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UK: Songs of Praise may “explore non-Chr...

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UK: Songs of Praise may “explore non-Christian faiths”

Country/Region: Europe, United Kingdom

Songs of Praise, the BBC’s flagship religious programme, may feature non-Christian faiths for the first time in its 50-year history.

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The idea was suggested by the executive producer, Tommy Nagra, in an interview to mark the 50th anniversary of the series.

While he acknowledged that Songs of Praise is “a Christian show”, Mr Nagra said, “I think there’s no reason why we couldn’t explore other faiths.”

He added that items featuring Jewish, Muslim, Hindu or other faiths “would always be done through the Christian prism”.

The Sunday tea-time programme was first broadcast in October 1961 from the Tabernacle Baptist Church in Cardiff and is now one of the longest-running TV shows in the world. The programme was the idea of the then Assistant Controller of Programmes at the BBC, Donald Baverstock. During its history, Songs of Praise has visited over 1,800 churches, cathedrals and chapels; over 12,500 hymns have been sung. It regularly attracts an audience of two million viewers.

Mr Nagra, a Sikh, was made executive producer of Religion and Ethics in 2008. His appointment was made a year before Aaqil Ahmed was announced as the BBC’s first Muslim head of religious programming.

The BBC’s decision to appoint two non-Christians to oversee religious coverage raised eyebrows in some quarters. Mr Nagra dismissed the complaints as “a little bit pathetic”.

A BBC spokesman reassured viewers that the format of Songs of Praise would remain the same.

“There are absolutely no plans to change the format. Christianity is the cornerstone of our religion and ethics programming. Songs of Praise is and will remain our flagship Christian worship strand,” the spokesman said.

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