The production of religious broadcasting: the case of the BBC.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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This thesis examines the way in which media professionals negotiate the occupational challenges related to television and radio production. It has used the subject of religion and its treatment within the BBC as a microcosm to unpack some of the dilemmas of contemporary broadcasting. In recent years religious programmes have evolved in both form and content leading to what some observers claim is a “renaissance” in religious broadcasting. However, any claims of a renaissance have to be balanced against the complex institutional and commercial constraints that challenge its long-term viability.
This research finds that despite the BBC’s public commitment to covering a religious brief, producers in this style of programming are subject to many of the same competitive forces as those in other areas of production. Furthermore those producers who work in-house within the BBC’s Department of Religion and Ethics believe that in practice they are being increasingly undermined through the internal culture of the Corporation and the strategic decisions it has adopted. This is not an intentional snub by the BBC but a product of the pressure the Corporation finds itself under in an increasingly competitive broadcasting ecology, hence the removal of the protection once afforded to both the department and the output.
Those who informed this study have responded to these challenges in a number of different ways. Of these, the two most important are the adoption of a discourse of ‘professionalism’ designed to underscore their creativity, knowledge and value to the BBC and overcome the ghettoisation of religious broadcasting and second, in the opening up of religion to a range of new formats and conventions which are designed to make the programming more audience, and thus commissioner, friendly. However, despite both these responses the long-term future of religious broadcasting and its suppliers is still far from clear. Therefore, using historical analysis, interviews with media professionals and a period of observational research this thesis offers critical insights into the private world of religious broadcasting at the BBC.
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