THE GENERAL Synod and the BBC are easily confused, though under the British constitution it is only Radio 4 which can exercise moral leadership for the nation. So when the synod debates the BBC, it is rather like hearing a play on long wave about the Church of England.
The Bishop of St Albans, the Rt Rev John Taylor, yesterday called for the BBC to be made more accountable, 'possibly through some representative body of viewers and listeners, to whom the governors would report, a bit like a shareholders' meeting'.
The bishop made his proposals after the synod had voted overwhelmingly for the principle and practice of public service broadcasting. He also proposed that BBC drop Neighbours. In this he was opposed by the Bishop of Liverpool, the Rt Rev David Sheppard, who said the soap opera was an essential part of life for his 94-year-old aunt.
However, both bishops, and almost the whole of the synod, were in favour of the BBC as a whole. How could matters be otherwise, when all the synod's deliberations sound so like a radio play in the afternoon?
But the BBC would never dare praise itself as highly as the synod praised it.
The only dissent came from Margaret Brown, of the diocese of Rochester, one of the synod's leading reactionaries, who claimed that Radio 4 had taught her ways to break into houses.
'Murders and thefts and sexual attacks are all sadly on the increase, and very sadly the influence of TV and radio do play a large part in all this,' Mrs Brown said.
'But if I want to listen to something like Gardeners' Question Time, very modest and clean and orthodox, I know that if I switch on the knob a minute or two before the programme starts, I'm going to hear one of three things: four-letter words, someone jumping into bed with someone else's wife, and if it's not that it's someone being stabbed to death.
'How to break into a house is actually portrayed on the radio] I've learnt a lot.'
At this point Mrs Brown had to pause for some time while the synod recovered its composure. Bishops could more easily be imagined belly dancing than she could be imagined as a burglar.
'We laugh,' she continued. 'But the weaker individual and perhaps the jobless, who is looking for some money, may be taught just how to do it.'