'Be bolder,' BBC's Head of Religion & Ethics urges religious leaders

The BBC's Head of Religion & Ethics has issued a challenge to religious communities to be more courageous and passionate in the way they make use of the media.

Delivering the Beckley Lecture at the annual Methodist Conference in Llandudno, Alan Bookbinder challenged people of faith: "to be bolder and braver, to speak with clarity and conviction above the noise and confusion of purely secular concerns".

The BBC now devote a minimum of 112 hours a year to religious programming on BBC One and Two, together with around 400 hours on network radio. But, Alan Bookbinder said: "I regularly hear the cry from producers across the religious output: 'where are the talented preachers, the fluent speakers, the media savvy performers who can brave the airways and compete for attention?".

While the BBC is "eager to nurture new talent", he continued, "voices from the mainstream churches can often seem muted and defensive". He speculated that this could be because of a wariness of the media or a sensibility to internal politics, because there was clearly no shortage of talent.

Recent successes like A Country Parish, which was watched by up to 3 million people every week on BBC Two, prove that engaging voices such as the Rev Jamie Allen can reach a wide audience of believers and non-believers alike. Jamie, he said: "brought Christianity alive in a way we cannot do in a month of Sunday Worships."

Alan called on the Churches to "use the power and privilege that the airwaves offer" and "address the big questions of morality and mortality that are the very stuff of religion". Only by doing this, he said, could they secure their place on the network in the future and, more importantly, guarantee the space in the media to "engage the audience seriously about the deeper aspects of life".