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BBC at the forefront of the new atheism and driving religion to the margins, says radio presenter

Printer-friendly version Simon Mayo, 51, who has worked for BBC Radio since 1981, says that the corporation is driving religion to the margins.

A BBC radio presenter, who has worked for BBC Radio since 1981, says that the corporation is driving religion to the margins.

Simon Mayo, 51, who has been presenter of a BBC Radio Five Live weekday afternoon programme since May 2001, expressed his concern in an interview with The Daily Telegraph about the way issues surrounding religious belief were treated by the Corporation.

He said that the BBC is now ‘at the forefront of the new atheism’.

‘I’ve just listened to David Tennant on Desert Island Discs.  His father was a minister and that was seen to be a problem by Kirsty Young, the presenter. Religion is increasingly driven to the margin,’ he said.

‘I was listening to a BBC news bulletin during Easter 2008 about services to mark ‘the rebirth of Christ’, a line clearly written by someone who had no contact with or understanding of the concept of resurrection.

‘My brother works for the BBC religious affairs unit and told him I couldn’t believe it.’

Mr Mayo, whose Christian faith often seems to be presented as an eccentricity, says the anti-Christian theme at the Corporation is also apparent in television comedians from Eddie Izzard down.

‘They are at the forefront of the new atheism,’ he said.

When asked whether ‘the Church presents such a soft target it would be ‘edgier’ to try pro-Christian comedy? he agrees saying:

‘Guess the one mainstream religion The Simpsons has never lampooned? Yep, Islam.’

Mr Mayo is to replace Chris Evans as the voice of Radio 2’s Drivetime show and has now joined The Telegraph as a columnist in the Weekend section.  In 2008, he was recognized as the ‘radio broadcaster of the year’ at the 34th annual Broadcasting Press Guild Awards and the ‘Speech Broadcaster of the Year’ at the Sony Radio Academy Awards.

Mr Mayo’s concerns are not new to the public.

In June 2009, Don Maclean, 66, a former BBC Radio 2 presenter also claimed that the BBC is biased against churches and has embarked on a wider secularist campaign to get rid of Christianity.  Mr Maclean said:

‘I think there's a secularist movement in this country to get rid of Christianity.  Something must be done.  They’re keen on Islam, they’re keen on programmes that attack the Christian church.’
(See the CCFON report)

In October 2008, the BBC Director General Mark Thompson said that Islam should be treated more sensitively than Christianity.  He was responding to criticism from comedian Ben Elton, who accused the corporation of being scared to make jokes about Islam.  Mr Thompson, who spoke at a lecture for think-tank Theos, said shows critical of Islam would be shown if they were of high quality.
(See the Daily Mail report)

In the recent past, the Archbishops of Canterbury and of York have also raised concerns about the BBC’s treatment of Christianity saying that Christians get a rough ride in its news coverage.

In July 2008, a BBC drama featured, in a programme series entitled Bonekickers, an ‘extremist evangelical Christian’ beheading a peaceful moderate Muslim.  The drama, watched by 6.8 million, raised eyebrows and provoked a number of complaints from the public.

One viewer wrote on the corporation’s website:

‘If it had been another religion portrayed in that manner, the PC police would have been up in arms about the nastiness and their rights not to have their religion ridiculed – as it was Christians, it was apparently OK.’