Church of England voices fears over BBC cutbacks
Corporation's strategy review could result in fewer religious
programmes and less content online, says C of E
* Mark Sweney
, Wednesday 12 May 2010 07.28 BST
Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, bishop of Manchester
The BBC should not have 'a mandate to produce a smaller number of
big-budget programmes for bigger audiences,' said the Right Rev Nigel
McCulloch, bishop of Manchester. Photograph: Don McPhee for the Guardian
The Church of England has expressed concern that the BBC's
controversial strategic review could lead to less religious programming.
In its submission to the BBC Trust on director general Mark Thompson's
strategy review, the Church of England said plans to refocus programme
output must not mean giving up on content that appeals to smaller
audiences, including religious output.
In March Thompson said that the BBC's strategic review would see a
change in approach with tens of millions more each year set to be
ploughed into high quality "content creation".
The BBC has been criticised for adopting an approach that means that
niche services, such as 6 Music, are facing the axe because they do not
offer the value for money in terms of cost per viewer or listener.
"This strategy should not be interpreted simply as a mandate to produce
a smaller number of big-budget programmes for bigger audiences," said
the Right Rev Nigel McCulloch, the bishop of Manchester, in the Church
of England's strategy review submission to the BBC Trust.
"We would add that 'breadth of appeal' is also a phrase that has been
much-repeated in the past, but appears less in the director general's
present proposals. We would like to see this concept re-emphasised. The
BBC should continue to retain at its core the imperative to produce
programmes appealing to a wide range of tastes and interests and of
broad general appeal," McCulloch added.
The Church of England also had concerns that the BBC's online plans to
cut half of the web pages it publishes might affect religious output.
"'Doing fewer things better' is a reasonable aim, but nobody wants
their area of interest to be the thing that isn't done any more," the C
of E submission said. "The BBC therefore needs to consider carefully
the impact of cutting back on sections of its online provision that do
not have significant market impact, especially given that years of
development and input invested already by the corporation will make it
even less likely that external providers will be prepared to 'catch up'
and fill the gaps left behind in non-commercially-lucrative areas."
The church was "particularly concerned" about online religion and
ethics content provided by BBC Regions that it believed was under
"Removal of these services ... would almost certainly consign this
valuable type content to the cache of history, as they will not be
readily replicated by unbiased, trusted providers if the BBC pulls the
plug," it said.
The church is also concerned with making sure there is "appropriate
resource" set aside to "ensure high-quality provision of content that
reflects and explores religion". The church, at its general synod in
February, reiterated a "deep concern" about the overall reduction in
religious broadcasting on British TV.