Right of Reply: Ernest Rea

The head of BBC Religion denies that the corporation has neglected its Christmas duty
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The Independent Culture
I MUST respond to the Bishop of St Albans' complaint about the lack of provision of an act of worship by the BBC on Christmas Day.

Religious programming is at the heart of the BBC's Christmas offering, with BBC Religion providing 82 programmes, 51 hours of broadcasting over Advent and Christmas. In fact the BBC is the only national broadcaster to provide (on BBC Radio 4) a live church service on Christmas morning.

We are also broadcasting Carols from King's College, Cambridge, on TV and radio on Christmas Eve, along with the traditional Watchnight Service from St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh on BBC1.

On Christmas Day, BBC1 offers Celebrate Christmas, a broad-appeal, religious- based programme. This aims to make the Christmas message accessible to the many viewers who do not attend church but who wish to celebrate this important occasion.

It is a sad fact of life that church attendance is falling and our research indicates there is a limited demand for televised church services, which do not attract large numbers of viewers.

Programmes like Songs of Praise, however, achieve audiences of millions through a successful mix of old and new hymns, interviews and celebrity contributions. We have chosen to follow this formula for BBC1 on Christmas Day for the past six years, and viewers this year are promised a moving celebration of the story of Christ's birth through beautiful pictures and glorious music. Those who want a traditional service can listen to our radio broadcast from the Metropolitan Cathedral of Christ the King, Liverpool.

The quality and range of BBC religious broadcasting is unmatched and aims to meet the needs of all.

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