Bishop of St Albans speaks on the importance of the BBC World Service

On 1st December 2022, the House of Lords debated a motion to take note regarding the importance of the BBC World Service, and the impact of cuts to its service. The Lord Bishop of St Albans spoke in the debate, highlighting the benefits of truth in reporting and global access to information, particularly for vulnerable populations:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Alton, for tabling this debate, and for his excellent exposition of the impact and importance of the BBC World Service.

The BBC World Service is one of the most potent ways in which we can act in the world, not least to help those persecuted people who often are voiceless. I think of the debate that we had a couple of weeks ago about the hundreds of thousands of women on the streets of Iran. I think about the debates and Questions in this House about the various persecuted people in China. They need accurate reporting and, very often, knowing that something is being reported gives people hope and keeps them going when they are being crushed by their own authoritarian leaders.

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Bishop of Leeds speaks of value of UK public service broadcasting

On 3rd November 2022, the House of Lords held a debate on public service broadcasting to mark the centenary of the BBC. The Bishop of Leeds spoke in the debate, with specific reference to the value of UK public service broadcasting worldwide, and the future of Channel 4:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Foster, for securing this very important debate. Before saying anything further on the theme, I want to express thanks to and admiration for those who prepared the Library briefing. I have been knocking around these issues for a couple of decades, and this briefing is a model of narrative accuracy and concision.

Public service broadcasting in the UK is unique on the planet and one area in which this country is genuinely a world leader, which is why it is so important that, in the centenary year of the BBC and the day after the 40th birthday of Channel 4, we assess the value of what we have and steel ourselves against the ideologically driven impulse to diminish it. Yesterday, I asked a friend who works in public service broadcasting what she would focus on in a debate such as this. Her response was immediate: imagine a world without it. That is, imagine a world in which broadcasting serves only narrow cultural or political interests and is subject purely to commercial or transactional persuasion. I might put it like this: look at broadcasting in the United States. Price is not the same as value.

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Bishop of Leeds asks about support for BBC services

The Bishop of Leeds asked a question about support and resources for the BBC on 10th March 2022, during a debate on the provision of BBC services to Ukraine:

The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, no other broadcasting company could have flexed as quickly as the BBC has in this emergency, particularly in relation to HF shortwave broadcasting. Could the Minister at least give a commitment that the BBC as a public service broadcaster at home and abroad will be adequately supported and resourced and not undermined in the public discourse?

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Bishop of Liverpool makes maiden speech on importance of scrutiny, in BBC debate

“Calm scrutiny will cause people with power, whoever and wherever they may be, whatever they may say, however loudly they may speak, one and all, to be uncomfortable. This applies as much to the Bishops of the Church of England as to anyone else”.

On 2nd December 2021 the Bishop of Liverpool, Rt Revd Paul Bayes, made his maiden speech in the House of Lords, during a debate led by Lord Bragg “That this House takes note of the BBC’s value to the United Kingdom and a wider global audience and the case for Her Majesty’s Government giving it greater support.”

The Lord Bishop of Liverpool (Maiden Speech): My Lords, I am grateful for the opportunity to address your Lordships for the first time and on this subject, and for the privilege of following the noble Lord, Lord Bilimoria. I am grateful to the noble Lord, Lord McNally, for his kind words*. I thank all noble Lords for the warmth of the welcome that I have received, and, for the quality of briefing and induction from the officers and staff of your Lordships’ House, which has been exemplary and profoundly helpful.

I speak as one whose first degree was in drama and theatre arts, and who was almost employed by the BBC as a trainee script editor in what was then called “English Regions Drama”, at the Pebble Mill studios in Birmingham, in 1975. With whatever wisdom, I chose instead to enter the ordained ministry of the Church, and there have been times when I have felt that I chose the lower calling. Forty-two years of ministry in six different dioceses have culminated in the enormous privilege of my being appointed Bishop of Liverpool in 2014. I have been preferred to your Lordships’ House late in my ministry, but I am very grateful to be here and to receive wisdom for at least a few months.

Among its many dimensions, I want to speak of what the BBC does uniquely in our fragmented public square. To me, the gift and value of public service broadcasting is a matter of form before it is a matter of content: it rests on the decision to assume a tone of voice. The value of the BBC to this nation and our global position is rooted in its decision to be calm, to choose a particular volume and quality of scrutiny and to sustain it, no matter how unpopular it may be.

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Bishop of Salisbury says BBC needs to be cherished, not disrupted

On 5th March 2020 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Young of Norwood Green, “That this House takes note of the role of the BBC and public service broadcasting in the United Kingdom’s economy and creative culture.” The Bishop of Salisbury, Rt Revd Nicholas Holtam, spoke in the debate:

The Lord Bishop of Salisbury: My Lords, the timing of this debate could hardly be better. I also want to thank the noble Lord, Lord Young, for his introduction. The Media and Telecoms 2020 & Beyond conference and the Culture Secretary’s contribution to it inevitably inform a lot of what is to be said. I also wondered whether I need to declare an interest, having been the vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields for 16 years, given that the first religious service ever broadcast came from there, by the BBC, in January 1924. The link continues. I never made much income from it, but it is a significant relationship with considerable affection for the BBC built into it. Continue reading “Bishop of Salisbury says BBC needs to be cherished, not disrupted”

