BBC under pressure over Thought for the Day

Progress made in humanists’ Thought for the Day campaign

Progress made in humanists’ Thought for the Day campaign

By Alex Stevenson

Humanists are a step closer to getting their views aired on the Today programme’s Thought for the Day slot.

It comes after BBC Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer said he did not intend to force a change in the slot’s exclusively religious contributors, which the British Humanist Association (BHA) has criticised.

Today the iPM programme will broadcast a one-off ‘Thought for the afternoon’ by the creator of the atheist bus advertising campaign, Ariane Sherine.

The BHA’s director of public affairs, Andrew Copson, told “Thought for the Afternoon will demonstrate just what sort of reflective contribution humanists will make if we are allowed on Thought for the Day.”

A Radio 4 insider said he doubted the slot would become regular, adding he did not believe it had been inserted into the programme because of senior BBC figures’ intervention.

A spokesperson added: “iPM is led by the views of our listeners. We are doing this Thought for the Afternoon as a one-off both in response to the debate on the blog and those suggesting we look at this subject on the programme.”

Pressure on the Beeb has mounted after BHA member Gavin Orland persuaded 1,660 people to pledge to email the BBC on the issue.

“The fact that humanist, non-religious contributors, are excluded from the slot gives the impression the BBC believes morality is the exclusive remit of religious people, which is offensive, unrepresentative and untrue,” Mr Orland said.

“It’s great that there will be a non-religious thought allowed on iPM: let it be an example to the Today programme.”

Debate within the BBC is thought to be growing as the ‘Thought for the afternoon’ slot challenges Mr Damazer’s position.

He said earlier this week: “On balance the BBC’s position is that it is reasonable to sustain the slot with believers.”

The iPM programme is broadcast on Radio 4 from 17:30 GMT today.