BBC chief Mark Thompson warns of 'over-cautious' Islam coverage

London, UK - Mark Thompson, the Director General of the BBC, tonight warned broadcasters against becoming overly-cautious in their reporting on Islam for fear of causing offence to Muslims.

Speaking at Westminster Cathedral Mr Thompson, a practising Catholic, said there was “a growing nervousness about discussion about Islam and its relationship to the traditions and values of British and Western society as a whole”.

He said that the BBC and other major channels “have a special responsibility” to ensure that debates about “faith and society” and about any religion “should not be foreclosed or censored”.

In an effort to demonstrate that his remarks were not targeted solely at ensuring that Islam received journalistic scrutiny, Mr Thompson also referring to his decision to broadcast Jerry Springer, The Opera despite an avalanche of complaints from Christians unhappy at the depiction of Jesus in the satire.

“There is no point having a BBC which isn’t prepared to stand up and be counted; which will do everything it can to mitigate potential religious offence; but which will always be forthright in the defence of freedom of speech and of impartiality,” he said.

The lecture, Faith and the Media, also discussed how religious broadcasting at the BBC developed from the secularist perspective of the 1960s and 1970s, when Mr Thompson worked on Everyman, to faith-oriented programmes that tap a “sharp revival of interest in the spiritual potential”.

He contrasted The Passion, a traditional portrayal of Jesus Christ’s last days written by Frank Deasey, with the previous attempt to tell the story of his life, Dennis Potter’s 1969 version of a self-doubting prophet in Son of Man

“It is quite simply inconceivable that the BBC in the 1970s or 80s or indeed the 90s would have [shown] a drama about Christ’s passion across BBC One’s primetime schedule”.