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Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 10:05 GMT 11:05 UK
Protest over Thought for the Day 'ban'
Playwright Harold Pinter
Pinter objects to the religious slot on BBC radio

Playwright Harold Pinter is one of dozens of prominent figures who have banded together to protest at Radio 4's policy of not including non-religious contributors to the long-running Thought for the Day spot.

The BBC describes the item on its Today programme as "a slot for reflections on topical matters from the perspective of a religious faith".

It includes contributions from a wide range of faiths and although the BBC says it is currently being "refreshed" it has no plans to introduce secular contributors.

As a result, Pinter is one of more than 100 public figures, including broadcaster Ludovic Kennedy and the Labour politicians Michael Foot and Tony Banks, to write to the BBC board of governors in protest.

They say the ban is discriminatory and unjustified.

The BBC, however, says Thought for the Day is "unique" precisely because it offers a religious view of current affairs.

'Faith'

The letter of complaint says there have been calls for non-religious voices to be heard in the slot for well over 30 years, and that by banning such contributions the BBC is discriminating against the non-religious, who now amount to 30 to 40% of the population.

The letter has been signed by 20 MPs, 13 peers and a raft of scientists, academics, writers and entertainers, including supporters of the National Secular Society and the British Humanist Association.

They have called on the BBC governors to lift the ban.

A spokesman for the BBC said Thought for the Day, which is aired from Monday to Saturday at 0745 BST, is an "opportunity to reflect on the news, stories and issues of the day from a faith perspective".

He added: "It is distinctive because it offers a religious view on current affairs in a largely secular news programme."

An additional, unofficial Thought, presented by Professor Richard Dawkins of Oxford University, an aethiest, was broadcast on Wednesday morning by the Today programme, following the debate caused by the letter.


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