“The Beeb is out of tune with Anglicans” lamented the deeply unpleasant Quentin Letts (let’s not) the other day, as he told of the news that Radio 2’s Sunday evening programme of hymns was to be shunted back to an 0600 morning slot. This was held to be roughly equivalent to the end times, though Quent was sure another broadcaster would be along to step into the breach soon enough.
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But on that last point, I have bad news for the self-styled “Middle stump Anglican”: religious broadcasting is in decline. Now, it’s possible that Letts knows this all too well, and this is just another crude attempt to kick the BBC for behaving in a way that does not meet with the approval of the legendarily foul mouthed Paul Dacre, but I suspect that Letts really does not get it on the decline of the “God Slot”.
Because, while the BBC is still giving viewers their regular Sunday afternoon Songs Of Praise, along with extra programmes at Christmas and Easter, the rest of the broadcasters are abandoning the genre almost as one. Channel 5 has previously aired content with a “religious theme”, but audiences were not there for it, and so it was dropped. Commercial imperatives, and all that.
And Channel 4 has concluded that its coverage of “religious viewpoints” is best served other than through “narrowly defined ‘religious’ programmes”. This meant that their post of commissioning editor for religion was recently abolished. But what of ITV, the original commercial channel? Sadly, the news there is just as bad: in 2010, just one hour of religious broadcasting was scheduled.
That’s one hour all year, as opposed to the 110 hours that BBC1 and BBC2 are obliged to broadcast as part of their licence commitments. Letts doesn’t like Radio 2’s move? He could always record the broadcast and play it back at a time of his choosing – buying devices enabling this sort of thing should not prove onerous to anyone enjoying the Dacre largesse – so at least he can still enjoy it.
And, rather than laying into the BBC, and whining about presenters having once worked on Blue Peter, he should bear in mind that this is the only broadcaster that does serious and organised religious broadcasting in the UK today. Letts’ idea that Classic FM – or indeed any other commercial station – will somehow see its chance and ride to the rescue is utterly delusional.
No doubt the next rubbish coming from the Dacre attack doggies will be to blame the BBC – the only broadcaster taking religious broadcasting seriously – for the decline in organised religion. It’s a strange, upside down world at the Mail, so much so that the one bastion of the “God Slot” gets ritually kicked for sticking to its obligations. Fortunately, there won’t be much more of this drivel, though.
Letts is giving up his weekly column next year. Small mercies, eh?