Atheists lose Thought for the Day battle

By Ian Dunt

Radio 4’s Thought for the Day slot is remain closed to non-religious contributors after the BBC Trust ruled it did not contravene BBC guidelines.

The regulator decided the nature of the slot was “a matter of discretion” for director general Mark Thompson and other BBC executives and that a blanket ruling was not suitable.

“We recognise that there may be cases in the future where concerns are raised about content on Thought for the Day, however, these should be dealt with as and when they arise in line with other editorial matters and procedures,” said Richard Tait, chairman of the Trust’s editorial standards committee.

Andrew Copson, British Humanist Society (BHA) director of education and public affairs, objected to the ruling.

“This is a real missed opportunity to correct the ongoing injustice of the exclusion of non-religious speakers on the programme. We can see no good reason whatever why humanists are barred from making their contribution,” he said.

“It is difficult to see how a policy of allowing only religious speakers to contribute, with unquestioned statements and positions, some of which stray very closely to the line of political opinions, does not contravene the BBC’s guidelines for impartiality.”

The ruling in a way prevents executives from changing the character of the slot.