Friday, August 19, 2011

Ernie the ignoramus

Ernie Rea presents a BBC Radio 4 programme called "Beyond Belief", described as "A series exploring the place and nature of faith in today's world." It's sure to irritate people like me because it's hopelessly biased in favour of the religious, who are given a sympathetic hearing and allowed to talk utter twaddle without fear of contradiction. For this reason, I don't usually listen, but the radio was on the other week when I was busy, and I didn't get around to switching it off before I became incensed over Rea's ignorant use of the words "secularism" and "secular" as synonymous with atheism or anti-theism. This happens a lot, you might say; religious leaders, such as pontificating bishops, do it all the time, but this was the bloody BBC! They're supposed to know what words mean. I expect BBC presenters to use the English language correctly. So I complained:
It's incumbent upon a Radio 4 presenter to use words correctly, even if his or her guests do not. During today's programme, Rea and his guests all demonstrated their ignorance of secularism by using the word to mean atheism or anti-religion. Secularism means the separation of religion and the state, so that no one religion dominates. It's the only system that allows everyone to practice his or her religion freely, or not to follow any religion, provided that he or she does no harm. The UK isn't totally secular, as we still have an established church, but the US, Canada, France (and others) have secular constitutions and are secular states, guaranteeing their citizens freedom of and freedom from religion. I spoke about this at a local Forum of Faiths a while ago: www.suffolkhands.org.uk/node/530. This isn't the only instance of the word being used incorrectly in BBC radio and TV programmes - it happens all too often - and it drives me mad.
I've just had a reply:
Dear Ms Nelson,

Thanks for contacting us regarding ‘Beyond Belief’ broadcast on 15 August on BBC Radio 4. We understand you’re unhappy with the use of the word ‘Secularism’ in the programme because you feel it’s used incorrectly.

The BBC is conscious of the need to maintain high standards of spoken English and pronunciation throughout its broadcasts; standards that not only include fairness and impartiality, but also proper use of language.

We’re sorry you feel this hasn’t been the case when using the term ‘Secularism’, we can assure you no offence or annoyance was intended.

We'd like to assure you that your feedback has been registered on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's made available to many BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, programme makers, channel controllers and other senior managers. The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.

Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.

Kind Regards
Leigh Mallon
BBC Complaints
www.bbc.co.uk/complaints
Will Rea make an apology on air? I doubt it. You can still hear the programme, for a limited time.

1 comment:

debencyclist said...

That's an insincere cut and paste 'apology' if ever I saw one and completely fails to admit the mistake. Boo Hiss BBC