Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Media Watch: Royal Mail Bans Religion

In a recent ‘exclusive’ The Sunday Express declared that Royal Mail had banned religion. According to David Paul:
Church leaders are furious with Royal Mail bosses who ditched Christian images on Christmas stamps in favour of children’s favourites Wallace and Gromit.
Firstly, it is self-evident that Royal Mail has neither the moral authority nor the power to ban religion. Secondly the only “church leader” the newspaper could cite was the Rev Hugh Hoskins, “team rector for St Mary’s Church in Upavon, Wiltshire” – a place which has a population of little over 1200. Royal Mail make it quite clear that it is their policy to alternate non-secular and secular themed stamps whilst it is interesting to note that a certain Rev Hugh Hoskins was responsible for a religious design in 2009.

Paul even has the audacity to state that an image of the Madonna and Child will still be on sale – hardly sounds like a ban, especially when Royal Mail declare that it’s sold “tens of millions” of the stamps.

The Express’ ability to transform the sale of millions of religious stamps into a ‘religious ban’ would be funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. At a time when public sector cuts and Royal Mail privatisation is high on the political agenda, this journalistic hyperbole is another example of sensationalist and reactionary commentary which acts to undermine the public sector. The implication that the new stamps represent “a cynical bid by Royal Mail bosses to boost profits” is fundamentally flawed as the vast majority of customers purchase stamps for their function and care little for design. A pleasant picture of Wallace and Gromit does not mean that people will suddenly ditch texting each other and start writing letters. Furthermore, Royal Mail needs to make profit in certain areas to subsidise loss-making services – such as community Post Offices.

The Express specialises in misleading headlines and overstating reactionary criticism, but it is their comment section which is truly alarming. Not only have we “surrendered our Christian Nation” but, according to johnstretch, the Royal Mail is “pandering to Muslim groups”. Misrepresenting facts to undermine the public sector is one thing, but cynically hijacking emotive issues like Christmas and religion acts to fuel religious hatred and foster support for fascism.

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