By Harriet Sherwood; Religion correspondent
Series of programmes to tackle topics such as science, religion, LGBT+ and medical ethics
The BBC is launching a year-long series of programmes examining faith, belief and values in modern Britain.
As part of its coverage of a society that is “more diverse, more complex and more divided than ever before”, the corporation will launch a major survey of attitudes to contentious issues and ethical dilemmas.
The broadcaster’s “Year of Beliefs” commissions include landmark series and one-off documentaries on television and radio to address issues such as science and religion, LGBT+, circumcision, surrogacy and medical ethics.
Among the programmes is Inside the Vatican, a look behind the scenes at the independent city-state at the heart of the Catholic church, filmed over a year. The two-part documentary promises “astonishing access”, including to Pope Francis, the choristers of the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican’s security personnel, diplomats and gardeners.
A one-off documentary, Welcome to the Bruderhof, explores a village near Hastings that is home to 300 Christians who live together as disciples of Christ, spurning cars and mobile phones.
Earth’s Sacred Wonders, a three-part series, takes viewers to some of the most iconic religious sites on Earth, including Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Masada in Israel and the Golden Temple in India.
Too Gay for God?, an hour-long documentary, looks at the place of LGBT+ Christians in the Church of England through the lens of an openly gay member of the clergy.
A 10-part series on Radio 4, Fatwa, looks at the forces that led to the Islamic ruling against the author Salman Rushdie in 1989 and its consequences. Another Radio 4 series examines the relationship between science and religion.
According to the BBC, “as ever, Christian programming and live worship remain the cornerstone of the BBC’s religious output around Christmas and Easter”, adding that it will mark the religious festivals of other faiths, including Ramadan, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali and the summer solstice.
Charlotte Moore, the BBC’s director of content, said: “We want to capture the complex variety of faiths and beliefs in modern Britain.
“Not only do we want to continue to offer our audiences a place they can celebrate and share their own personal beliefs, but we also want to help them understand better the meaning of other faiths and beliefs, as well as exploring important ethical issues that impact so many people’s lives.”
A review of the BBC’s religion and ethics programming, published 13 months ago, recommended increased coverage of non-Christian faiths, introducing faith-related storylines into popular drama, incorporating greater religious understanding into news reporting and creating a global team of reporters with religious expertise.
It found the BBC produced more than 7,000 hours of religious and ethics broadcasting each year, although much of it was programmes featuring traditional worship and discussion. “The challenge for the BBC as a broadcaster is to meet the sheer range of needs, as people’s beliefs become more fluid and individual,” it said.