LONDON – Award-winning TV and radio producer John Forrest says he does not think there is a “deliberate suppression” of Christian views in the media.
Forrest, who has produced programs for the BBC and ITV, was speaking at the Christian Resources Exhibition on Thursday amid concerns that the Christian voice is being sidelined in media and particularly the BBC after appointing a Muslim this week to be its new head of religious broadcasting.
“I really don’t think there is any major conspiracy to stop the Christian voice being heard,” said Forrest. “But it is a constant thing. We’ve got to keep on looking at what we’re saying and … continually find new ways of saying it.”
He went so far as to say that the future was “great” for religious broadcasting on the BBC but warned Christians against presuming a right to airtime.
When asked whether he thought some voices within the Christian community had been unreasonable in their criticism of media, he answered: “Yes and the Christian community has in some ways been spoiled by the sort of things that have gone on.
“There are some who still believe that the Christian church has a right to certain things. There are certain areas in our society and even within laws where it does have rights but those rights are being continually challenged."
“We don’t have a right to the airwaves as Christians," he said.
He urged Christians to instead seek out opportunities in media, particularly at the local level.
“I think you should be concerned about media generally and looking for the opportunities you have," Forrest suggested. "Look to your own geographical area locally and look at how you present yourself to the media and look for the opportunities."
Fellow speaker, writer and producer for independent radio Ali Burnett said churches needed to take communications seriously and utilize commercial radio.
“If we want our beliefs to be understood by the neglected demographics not reached by churches, if we want to be salt in secular society, we need to engage with commercial radio. We are not doing it,” she said.
Burnett added that the church had lost its broadcasting spots on commercial radio stations because they had not been good enough and had “talked about subjects that no one listening had even heard of.”
She encouraged the church to be more creative with its media output, giving the example of a popular short radio slot she produced, which had been based on Thought for the Day but featured an informal dialogue on a hot topic set to the song “Human” by The Killers.
Burnett suggested that the church buy up advertising space as one way of getting back on the airwaves and urged every church to have its own press officer “commissioned and prayed for as a ministry like any other” to engage with local media and communicate the church’s good news stories.
She also called upon the church to develop a nationwide strategy to encourage more young Christians to go into presenting on secular radio or television programs.
“If young Christians were only encouraged to get jobs as secular presenters or producers, but specifically presenters, instead of being diverted into other jobs, we would have no cause to complain of being underrepresented," she argued. "The new BBC head of religion might have had a run for his money.”