The Telegraph has an interesting article up about BBC 4’s recent announcement that it will devote 16 hours of airtime on January 9th to readings from the King James Version of the Bible in recognition of the 400th anniversary of its publication. The Church of England is happy about this move, but Terry Sanderson, the president of the National Secular Society, criticizes the amount of airtime as “so excessive it beggars belief.” He continues:
The BBC is supposed to be for everybody, not just Christians, so to devote a whole day to a minority, which is what Christians now are, is unfair to other listeners who may want something different.
Although it really doesn’t excite me that the BBC has put together this program, I disagree with Sanderson’s criticism and am curious where he gets his data. According to the 2001 census, Christianity represented almost 78% of the UK, with “no religion” representing just over 16% (and that’s with 390,000 “Jedi Knight” write-ins assigned to the “no religion” category). Has it changed so dramatically in 9 years? A 2010 survey of 450,000 Britons (a monstrous sampling) shows 71% self-identify as Christian, while 21% claim no affiliation. It seems Christianity is far from a minority. In fact, it still more than triples the second largest portion of the population, which are those who claim no religious affiliation. On those grounds, then, the BBC’s program is still representative of the UK as a whole.
My second criticism would be the same one leveled against conservatives of various religions who object to a lot of radio content: you’re allowed to change the station. BBC 4 is only one of almost around ten different stations the BBC manages, and then you have regular radio stations. This program would only be unfair to listeners who want something different on January 9th (besides The Archers and Gardeners’ Question Time) if it were the only station available. (Additionally, an awful lot of listeners, myself among them, never wanted The Archers, but our voices were not heard.)