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04 July 2013

Press release

BBC backs Alliance recommendation that journalists must improve religious literacy

BBC backs Alliance recommendation that journalists must improve religious literacy

A recommendation by the Evangelical Alliance to the BBC that religious literacy forms part of the mainstream programme of training for journalists is reflected in the latest report by the BBC Trust.

The BBC Trust's review of impartiality in BBC news and factual output, now online1, expects the BBC's editorial director to feedback on progress made on "the use of training and the College of Journalism in raising the general level of knowledge about religion and ethics amongst its programme makers" by the summer of 2014.

The Evangelical Alliance was invited to make a submission to the report and one of its key recommendations was for "a substantive programme to develop faith literacy for all staff involved in news, commentary and documentary programmes", which acknowledges the concerns of its members that a deeper understanding of faiths could lead to more accurate reporting of evangelical Christian concerns and points of view.

The Evangelical Alliance submission, Balanced, Biased or Careless? also strongly challenged the tendency by the BBC to give minority views equal weighting with mainstream faith groups in its news programmes, asking the question of whether the BBC can ever be truly impartial.

Dr Dave Landrum, director of advocacy at the Evangelical Alliance, said: "There is much to commend at the BBC, especially in the depth of religious understanding by regional and specialist teams, but more should be done and we hope the editorial directorate will act on our recommendation to make religious literacy part of the package of training given to all journalists across the network.

"We are concerned that proportionality remains an issue still to be seriously addressed, with mainstream Christian opinion tending to be sidelined in favour of minority agendas.

"The BBC plays a vital role in reflecting and reporting what is happening in society, so it is important that its editorial integrity is not compromised by secularist stereotypes of Christians as people with old-fashioned, even antiquated values, rather than as the social entrepreneurs, leaders and catalysts of positive societal change that they often are.

"If this review is to be effective, it must hold the editorial directorate accountable and see that it follows through on the recommendation to review training. If its journalists are to maintain their high standard of knowledge in current affairs, the BBC needs to take practical steps in developing religious literacy to help them truly understand and reflect the realities of today's and tomorrow's society."

[1] A BBC Trust Review of the Breadth of Opinion Reflected in the BBC's Output - page 13 of the report lists the report's conclusions, including recommendations on training. 

Media Enquiries

Danny Webster
Tel: 07766 444 650
Email: d.webster@eauk.org

Notes to Editors

The Evangelical Alliance
We are the largest and oldest body representing the UK’s two million evangelical Christians. For more than 165 years, we have been bringing Christians together and helping them listen to, and be heard by, the government, media and society. We’re here to connect people for a shared mission, whether it’s celebrating the Bible, making a difference in our communities or lobbying the government for a better society. From Skye to Southampton, from Coleraine to Cardiff, we work across 79 denominations, 3,500 churches, 750 organisations and thousands of individual members. And we're not just uniting Christians within the UK – we are a founding member of the World Evangelical Alliance, a global network of more than 600 million evangelical Christians. For more information, go to www.eauk.org.