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News release immediate 22.11.11

CBC calls for fair representation of faith groups in media ownership and is concerned that Christians are underrepresented in the BBC.
The Christian Broadcasting Council is pressing media regulator Ofcom to safeguard Christian broadcasting in the UK by ensuring that faith groups are given fair representation across the media.

CBC says a recent survey of the BBC found Christians were underrepresented in the Corporation. A far smaller proportion of BBC staff professed a Christian faith than across the nation as a whole, and CBC says the BBC should make sure faith perspectives are fairly represented.

CBC believes future media regulation must also apply to the BBC. It wants to see plurality and transparency in media ownership, and is calling for safeguards to prevent toy manufacturers from cashing in on programmes that persuade children to pester their parents to buy their products.

Ofcom has been asked by Jeremy Hunt, the Secretary of State for Culture Olympics, Media and Sport, to provide advice on media ownership, and has been seeking comments.

The review arises over the proposed take-over of BSkyB by News Corporation, which would increase the concentration of media ownership by Rupert Murdoch. Parliament is concerned about the safeguarding of media plurality and diversity.

This concern is shared by the Christian Broadcasting Council, which has pulled together views from churches, Christian organisations and independent Christian broadcasters.

'Our message to Ofcom is that Christian voices must continue to be heard on the airwaves,' says CBC chair Olave Snelling. 'Faith perspectives have a keyrole to play in informing public debate and enriching our understanding. 

'In the past, Christians have been barred from media ownership. CBC has championed the right of Christians to be regarded under law as 'fit persons' to apply for broadcast licences. We fought for and won that right and will strive to ensure that Christian representation in the media remains, and that Christians are able to talk and write openly about their faith.'

CBC Broadcasting consultant J Peter Wilson writes: 'It is essential in a free and democratic society that citizens have a free choice of which publications, stations and channels they can access, including those that discuss topics from a Christian viewpoint, as well as the views of other faith groups.'

Ofcom is reviewing whether other genres, as well as news and current affairs, should be considered as critical for informing democracy. CBC believes that a faith perspective is crucial to public debate.

'The reporting of faith matters should be included by Ofcom as one of its key genres,' writes J Peter Wilson.

Citing a recent BBC Diversity report he wrote: 'The number of staff professing a Christian faith was 37 per cent, compared to 63 per cent nationally. Those saying they were Muslim was the same as the national figure, and those saying they were non-religious was 50 per cent, compared to 23 per cent nationally.

'As religion has an important impact on the lives of many people in this country and around the world, it is important that media organisations – including the BBC – employ people with a real knowledge and understanding of religion, including the Christian faith in its many forms.

'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.'

Another key concern of CBC is the need to regulate the production of children's TV programmes by toy manufacturers. 'Such moves, if not properly regulated at a UK and European level, could lead to programmes being made with the sole purpose of influencing children to 'demand' certain toys from their parents,' writes CBC's broadcasting consultant J Peter Wilson.

'CBC believes that children need to be safeguarded. Connections between media companies and the makers of children's toys need to be taken into account when scrutiny is undertaken of media plurality.'

A summary of CBC's key recommendations to Ofcom follows:

  1. CBC believes Parliament should provide a framework to ensure media plurality - but that competition will be the main source of protecting diversity of ownership. Regulatory solutions will be unable to keep pace with changes in technology.
  2. CBC believes future regulation should protect media consumers from indecency, such as child pornography, libel or illegal surveillance. Future regulation must not prevent newcomers from entering the media marketplace.
  3. The majority ownership of all entrants must be held by UK or European Economic Area citizens or by citizens of countries where we have a quid pro quo arrangement that allows UK citizens to own a majority in their media organisations.
  4. CBC strongly recommends that, alongside news and current affairs, the reporting of faith matters and the perspective of faith groups should be regarded as critical for informing democracy, and should be included by regulators as a key genre.
  5. All media regulation must include the BBC. 

CBC represents Christians in the media and is a seasoned campaigner for Christian broadcasting, championing legal rights and religious freedoms. 

CBC members have been involved since the late 1980s in submitting responses to government and broadcasting regulators concerning broadcasting and communications regulation.

Through its annual Awards, the Christian Broadcasting Council encourages excellence in religious broadcasting.