Fewer than one in five British people think BBC Radio 4’s Thought for the Day should always feature religious content (survey by Censuswide). BBC policy is to explicitly exclude non-religious voices. Please read on, and then consider signing a petition to get this changed. Link
The findings have prompted calls for reform from figures including the philosopher and National Secular Society (NSS) honorary associate AC Grayling.
The NSS has written thus to the BBC:
“By explicitly excluding non-religious voices the slot is alienating vast swathes of the British public, reinforcing prejudice and blatantly discriminating against non-believers. The BBC should reform the broadcast into a secular current affairs reflection slot, with contributors selected on merit and without reference to their religious outlook. In this way, the BBC could re-engage its listeners on important ethical questions.”
AC Grayling said: “In today’s society, it is more important than ever that the British public engages with important ethical questions. Secularists are keen to support this, but it can only be done by exploring these issues through secular and inclusive discussion and debate.”
The NSS has long campaigned for the slot to be reformed to avoid proselytisation, discrimination and excessive deference to religion. The society is urging supporters to sign a petition on the subject.
In 2015 the NSS backed calls to convert Thought for the Day into a “philosophy slot”, open to non-believers and believers alike.
Last year Today’s most senior presenter, John Humphrys, described the slot as “inappropriate” and “deeply, deeply boring”. His colleague Justin Webb also criticised it, saying the content was “all roughly the same”.
The BBC also said there were “no plans” to change the format of the slot after incoming editor Sarah Sands said it should be opened up to non-religious voices.