APPG on Religion in the Media – Call for evidence: Inquiry into religious literacy in print and broadcast media

Submit your response by Friday 24 April, 23:59.

Scope of Inquiry:

The APPG recognises that religion continues to play a crucial role in public life. Traditional religious adherence is declining in the UK and new forms of spirituality are becoming increasingly prominent. The APPG believes that it is essential that the media provides a balanced portrayal of faith groups and an accurate reflection of the diversity of religious belief and practice in the UK. While journalists must be free to report accurately on matters relating to faith without fear or censure, the APPG emphasises that where nuanced representations of faith groups can promote mutual understanding and social harmony, reductive, distorted or misleading depictions can provoke or aggravate social tensions.

Religious literacy can play a key role in ensuring religion and belief receives balanced coverage in all forms of media. However, while it is widely agreed that religious literacy involves both a level of competence and knowledge when discussing specific religious matters and a wider sensitivity to the nuances of faith and the complicated ways in which belief systems relate to society more generally, the term itself is contested. The APPG is undertaking this inquiry to examine how different groups, such as faith communities and media professionals, understand religious literacy and what steps can be taken to cultivate a media environment which is religiously literate.

This is particularly important because the media landscape is rapidly changing and there are many factors which influence religious literacy. This inquiry will focus specifically on print and broadcast media and aim to explore good practice and learn about potential areas for improvement and change. The inquiry aims to improve policymakers understanding of:

  • How different groups understand the phrase ‘religious literacy’, with particular reference to the media
  • What role higher education plays in fostering religious literacy which continues to improve through a journalist’s career (eg through CPD programmes)
  • How public policy decisions and initiatives by media organisations have affected religious literacy
  • What steps (either by central government, universities, the BBC, media organisations – publishers and broadcasters, regulators such as OFCOM and IPSO, or other agencies) could improve religious literacy in print and broadcast media.       

Terms of reference

The APPG invites responses to answer any or all of the following questions:

  1. What do you understand by the term ‘religious literacy’?
  2. What effect does a lack of religious literacy have on broadcast and/or print media?
  3. When, where and how is religious literacy learnt?
  4. What effect does religious illiteracy have on decisions journalists make when assigning, researching, and reporting news stories?
  5. What methods can be used by journalists to engage with faith groups sensitively? Please illustrate your answers where possible.
  6. What steps should be taken to better equip journalists when engaging with issues relating to faith?
  7.  Over the last decade, has religious literacy in the media improved, remained the same or deteriorated? If it has changed for the better or worse, please explain how?
  8. What steps can a) universities, b) journalists, c) publishers, d) broadcasters and e) regulators take to improve religious literacy in media?
  9. What public policy changes could improve religious literacy in the media?     

When submitting a response, please ensure:

  • You specify which of the questions above you are addressing;
  • You make clear whether you are referring to print media and/or broadcasting. If your answers relate to a particular organisation or publisher (e.g. OFCOM), please specify;
  • Your submission is no more than 3,000 words in length;
  • You state clearly who the submission is from, i.e. whether you are writing in a personal capacity or on behalf of an organisation;
  • You include a brief description of yourself/ organisation you are writing on behalf of;
  • You state clearly if you wish for your submission to be confidential. If this is not indicated, the APPG reserves the right to make explicit reference to your submission in its report and online;
  • You email your submission in Word or Pdf format to appg.contact@gmail.com;
  • You submit your response by Friday 24 April, 23:59.