BBC pledges more focus on other religions, including Judaism

UK broadcaster seeks to create more programming around Passover, Rosh Hashana.

December 20, 2017 17:40
2 minute read.
BBC headquarters in London

BBC headquarters in London. (photo credit: TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)

The British Broadcasting Corporation announced on Wednesday a goal of increasing its coverage of religion and its exploration of faiths and beliefs outside of Christianity.

“As UK society becomes more diverse and complex, with so many passionately held, conflicting views, our role in helping audiences to understand belief in a fast-changing world has perhaps never been more important,” the company said in a statement.

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BBC said it conducted a year of research and did extensive audience polling to produce its 40-page report, titled “BBC Religion and Ethics Review.” Among the 150 experts consulted were UK Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis, former chief rabbi Baron Jonathan Sacks, Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg of the Masorti movement and Chabad Rabbi Michael Rose.

In the statement, the public broadcaster – which operates seven local TV channels and many more worldwide – assured that “our commitment to Christianity is undiminished,” but that it is also looking to highlight a range of other faiths more prominently.

This will include producing content about the festivals and holidays of other religions. “We will create specific features and content for major festivals such as Diwali, Passover, Rosh Hashana, Ramadan, Eid and Vaisakhi,” BBC said.

As part of its research, the broadcaster found that while Sikhs and committed Christians were most critical of the amount they were portrayed on TV, Jews were “most critical of quality.”

The media powerhouse pointed to several Jewish-themed shows and films they have already aired or commissioned, including My Big Gay Jewish Conversion and The Jews of Canvey Island. It also noted that Sacks is slated to present “a major series on morality in the 21st Century” on Radio 4.

My Big Gay Jewish Conversion was a film that aired in August, featuring Simon Atkins, a Roman Catholic considering converting to Judaism. The Jews of Canvey Island is slated to air early next year and tell the story of the Satmar Hassidim who are seeking more affordable housing in the unlikely southern British town.

Gillian Merron, the chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, welcomed the BBC’s report.

“We are glad that the BBC has committed itself to expanding its coverage around religious festivals,” she said, “and we would also like to see BBC coverage take into account the full diversity of the Jewish community in the UK and for that coverage to strive to be both rigorous and accurate.”

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