The production and reception of discourses concerning religion in fictional broadcasting
This thesis examines the production and reception of discourses concerning religion in fictional broadcasting. It argues that the representation of religion in fictional broadcasting is a neglected area in the sociology of mass media and that this neglect contributes to a lack of understanding regarding the importance of religious identity. Production was investigated through interviewing broadcasters who were responsible for some of the most frequently mentioned programmes in the focus group interviews. A smaller number of broadcasters who were involved with religious broadcasting were also interviewed, with the intention of exploring the broadcasting ethos in relation to religion. Broadcasters confirmed that a secular ethos dominated but they also identified a number of constraints, which affected decisions to include or exclude religion from programmes. The elision of ethnicity with religion was also evident and much of this was related to broadcasting policy in relation to cultural diversity, which emphasised race as the most important factor. The relationship between religion and broadcasting since the start of broadcasting was examined through an analysis of letters and articles in The Radio Times and The Listener. This analysis demonstrated the increasingly secular attitudes on the part of both audiences and producers. It also provided an historical contextualisation for the contemporary part of the research. Academic arguments concerning secularization generally and its relationship to broadcasting, specifically, were examined. Although there are debates about the legitimacy of the secularization thesis, within academe, this study suggests that within broadcasting the argument has been won and religion is seen as far less relevant that race, gender or disability. The conclusion of the study is that representations of religion should be taken more seriously by academics and broadcasters because they do have an effect on attitudes that affect social inclusion and exclusion. Whilst this is problematic for Christians and Sikhs the findings of this study suggest that it is particularly problematic for Muslims.