Corporation Accused of Anti-Catholic Bias

By Karen Mcveigh
The Scotsman [Britain]
Downloaded September 30, 2003

ONE of the leading figures in the Catholic Church has issued a scathing attack on the BBC, accusing individuals and elements within it of producing biased and hostile programmes.

The Most Reverend Vincent Nichols, the Archbishop of Birmingham, has singled out sectors of the BBC’s news and current affairs department for its "aggressive and antagonistic" attitude towards Catholicism.

The archbishop, who launched his attack at a press conference in London, was protesting on behalf of five million Catholics in England and Wales. His remarks, which have come at time when the BBC’s news coverage has been under close scrutiny at the Hutton Inquiry, were made in advance of three BBC programmes to be screened shortly: Kenyon Confronts, about child abuse allegations in the English Church; a Panorama documentary called Sex and the Holy City and a cartoon called Popetown caricaturing the Pope.

The archbishop dismissed them as offensive initiatives. He said: "Certainly the Catholic community is fed up seeing a public service broadcaster using the licence fee to pay unscrupulous reporters trying to circulate old news and to broadcast programmes that are so biased and hostile. Enough is enough."

The bulk of his ire was directed against the investigative show Kenyon Confronts, which has looked into sex abuse cases and allegations in Birmingham.

Three priests have been convicted of sex offences in the city and a further two are currently being investigated for alleged sex offences in cases relating to claims made between 1992 to 1999.

Rev Nichols said that the programme’s focus was on old and recycled cases. He described the style and approach of Kenyon Confronts as being deeply offensive to every Catholic in the country.

The archbishop, who has written to Greg Dyke, the BBC’s director general, and Richard Sambrook, the director of news, said that he was fed up with BBC reporters "going around the diocese for eight months snooping around before they approached me".

Yesterday, the BBC rejected any claims of bias against the Catholic Church. A statement read: "Kenyon Confronts is examining how the Catholic Church is treating victims of past child abuse as they campaign for redress. It gives voice to those who feel their cases should be heard."

It added: "We take great care to reflect all faiths in the UK and plan to celebrate the silver jubilee of Pope John Paul II across radio, television and online. We will also mark the beatification of Mother Theresa for our audiences at home and abroad."


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