How is religion portrayed in the media?

Newspapers

A local newspaper may help promote a local religious establishment by publicising events, or may inform its readership about various aspects of a religion. A national newspaper may feature articles on national or international events, eg Hajj, or the appointment of a new Pope.

However, newspapers can report stories in a biased way. Since the events of 9/11, some representations of Islam have focused on the more extreme aspects rather than the Muslim community as a whole, which may lead to prejudice among readers.

Magazines

There are many religious publications which educate and promote the message of religion to support and strengthen people's faith. Some say that religious publications may give a one-sided image of their religion, which might lead to prejudice against other religions or non-believers.

Television

Soap operas, dramas and documentaries give different representations of religion. Documentaries are factual and should give a balanced presentation. For example, the documentary Strictly Kosher showed the reality of everyday life for some Jewish people.

Soap operas are very popular in the UK and often tackle religious issues but some believers may be frustrated by the way in which a religious issue is tackled.

The internet

Religious groups can use the internet to their advantage by promoting their religion to the world and bringing together the faithful by sharing news and views online. Many religious charities, eg CAFOD, use their websites to make people aware of disasters around the world and to ask for help and donations online.

However, the internet can also be used to spread a message of bigotry and hate about particular religions or groups of people.

Radio

Some radio stations target a religious audience, broadcasting the latest religious news and providing sermons, music, stories and advice.

More secular radio stations may explore issues where there are clear religious perspectives to be considered. For example, topics such as abortion might be discussed and opinions contributed by the presenters, guests and the public.

Film

Often, films which have a religious storyline have characters facing moral choices. For example, the film Bend it like Beckham highlights the typical struggles that some religious Sikh women may experience as a result of living in the West.

Films can help to educate the public about different religious principles. Viewers can also sympathise with religious characters in the films and the difficulties they may go through.

Films may also promote discussion on sensitive issues experienced by faith community members such as sexism, homosexuality or arranged marriage. However, they can also reinforce stereotypes by offering a biased portrayal of the religion.