Sarah Sands, the former editor of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme has admitted she wanted to delete the ‘Thought for the Day’ faith slot and move it to Newsnight.
The slot is normally scripted and presented by different religious leaders from across the UK and from different faiths. It offers a faith perspective on issues happening in the news.
“Thought for the Day is a very peculiar moment in a news programme and when I first arrived at the Today programme I said, ‘Give it to Newsnight, put it somewhere else,” Sands said.
According to The Telegraph, the former editor was talked out of the idea by theatre director and BBC governor who said the decision would cause a scandal and potentially even a debate in parliament.
“When I started, I spoke to Richard Eyre and said ‘Thought for the Day should go, probably, now?’ And he said, ‘Please, I beg you, no … there will be questions asked in Parliament,” she continued.
Speaking to an audience at the Cheltenham Literature Festival, she said she had two main problems with the daily slot.
The first is that she had no control over the slot, given that the BBC’s religion department manages it. The second is that none of the presenters are allowed to refer to the content.
“[The slot] has no relation to the rest of the programme. So no one says, ‘Oh, that was interesting,” Sands said. “Presenters are told to show an interest and a curiosity [in everything] except for that blank. That’s what they’re told to do. It’s odd. So you see absolutely visibly the total [separation of] church and state.”
Sands stood down from her role in January 2020.