BBC denies that its new religion guidelines will change coverage

The Washington Post found itself in a tight spot last week when one of the paper’s editors canned a comic strip for fear of inciting Muslim backlash. In defending his decision to keep “Non Sequitor” out of that week’s Style section, editor Ned Martel told Washington Post ombudsman Andy Alexander that the strip “seemed a deliberate provocation without a clear message,” and, “the point of the joke was not immediately clear.”

The joke: Cartoonist “Wiley” had drawn a colorful park scene and captioned it, “Picture book title voted least likely to ever find a publisher…’Where’s Muhammad?’”

According to the Washington Post’s Comic Riffs blog, Martel concluded “that readers might think that Muhammad was somewhere in the drawing.”

The decision sent ripples of indignation through the newspapering community and earned a stern rebuke from Wiley. “All I can do is surmise that the irony of their being afraid to run a cartoon that satirizes media’s knee-jerk reaction to anything involving Islam bounced right off their foreheads. So what they’ve actually accomplished is, sadly, [to] validate the point,” the cartoonist told the Comic Riffs blog.

Incidentally, the British Broadcasting Corporation, known affectionately stateside as “the Beeb,” made a similarly contentious decision regarding its general editorial policy around the same time. The following sentence can be found in the new editorial guidelines the BBC unveiled last Tuesday:

“Any content dealing with matters of religion and likely to cause offence to those with religious views and beliefs must be editorially justified as judged against generally accepted standards and must be referred to a senior editorial figure.”

Is the addition an innocuous clarification, or a sign that the BBC is moving in the direction as the Washington Post — namely a safer, less journalistically courageous one?

“The updated Guidelines would not have made any difference to our decision to show programmes like ‘Jerry Springer The Opera’ and will definitely not be an impediment to creative and challenging content dealing with religion in the future,” BBC press officer Gill Munro told The Daily Caller.

“It will make no difference to current best practice: it simply seeks to ensure that best practice is followed by all BBC content makers.”

The BBC has faced attacks on its religion coverage from all sides. In September, the UK’s most senior Catholic official Cardinal Keith O’Brien of Scotland criticized the corporation for giving more airtime to atheists like Richard Dawkins, mocking the pope, and practicing decades of bias against the Roman Catholic Church. In July, British Muslims accused the network of causing much ado about nothing after a handful of Islamic parents withdrew their children from music classes, citing an orthodox Islam ban on playing musical instruments. And in June, supporters of the Palestinian cause accused the network of giving undue credence to Israel’s record of events after an “aid flotilla” manned by so-called peace activists was raided in international waters by Israeli commandos, resulting in the deaths of several flotilla members.

  • papa1

    Does this mean that Christians will no longer be a safe target for comic strips and editorial comments, or are they thinking about other religions with no tolerance for such things?

  • dahni

    Theists should be permitted to believe whatever they want to believe. However they should get no special deals in terms of taxes or public exposure. If you are publicly pushing your religion, you leave that protection umbrella. No religion can have laws not part of the laws of the country. Anyone can leave any religion at any time at their choice. Keep your religion in your church or in your home.

    Religions have no problem threatening non-believers with hell after death; or with loss of paridise if they don’t obey all earthly edicts. The laws of the society must come first; and if the religious order doesn’t like it it should find a more friendly country.

    I’m sure there are other rules that should be put into effet.

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  • mrsmansion

    BP has approved the launch of its new BPCares website. In an effort to control the PR narrative and to blunt the aggresive pressure from the BPAMA, retail marketers and independent retailers…BP will fast track the launch of the BPCares website. The website is expected to show the oil giant as deeply concerned about the environment and its eco-friendly legacy.

    The domains that BP owns are:

    It seems that BP is teaming up with Southern states websites in advance of the BPCares launch.

    • papa1


      I read your post with a great deal of thought. But I am unable to see the connection between BP and the way news agencies deal with religious topics. Would you please help me out? Were you thinking BPC instead of BBC? Or did I get it wrong?

      • Buckoux

        “mrsmansion” puts this same post on all DC stories regardless of being off-topic the subject. It’s nothing more than a form of spam at best, and propaganda at worst. “mrsmansion” should be banned from this site.