BBC's Mark Thompson admits greater sensitivity to non-Christian faiths

BBC director-general Mark Thompson has admitted that Christianity is treated with less sensitivity on air than other religions.

According to the Daily Mail, in his interview with Timothy Garton Ash for Oxford's Free Speech Debate, Thompson said that television programmes do not have to be as sensitive with satire, jokes, or comments about Christianity because the religion is "an established part of our cultural-built landscape" and "pretty broad shouldered."

Thompson went on to say other religions closely "identify with ethnic minorities" and therefore warrant special regard when being dealt with on broadcast television.

"The point is that for a Muslim, a depiction, particularly a comic or demeaning depiction, of the Prophet Mohammed might have the emotional force of a piece of grotesque child pornography," he said.

Thompson noted that insulting or disrespecting other religions could carry more emotional baggage and thus a backlash that is more volatile and violent. He told Ash, "Without question, 'I complain in the strongest possible terms,' is different from, 'I complain in the strongest possible terms and I am loading my AK47 as I write.'"

Speaking with less exaggeration, Thompson said that he and the network "think quite carefully about whether something done, in quotes, in the name of freedom of expression, might to the Jew, or the Sikh, or the Hindu, or the Muslim who receives it, feel threatening, isolating and so forth." The BBC director-general added that he believes "those are meaningful considerations".

In 2005, BBC2 aired the controversial show "Jerry Springer: The Opera," which offended many Christians with things like depictions of Jesus in a diaper. According to the Daily Mail, hundreds of Christians protested "Jerry Springer: The Opera."

Thompson had no problem with deciding to air that show and even said that he enjoyed watching it. However, Ash asked Thompson if the BBC would completely avoid airing something akin to "Jerry Springer: The Opera" about the prophet Muhammad, Thompson replied, "Essentially the answer to that question is yes."