The BBC has made an effort in recent years to portray characters in contemporary drama who just happen to be black, Muslim, homosexual or disabled. How often do you see a character in a drama who just happens to be Christian? Those Christians you do get in BBC drama come in two types. Both can be illustrated by examples from EastEnders: we have long had the slightly mad old dear, but some sort of diversity audit must have thrown up concerns that Christians were too often portrayed as elderly white Anglicans with comedy hypochondria. Ever-attentive to these issues, the BBC brought in a handsome young Pentecostalist minister who leaves his ex-wife to die, murders his wife’s ex-husband, drowns his son’s dog, strangles his wife, kills another woman who looks like his new wife, writes mad religious ravings on his cell wall in his own blood but is black. Ethnic minority: tick one, Britain’s thriving black inner city churches represented on screen: tick two.
Complaints of under-representation from the General Immoderator of the Church of Generalised Christian Fanatics have been dismissed by the BBC Trust after a spokesman pointed out that, in addition to Lucas Johnson cited above, we have in the last few years had the Christian fanatic from ‘Bonekickers’, the Christian pro-life terrorists in the opening episode of Spooks, and the pro-life fanatics in ‘Hunter’ who kidnap children and inject them with lethal drugs – of whom BBC Controller Kate Harward said that the show was based on “the day to day detail of the real world”. Really? I am not aware that there has ever been any anti-abortion terrorism in Britain ever. Aha, but what about America? BBC writers all believe that murders of people who carry out abortions occur every month or so in the US; in fact there have been two in the last thirteen years.
What set off this post, my first in a while for Biased BBC, was an email from a correspondent and Beeb-watcher going way back. (Please say if you want your name cited.) He wrote, “I just saw this from Barnabas Fund, a charitable organization that raises awareness, support and helps care for Christians undergoing persecution worldwide” and sends this link: The BBC is anti-Christian according to its own survey.
They noticed! Briefly.
Here it is. It has a boring title, “Development of a BBC Diversity Strategy: Summary of Responses to Public and Staff Consultations”. Perhaps that is why the BBC appear to have taken one look, yawned, and forgotten it. It does not exactly admit the BBC bias but the authors have gone out of their way to mention the portrayal of Christians as a recurring concern. It was leaked to the Daily Mail, and according to Harry Phibbs of that journal, the leak prompted a zinger of a response from a spokesman. He said the BBC had “strict editorial guidelines”. The existence of guidelines is not in itself considered sufficient to dismiss accusations of other types of offence against diversity.
(Apologies if this has been mentioned before – I do not recall seeing it on the main blog, but might have missed it. A Google search shows that it did come up on a Biased BBC message board, but I haven’t mastered message boards.)
There is much else of interest in the leaked document. And some things that are just strange. One female member of staff says that she has heard that a “senior member of staff in Development only employs ‘good looking people’”