GLASGOW, Scotland, FEB. 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Archbishop Mario Conti accused British Broadcasting Corporation of encouraging “a tabloid culture” in which it has been guilty of “gross insensitivity” to the Catholic Church.
In a letter to the Herald newspaper published today, the Glasgow archbishop singled out four examples of BBC insensitivity to the Church.
He noted, for instance, that the decision to mark the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of John Paul II and the beatification of Mother Teresa had been juxtaposed with a documentary, “Sex and the Holy City,” about the efficacy of condoms in the fight against AIDS.
“Such scheduling showed gross insensitivity to the spiritual and historical significance of these moments,” the archbishop said.
The director of communications for the Archdiocese of Glasgow, Ronnie Convery, issued the full text of the letter, reprinted below.
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Leaving aside a judgement on the outcome of the Hutton Inquiry, it is reassuring to note that the BBC has responded by conducting what might be termed an “examination of broadcasting conscience”. Such a process can only be beneficial to the Corporation and satisfy those who rely on it for objective and authoritative reporting.
I hope that in this period of reflection it will not be forgotten that other institutions, besides Government, have had cause for complaint in recent years at some of the BBC’s editorial stances. Even at the risk of apparent special pleading let me give examples from the Corporation’s recent coverage of the Catholic Church.
Firstly the decision to mark the 25th anniversary of the pontificate of Pope John Paul II and the beatification of Mother Teresa with a documentary — “Sex and the Holy City” — about the efficacy of condoms in the fight against AIDS. Such scheduling showed gross insensitivity to the spiritual and historical significance of these moments.
I mention also the Corporation’s plans to broadcast “Popetown” — a cartoon which satirises the Pope as a childish pensioner whose every fickle whim must be indulged. A prudent use of licence-payers’ resources I wonder?
There was the hounding of the Archbishop of Westminster last year — once more by the “Today” programme and “Newsnight” — a process which seemed to owe more to the desire to claim an eminent scalp than to objective reporting of fact. And closer to home, “Newsnight Scotland,” just last week, carried a sneering and aggressive interview on the Church’s position on shared campus schools, failing to distinguish tabloid fictions from fact.
We do not object to probing questions. We do object to rudeness and prejudice.
Mr Gilligan’s admitted failures have been symptomatic of an increasingly cavalier attitude on the part of some at the BBC towards institutions and individuals for whom the redress of a public inquiry is not available. I have some sympathy for Mr Gilligan. At another time and in another place his error would have been immediately corrected and an apology issued and accepted. I have less sympathy for those within the Corporation who have encouraged a tabloid culture to grow which has seen the world’s most distinguished broadcasting organisation employ tactics and standards unworthy of it.
Of course the BBC is not the only, nor the worst offender, but we did expect it to set a standard of probity, and we expect it still.
+ Mario Conti
Archbishop of Glasgow