Thursday, April 05, 2012

According to Newsround, kids find religion more important now than 40 years ago. The website states that "Children are now twice as likely to say that religion is very important to them compared to kids 40 years ago - when Newsround first went on air."

Newsround based their assertion on a survey of 1,000 six to 12-year-olds.

The Archbishop of Canterbury was surprised by the finding, as is Newsround Blog.

However one person who would not have been surprised by this result is BBC Director-General Mark Thompson. Recall that in 2008 he presented a lecture on the subject Faith, Morality and Media, where he told attendees that, quite simply, religion is back.

Whereas the Archbishop's surprise is probably based on his lifetime of direct personal experience, Newsround Blog's surprise is based on rather more technical issues based around the underlying statistics.

The BBC has a special duty of care not to mislead kids.

A claim such as the above needs to be based on robust methodology and convincing statistics. How does Newsround know the percentage of kids (aged 6-12) who thought religion was "very important" in 1972? Was an equivalent survey carried out in 1972?

Until the BBC publishes full survey details, there is reason to doubt the claims.

But there is another, more general, concern about this survey. How and why was the survey commissioned? Was the purpose of the survey simply to inform Newsround's audience of differing attitudes, or was it part of a wider agenda on the part the Corporation? If so, that would also have serious implications for the BBC's standards of journalistic ethics.

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