Bishop Nick presented the 'Baftas' of religious broadcasting, the Sandford St Martin awards, at Lambeth Palace on Wednesday.
In his introduction, Bishop Nick, who chairs the Sandford St Martin Trust, which organises the awards, called for the BBC’s remit to include the promotion of greater religious literacy in the UK.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, who also spoke at the event, called on the BBC to treat religion “with the same seriousness as other genres like sport, politics, economics or drama."
The winner of the TV award was a Channel 4 documentary, My Son the Jihadi, a portrait of a devastated mother who discovers her son has joined an Islamic terrorist group in Somalia, and in the Interview of the Year category, the prize went to a Things Unseen podcast featuring the mother of James Foley, the US journalist who was murdered by Islamic State.
BBC drama Call The Midwife (left) was named the religious programme of the year (voted for by Radio Times readers) for a storyline in which Sister Julienne’s faith encounters that of Christian Scientist parents who refuse life-saving antibiotics for their baby.
In recognition of her commitment to religious and ethical broadcasting over six decades, broadcaster and journalist, Baroness Joan Bakewell DBE (right), received the Sandford St Martin Trustees’ Award.
A full list of the awards can be found here.
A recent Government White Paper includes calls for the BBC to be required to reflect the “diversity” of the British Isles.
Bishop Nick said: “Religion is a prime motivator of individuals and communities, inspiring and informing their political, economic, ethical and social behaviour. So we’d like to propose an addition to the public purposes proposed by the white paper.
“In addition to ‘raising awareness of the different cultures and alternative viewpoints that make up (UK) society’ we propose that the BBC should reflect and interpret the many religious communities that exist in the UK with the aim of building a better understanding of the beliefs people hold both between those communities and by UK audiences as a whole.”
Bishop Nick also quoted AA Gill who wrote in 2014, “Religion has never been more tangible in world affairs and public life. Not having more sensible and serious religious broadcasting isn’t modern, it’s a failure to face modernity”.
The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby, called on the BBC to treat religion “with the same seriousness as other genres like sport, politics, economics or drama.
“BBC charter renewal, and questions about the ownership of Channel 4, have focussed to some extent on the diversity of people who make up our islands and who constitute the audience of our great broadcasting institutions. But if diversity is to mean anything, it must mean more than differences in ethnicity or personal tastes... True diversity also means paying proper attention to religion.
The promotion of religious literacy should be a specific duty for the BBC across its broadcasting services.”
An abridged version of the Archbishop's speech can be found in this week's Radio Times.
Bishop Nick will be speaking on BBC local radio stations thoughout the country this Sunday (7-9am) about the call for greater prominence for religious programmes and content on BBC.