God: TV’s Holy Grail?
Billed by the Festival organisers as one of this year’s hottest debates, this Sandford St Martin Trust event delivered exactly that and more.
Arguments ranged from the pros and cons of quotas to definitions of religious broadcasting with some surprising views on what does, or doesn’t, constitute a religious programme. And total unity on the importance of religious literacy if we are to understand our own communities and global events.
Chaired by Sian Williams, presenter of BBC One’s Sunday Morning Live, the panel comprised Polly Toynbee (vice-president of the British Humanist association); Radio 4 Feedback presenter Roger Bolton (Trustee of the Sandford St Martin Trust); Aaqil Ahmed (BBC’s Head of Religion and Ethics); Ralph Lee (deputy chief creative officer of Channel 4); and the acclaimed screenwriter Tony Jordan who, after EastEnders, Hustle and Life on Mars, wrote The Nativity for the BBC and – coming soon – The Ark, starring David Threlfall as Noah.
We sponsored this debate, along with the Jerusalem Trust and Picturewise, because we believe, in the words of AA Gill, that “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.”
A session about God at the Edinburgh International Television Festival? Surely not…
“We don’t do God” said Alastair Campbell and in recent years most TV commissioners have seemed to agree. Programmes exploring religion and faith have largely disappeared from the commercial channels, leaving the publicly-funded BBC to carry the flame (with quotas to stiffen its resolve).
Read Torin Douglas’ blog for the Huffington Post