Hindus cautiously welcome BBC’s “change of heart” on religious programming

Hindus have cautiously welcomed the ambitious and wide-ranging British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) plans to enhance coverage of religion with a pluralistic approach.

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed; commenting on the detailed “BBC Religion & Ethics Review” released by its Director General Tony Hall on December 20; in a statement in Nevada (USA) today, welcomed BBC’s idea of “improving religious literacy inside and outside the BBC”, calling it a step in the positive direction.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, hoped that BBC would project and portray Hinduism in its future programming accurately instead of reimagining Hinduism concepts and traditions to fit its agendas. Moreover, BBC should show fairness to “other” religions which it desperately failed to do in the past despite tall claims.

Hinduism had been highly underserved at BBC in the past; Rajan Zed stressed and added that things might be better if Hall and BBC seriously and honestly implemented what was claimed in this new review.

Zed pointed out that multi-culturalism had been fast growing in United Kingdom (UK) and it was now a diverse society formed of various religions and denominations and non-believers, but BBC had not kept pace with it. Hindus deserved more airtime at BBC and live aarti broadcasts from major Hindu temples in UK should regularly feature in BBC schedules. It was time for the disproportionate religious output at BBC to end, giving way to evenly distributed time/space on TV-radio-online among various religions/denominations/non-believers.

BBC should also ensure adequate coverage of Diwali, Holi, Krishna Janmashtami, Maha Shivaratri, Ram Navami, Ganesha Chaturthi, Navaratri, Duserra, Hanuman Jayanti, Makar Sankranti, Yugadi and other Hindu festivals; Rajan Zed noted.

Hymns from ancient Sanskrit scriptures, contemporary bhajans and Hindu sermons should regularly form part of BBC One’s over 56 years old “Songs of Praise” program, one of the world’s longest-running religious television series. Hindu hymns, songs and faith stories were also highly inspiring, warm and engaging; and moreover, God liked all songs-of-praise, irrespective of the religion these came from, Zed indicated.

Rajan Zed further said that BBC, being “a public service broadcaster funded by the licence fee paid by UK households”, including the Hindu households, should have been more responsible and inclusive in its religious programming. It should not ignore and sideline “other” faiths in its content and productions, and across its various channels and services.

Zed stated that BBC; whose “values” included “celebrate our diversity” and “great things happen when we work together”; and whose “purposes” included “reflect, represent and serve the diverse communities”; should show some maturity/responsibility/accountability in handling religion appropriately. BBC should take religion more seriously, and help us build interconnections and create harmony.

We pray that BBC gets the religion right, Rajan Zed adds.

BBC labeled “yoga” as “fad” in 2013. BBC also labeled Hindu festival of Holi as “filthy festival” in 2012 to which it apologized later. BBC has been blamed in the past for racism, imperialist stance, Indophobic bias, anti-Hindu bigotry, anti-American bias, etc.

Launched in October 1922, headquartered in London, and established by a Royal Charter; BBC claims to be the “world’s leading public service broadcaster”. Every UK viewer needs to have a TV License, which costs £147.

Hinduism, oldest and third largest religion in the world, has about 1.1 billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.