Radio 4’s Thought For The Day faces fresh calls for change

Sandi Toksvig is among more than 30 figures who have called for Radio 4 to open up its morning slot Thought For The Day.

There have been calls to include non-religious contributors to the segment, in Radio 4’s Today programme, for several years.

Now a letter – also signed by philosopher Julian Baggini, comedian Ed Byrne and scientist and presenter Alice Roberts – has been published in The Guardian, calling on the BBC to lift the bar on humanists taking part.

Ed Byrne on The Great Sport Relief Bake Off
Ed Byrne on The Great Sport Relief Bake Off (BBC)

The morning slot sees religious figures reflect on current events from a faith perspective.

The letter says: “It’s time for the BBC to open its flagship reflective slot, Thought For The Day, to humanists.

“Religion doesn’t hold a monopoly on ethical worldviews. There is another mainstream tradition, as old as religion, that has much to say on the ethical issues of our time – and that’s humanism.”

It adds: “By barring humanists from Thought For The Day, the BBC is blatantly failing its remit to reflect the diversity of beliefs of its audience and wider population, and its legal duty to treat non-religious and religious beliefs equally.”

Last year, a BBC report said that the broadcaster should continue to air Thought For The Day.

John Humphrys has previously voiced his views about the slot
John Humphrys has previously voiced his views about the slot (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

In 2009, the BBC’s then governing body rejected a series of complaints about a ban on non-religious contributors.

The BBC Trust said only allowing religious contributors on the slot did not breach either the BBC editorial guideline on impartiality or the broadcaster’s duty to reflect religious and other beliefs in its programming.

But in 2017, John Humphrys voiced his disapproval, telling Radio Times magazine: “It seems to me inappropriate that Today should broadcast nearly three minutes of uninterrupted religion, given that rather more than half our population have no religion at all.”

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