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  • Print publication year: 2019
  • Online publication date: September 2019

9 - The Battle at the Beeb Part 2

from Part III - The Sixties Crisis and Its Legacy 1965–1980


The place of religious broadcasting at the BBC was transformed by the rise in the sixties of television comedy marked by a strong mockery of the churches and, as this chapter shows, in the seventies by direct attacks on the churches and the advent of science-based atheist narratives of astronomy, human evolution and cultural development. What unfolds here is a story of direct challenge to the churches, including on the so-called God slot of television programmes reserved for religious outputs. For the first time in the early 1970s, churchmen were exposed to direct challenge, notably Cardinal John Heenan, from Humanists and atheists. Following this, sophisticated documentary series developed on scientific knowledge and human cultural evolution, founded firmly on evolution theory and marked by historical exploration of church attempts to suppress scientific knowledge. In the train of this came a proliferation of science-based broadcasting which accepted the atheist view of the human place in the universe as revealed especially in astronomy, transforming the narratives told by the nation to itself on television.

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