Pointless and platitudinous: John Humphrys and Lord Singh speak out about Thought for the Day
In the last week former Today presenter John Humphrys has said that Thought for the Day is discriminatory and “rather pointless” because it excludes non-religious voices, while regular contributor Lord Singh of Wimbledon has quit because he found editorial interference had reduced it to “the recital of religious platitudes”.
It reminds me of what another regular contributor, Rabbi Lord Sacks, said on TFTD almost two years ago after seeing the statue of George Orwell at the BBC, and its inscription: “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
He said that the opportunity to hear diverse views and listen to each other is essential to a free society, a lesson he learned at university when his atheist doctoral supervisor, the late Sir Bernard Williams, would always listen respectfully to his views, those of a passionate religious believer.
Rabbi Sacks asks: “Why does it matter? Because truth emerges from disagreement and debate. Because tolerance means making space for difference. Because justice involves Audi alteram partem, listening to the other side. And because, in Orwell’s words, liberty means ‘the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.’”
It’s time to stop censoring contributors and to include humanists and other non-religious thinkers on Thought for the Day.
Make your views known – write to Director-General Tony Hall firstname.lastname@example.org and Director of Radio and Education James Purnell email@example.com, and join us at the next demo, an afternoon one from 4 to 6pm on Tuesday 12 November.