Sunday, 22 April 2007

WASP Summary of the speech of Lord Macdonald in the House of Lords 19th April 2007

WASP Summary of the speech of noble Lord Lord Macdonald in the House of Lords 19th April 2007. Full text of speech here in Hansard (or with WASP highlights here)
WASP highlights Main Points & Key Points.

TheyWorkForYou entry, Wikipedia mentions Lord Harrison in the BHA page.

Lord Macdonald of Tradeston said:

my appeal today for television scheduling that is broadened to encompass ethical and philosophical as well as religious matters; scheduling that allows time for the systematic exploration of other belief systems such as humanism.

I am pleased to say that the All-Party Humanist Group, now with a growing membership of around 100 MPs and Peers, played a constructive role at all stages of the debates on broadcasting.

Our humanist focus in Parliament was how best to broaden the appeal of religious and ethical broadcasting, how to make it more representative and attractive, thus helping broadcasters in their mission of,

    “sustaining citizenship and civil society”.

The humanist group helped to ensure that the Communications Act 2003 gave the BBC a duty to make programmes about “religion and other beliefs”.

Today, BBC output must take account of the beliefs of several million UK citizens who are Jews, Muslims, Buddhists or Hindus.

It surely is now time for this outreach in pursuit of broader understanding and tolerance to embrace the many millions more British citizens who are not religious believers but who aspire nevertheless to lead good lives. Those non-religious people can construct principled ethical frameworks from ancient, universal wisdom, from Confucianism or Stoicism, or from the Enlightenment philosophy of David Hume or John Stuart Mill, or indeed from the writings of philosophers today such as Anthony Grayling.

I accept that the recent increase in public interest in humanism is in part a reaction to the increased and sometimes threatening activism of religious fundamentalists. Naturally, we humanists are fearful of irrational fervour that rejects tolerance and refuses dialogue. However, we must not allow those very real concerns to dictate or distort the positive role that we might play in broadcasting, letting ourselves be defined as simply anti-religious. Humanists will resist being defined negatively and then no doubt having our demands for fair treatment fobbed off by reference to occasional atheistic essays by a Richard Dawkins or a Jonathan Miller, however worthwhile and thought-provoking those might be. The appeal on behalf of 100 or more parliamentarians and for countless freethinking viewers is much wider, as illustrated by this debate.

I encourage the new chairman of the BBC trust, Sir Michael Lyons, and the BBC director-general, Mark Thompson, to open a public dialogue on how best the BBC can update its approach to religious and ethical broadcasting to meet its new remit. I assure noble Lords that humanists would participate constructively to produce the kind of religious and ethical programming that would help the BBC in its vital requirement to sustain citizenship and civil society.

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