Almost all responses to the commission’s consultation expressed concern about the portrayal of religion and belief in the mainstream media.
The following submissions are particularly noteworthy for their discussions of religion and belief in the UK in the context of media.
‘Muslims are homogenised and represented through a small range of negative topics – terrorism, extremism, conflict, separatism and cultural difference/clash.’
Elizabeth Poole is a specialist on Muslims and the media in Britain. Her submission argues that there are serious deficiencies in media coverage and representations of the major religions in the UK. She makes some recommendations for tackling these issues and for improving the public’s religious and belief literacy.
‘The difficulty is that the role of religion both abroad and in this country is perceived by the mainstream media as akin to the reporting of politics: it’s essentially about conflicts’.
Catherine Pepinster is Editor of the Catholic newspaper The Tablet. She argues that there is a lack of knowledge about the basics of religion and belief among media professionals, and that mainstream media outlets tend to perceive the roles of religion and belief in terms of conflicts. The author also discusses how developments in media, including social media, in recent years have reshaped people’s experiences of religion and belief.
‘How would you feel about being called a “moderate Christian”?’
The Church in Wales’ submission argues that mainstream media outlets tend to associate religion with conservative morality, and that editors tend to be interested in religion and belief only when there is something negative to report. The authors emphasise concerns over unhelpful or careless use of religious labels. They suggest that the Church in Wales receives more media scrutiny than other Christian denominations in Wales, in part because of a perception that it is the established church, despite its disestablished status in reality. This submission also discusses social change and issues concerning education and faith-based social action.
‘Journalists and those who ‘make programmes’ about religious communities and religious affairs need to understand their role as mediators of ‘truths’ about those they speak and write about.’
This submission has been prepared by Jo Backus on behalf of the Network of Buddhist Organisations. The author notes that many media representations of religion and belief do not take account of internal differences within a particular tradition. She argues that Buddhism in mainstream media is mostly represented by white converts. She emphasises that media plays an important role in educating the public about religion and belief, and that more positive coverage of religion and spirituality in mainstream media is needed. This submission also discusses social change, law, education, social action and dialogue.