The idea of the Religion Media Centre arose when journalists and religious leaders met at Cumberland Lodge to discuss their mutual frustration about religious reporting in the UK.
The content of the conference was published in ‘Religion and the News’, by Jolyon Mitchell and Owen Gower in 2009.
As a result of the conference, it was decided that a Religion Media Centre would be created to broker a better relationship between the media and the world of religion. It would follow the model of the Science Media Centre, which put before journalists the weight and opinion of reputable scientists on all manner of stories, amplifying the importance of science and improving coverage.
A steering committee was formed to drive the vision into reality. Initial funding was found from the Pears Foundation and the work was supported by Goldsmiths University.
The Religion Media Centre is set up as a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.
The first trustees were brought on board, with Michael Wakelin, formerly Head of Religion at the BBC, as the chair. An advisory group was formed, with supporters who had long advocated for this type of organisation to exist.
Funds were sought and in 2017, the Porticus Trust generously provided a start up grant. They have continued to be a steadfast supporter, repeating this generosity in subsequent years.
Ruth Peacock was engaged as Launch Director for the Religion Media Centre, drawing together a wide network of academics, journalists, leading commentators in the field, volunteers and supporters offered their services at reduced rates to get the organisation going.
The website was launched – with specialist religious affairs journalists providing news articles, and academics in the field offering news comment and writing fact sheets for RMC.
We launched our Reporting Religion in Britain courses, pooling a network of experts in the field to provide top level training for those involved in religious reporting – from journalists to film directors.
Our first Religion Media Festival was held in Spring 2018 at the JW3 Centre in north London, to great success.
Over 200 industry contributors came together to engage in debate, review key topics and network with each other. Key speakers were James Harding, former BBC Director of News; Mark Thompson, former BBC Director General then President and CEO of the New York Times; and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce
Our training programmes attracted Reach PLC, CTVC, NUJ and others.
Another successful Religion Media Festival held again at the JW3 Centre in north London. Key speakers were Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks; Simon Terrington, former OFCOM Director of Content Policy; and James Purnell, BBC Director of Radio and Education, with responsibility for religious affairs programming.
The RMC received a generous grant from the Porticus Trust in 2019, enabling our security for the next four years, allowing considerable expansion.
Changing with the Times
Weekly briefings began on Zoom during the COVID-19 pandemic, where we unpack stories about religion in the news. They are well established and have attracted top guests and experienced journalists.
We have begun the next stage of our expansion; improving our website, increasing our reach on social media and expanding our training programmes.