On 8 November the BBC Trust published the final report of its service reviews of BBC One, BBC Two and BBC Four television (BBC Three was separately reviewed last year). The report is available at:
With regard to religious broadcasting, the report concludes (p. 44) that: ‘The amount of religious programming has been steady over time, with BBC One and BBC Two meeting audience expectations in this area.’
‘BBC One and BBC Two have a shared commitment to broadcasting over 110 hours of religious programming each year. These channels met this service licence condition during this review period: BBC One broadcast around 100 hours of religious programming in 2009, while BBC Two broadcast around 35 hours.’
‘Overall reach of religious programming on BBC television was over 28 million in 2009, a figure broadly similar to 2005. The volume of programming has also remained broadly stable since 2005, in contrast to other channels – Channel 4’s output has fallen from 76 hours to 49 hours and ITV1’s from 67 hours to 21.45.’
‘Much of BBC One’s programming is accounted for by three major strands, Songs of Praise, which reached 3.4 million viewers each week in 2009, and Big Questions and Sunday Morning Live, discussion and debate formats broadcast on Sunday mornings.’
‘BBC Two’s religious output is less regular with a focus on factual programming such as Around the World in 80 Faiths which reached nearly 2.5 million people every week.’
‘Our audience research shows that both BBC One and BBC Two are meeting audience expectations to “reflect a range of religious and other beliefs” and “raises my awareness and understanding of different religions and other beliefs”, although there are some gaps in delivery to ethnic minority viewers.’
‘This conclusion is supported by BBC management’s routine performance data, which shows that around 40 per cent of the audience consider BBC One as the best channel for religious programming. While this level has declined in recent years, it remains significantly above the next highest channels, Channel 4 and BBC Two.’
The final report, from which the foregoing has been extracted, should be read alongside a range of supporting evidence for the service reviews, which can be found at:
This includes formal written submissions from the British Humanist Association, the Church of England and the Methodist Church, as well as an extensive (but not an easy read) report by Trevor Vagg and Sara Reid on quantitative research conducted by Kantar Media in connection with the service reviews.
Using a mixture of face-to-face and online interviews, Kantar Media interviewed three separate samples of UK adults aged 15 and over in November and December 2009: 1,059 for the BBC One review, 995 for BBC Two, and 729 for BBC Four.
The chief religion-related questions concerned the extent of agreement with the propositions that each television station ‘raises my awareness and understanding of different religions and other beliefs’ and ‘reflects a range of religious and other beliefs’. These were measured in terms of both importance and performance, with disaggregation by various demographic factors.
Additionally, religious affiliation was recorded and is sometimes used as a background variable for the analysis of other questions in the Kantar Media research.