A recent survey carried out internally at the BBC suggested that only 22.5 percent of its staff claim to be Christian. The numbers come as a surprise considering that 71 percent of the U.K. professes to be Christian and only 15 percent claim to be non-religious, according to the 2001 census. Several critics of the BBC have taken this information to prove a point they have long suspected - the minority of Christians may marginalize the faith in its output of media.
“It is important that media organizations – including the BBC – employ people with a real knowledge and understanding of religion, including the Christian faith in its many forms,” J Peter Wilson, a media consultant at the Christian Broadcasting Council (CBC) said.
“Ofcom and Parliament need to understand that the reporting of any matter is influenced by the journalist’s worldview. A variety of providers is essential in a free and democratic society – including those with a faith-based perspective,” he continued.
Former BBC employee Roger Bolton has said that the Christian minority within the BBC is unlikely to have come about intentionally. He suggests that religion, in general, has been ousted from the world of popular media and academia.
In fact, the BBC recently changed its policies surrounding the use of BC (Before Christ) and AD (“Anno Domini,” a Latin phrase meaning: the year of our Lord,) and was willing to accept alternative uses such as BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era), to appear more religiously neutral; a move that angered Christians and many non-Christians alike.
"As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians,” a spokesperson from the BBC announced.
The BBC has attempted to justify the change in policy. In a statement sent by the BBC to The Christian Post it said: "Whilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology it is also possible for individuals to use different terminology if they wish to, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research."
Bolton, however, has said: “There is an inbuilt but unconscious bias against religion, fuelled by the fact staff are not representative of the public. It is not a conspiracy but it needs a correction.”
Viewers have complained that Christian characters in soap operas or television dramas are often skewed, and are often presented as “bigoted” or “weak.”
Peter Kearney, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Church has said that the BBC is “institutionally incapable of reflecting the society it serves since BBC staff are not representative of the audience they broadcast to.”
According to a survey conducted earlier this year as part of the BBC’s ‘Diversity Strategy’ involving 4,500 people, including some BBC staff, it was found that the organization was left wanting when it came to satisfying viewers with regards to religious programming. That consultation concluded: “In terms of religion there were many who perceived the BBC to be anti-Christian and as such misrepresenting Christianity.”
A BBC spokesperson has forwarded to The Christian Post the organization's response to concerns surrounding the latest survey results, saying, “Nearly 60 percent of BBC staff have been asked about their religion or belief and, of those, Christianity was by far the largest faith."
The statement added: "That said when it comes to recruitment the BBC hires staff based on skills and experience alone. To recruit based on faith or religious belief would be unlawful. As the majority faith of the U.K., Christian programming is, and will remain, the cornerstone of the BBC's religious output."
Although the BBC claims fairness in its productions and selection of workers, critics are increasingly hoping that those claims will be more evident statistically in the company’s Christian representation and views in its programming.
Correction: Dec. 5th, 2011
This article previously stated that the survey in question revealed that only 22.5 percent of the BBC's "entire staff" were Christian. In fact only 57 percent of the BBC's staff responded to the survey, and so the 22.5 percent is a representative figure of those who responded.