Thursday 26 April 2007

So that's what's wrong with Radio 1: not enough religion

'Not religious enough'. That's the verdict of some Church of England and Roman Catholic bishops on Radio 1, according to the Manchester Evening News. The bishops argue that it's 'illogical and inconsistent' that there's so little religion on the channel, given that it 'figures strongly in the output of Radio 2, 3 and 4' . Which is rather like arguing that, since there are already C of E bishops in the House of Lords, there should also be a few Catholic ones, and perhaps a smattering of other faiths too - rather than getting rid of the lot. Or like saying that since the existing blasphemy law only covers Christianity, it should be extended to other religions - rather than simply scrapped.

You'd think, given the cringe-making reach-for-the-off-switch record of Radio 4's Thought for the Day and the declining audience figures for religious TV programmes such as Songs of Praise, the bishops would be a bit more cautious about moving on to fresh territory. Their demand for more explicit religious coverage to reflect young people's 'thirst for spiritual input' conjures up some awful trendy-vicar-down-at-the-disco images, and it's good to see the progressive Christian website Ekklesia comprehensively dismissing it.

Of course, I'm not the best judge, since my Radio 1-listening days lie in the dim and distant past, when Smashy and Nicey-style DJs ruled and John Peel's late-night show was the only programme it was cool to listen to. But whatever else Radio 1 needs - a more diverse playlist, perhaps, or less reliance on 'celebrity' DJs who prefer their own prattle to playing actual music - I have to say, I really don't think it's more religion. The bishops' call (rather like Cardinal Murphy O'Connor's recent rethink on RC bishops in the Lords: see this post) is a rather bold bid to roll back the apparently 'aggressively secularist' tide - an example of 'aggressive faith-ism', perhaps?

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