Archbishop points finger at 'biased and hostile' BBC staff

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The Independent Online

One of Britain's leading clergymen has accused individuals within the BBC of programming "biased and hostile" to the Roman Catholic Church.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols, who was speaking yesterday on behalf of five million Roman Catholics in England and Wales, said elements within the corporation's news and current affairs department appeared to approach the church with "great hostility".

His remarks were made in advance of three BBC programmes to be broadcast soon ­ Kenyon Confronts, which is about allegations of child abuse in the English Church; a Panorama documentary called "Sex and the Holy City"; and a cartoon called Popetown, which caricatures the Pope.

"The BBC is a very big corporation and my objections are not widespread across the BBC, or to do with the BBC as an institution. But there are clearly elements or individuals, mainly within news and current affairs, who seem to approach the Catholic Church with great hostility," he said.

"I would not say the BBC, as such, is biased against Catholics, but there seem to be elements or individuals within the BBC who are determined to continue this return to old matters and old stories."

He added: "The motivations are not mine to understand, except that there is a trait often to want to undermine those who attempt to hold before society religious values and religious ideals."

He said it was now incumbent upon the BBC to prove that it was appropriate that it continued to receive the licence fee.

The BBC rejected any claims of bias against the Catholic Church. A spokesman said: "The BBC takes great care to fairly reflect all faiths in the UK."

The outburst by Archbishop Nichols comes after efforts by the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, to draw a line under child sex abuse scandals in the church.

Cardinal O'Connor made a point of highlighting stringent new guidelines for handling alleged cases of paedophile priests that have been put into place following recommendations made in a report by Lord Nolan.