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Songs of Praise to include Masses

The traditionally Anglican programme will broadcast from Catholic churches

Songs of Praise is to include services from other Christian denominations due to the “dwindling” number of Anglicans.

Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC’s head of religion, said the 53-year-old series would now include Catholic, Pentecostal and Salvation Army church services and Masses.

On top of this it will also include “magazine-style” reports on topical issues such as the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, according to Mr Ahmed, who said it was hoped to draw in new immigrants from Africa and eastern Europe. 

The average age of views is somewhere in the mid-70s, he said, and viewers in their 50s do not have the “interest and knowledge” in religion.

“For a good decade now the audience numbers have been in decline,” Mr Ahmed said. “That’s not because it’s not very well made. The reality is that it’s a society issue. 

“We simply don’t have the numbers of people in their mid-fifties who would historically have had the same kind of interest and knowledge and desire that we need to replenish the audience. 

“So the option is, let that continue and see audiences dwindle beyond a level that would make it quite difficult, or do something about it.”