BBC needs to promote religious literacy, Bishop of Norwich tells Peers

On 12th October 2016 the House of Lords debated a Government motion “that this House takes note of the drafts of the BBC’s new charter and the agreement between the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and the Corporation.” The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James, spoke in the debate about the need for well-resourced and informed coverage of religion. 

norwich121016bThe Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I have been pondering what interest to declare in this debate. I have never been employed by the BBC, but have received very modest remuneration for occasional broadcasts; I listen to Radio 4 more than any other channel; I fall asleep when watching “Newsnight”, despite my best intentions; and I belong to a generation for whom, in our childhood and early life, television and radio were the BBC—in my native Cornwall in the late 1950s, there was no ITV. I say all this because I realise that the BBC is so much part of the fabric of my life that I can be an incurable romantic about it.

In some ways, the BBC is rather like the Church of England: it is both national and local, and everyone in the BBC, as in the Church of England, imagines that power is being exercised somewhere but they always believe that it is somewhere else and that they do not have any. Continue reading “BBC needs to promote religious literacy, Bishop of Norwich tells Peers”

Bishop of Southwark asks if the BBC should have a duty to build religious literacy

SouthwarkOn 19th July 2016 Lord Stevenson of Balmacara asked Her Majesty’s Government “to what form of parliamentary scrutiny they intend to submit the draft Royal Charter of the BBC.” The Bishop of Southwark, Rt Revd Christopher Chessun, asked a follow up question:

The Lord Bishop of Southwark: My Lords, does the Minister agree that the building of religious literacy and the understanding of diverse communities within our nation should be a foundational part of the statutory duty of the BBC, mindful of the need for global and domestic cohesion? Continue reading “Bishop of Southwark asks if the BBC should have a duty to build religious literacy”

Bishop of Chelmsford says BBC services need to reflect religious and community life of the nation

On 21st April 2016 the House of Lords debated a motion from Lord Best, Chair of the Lords Communications Committee, “That this House takes note of the report from the Communications Committee BBC Charter Review: Reith not Revolution (1st Report, HL Paper 96).” The Bishop of Chelmsford, Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, who is a member of the Committee spoke in the debate:

Chelmsford 251115The Lord Bishop of Chelmsford: My Lords, I too speak as a member of the Select Committee that produced this report. I must declare an interest as a co-chair of the multi-faith standing conference of the BBC on religion and ethics, and related to that work I want to talk about the place of faith in public service broadcasting, and indeed to speak for all the faith communities in these islands.

It has been said that if a mission statement is more than two or three words long, it either means that the organisation does not really know its purpose, or even if it does, no one else will. Let me give a few examples: glasnost, girl power, flower power, New Labour and the big society; I will not go on. Consequently, if a mission statement is going to work, it has to be pithy and memorable. Lord Reith’s “inform, educate and entertain” does the job, and has done it very effectively for a long time—everyone knows it.When the last charter renewal process landed the BBC with six rather wordy and worthy public purposes, it was not necessarily doing it a favour. Continue reading “Bishop of Chelmsford says BBC services need to reflect religious and community life of the nation”

Interpreting and explaining religion should be a key role of BBC, Bishop of Leeds tells Peers

On the 10th March 2016 the Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines, spoke in a short debate on the BBC Charter Review. He expanded on these remarks in a subsequent blog post.

BpLeeds2The Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, the BBC has three core purposes: to inform, to educate and to entertain. Will the Minister comment on a fourth purpose, which is to interpret? Diversity has been perceived in terms of regional diversity when one could also say that ethnic and religious diversity in the country need to be taken more seriously. Religion is a primary motivator of individuals and communities, inspiring and informing their political, economic, ethical and social behaviour.

It needs to be interpreted. What the world looks like when seen through a particular religious lens needs to be taken more seriously. In July 2015, Ofcom expressed concern about the diminution of attention to religion in the BBC. Can the Minister assure us that this will be taken more seriously in the charter renewal? Continue reading “Interpreting and explaining religion should be a key role of BBC, Bishop of Leeds tells Peers”

Bishop of Norwich speaks in support of the BBC

“The BBC has plenty of the faults to be found in all large institutions, including government departments. It has a capacity to waste money on IT projects, but no more so than successive Governments. It can be complacent and bureaucratic, but so can the Church of England and the trade unions. What seems to irritate its opponents is its very success.” – Bishop of Norwich, 14/7/15

14.06.12 Bishop of Norwich

On 14th July 2015 the House of Lords debated the future of the BBC. The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James, a former member of the House of Lords Communications Committee, spoke supportively of the BBC, including its integral role in promoting British values. 

The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, it seems odd that a Government so keen to promote British values in our schools appear intent on reducing the capacity of a world-renowned British institution. The BBC is increasingly referred to as though it were part of the public sector. It is not. It is an organisation financed not from the public purse but by those who use it. The fact that many of them are also taxpayers is no more relevant than the fact that those who pay their energy bills are also taxpayers. Perhaps the winter fuel allowance will now be transferred to the energy companies. The logic seems impeccable given the precedent established last week.

Continue reading “Bishop of Norwich speaks in support of the BBC”

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