.’
This isn’t a legal battle. No one’s filing a lawsuit over this. It’s simply a matter of why religious voices are treated more prominently by the BBC than non-religious ones. When even a legendary host of the show says the segment is pointless and would, by design, exclude his voice, why bother keeping it around? Like religion, it’s just a relic that should’ve been discarded long ago.
(Thanks to Brian for the link)