by MONITOR

IT was reported yesterday that the BBC is in discussion with Vatican officials about the possibility of Pope Benedict broadcasting a message on BBC radio at the time of his visit to Britain later this year. Apparently the offer on the table is the Thought for the Day slot in BBC Radio 4's Today programme. Although Today is BBC radio's flagship public affairs programme with a big audience, Thought for the Day gets only four or five minutes during the three hours that Today is on the air; it also has a reputation for rather middle-of-the-road and even anodyne contributions from those invited to deliver it. There have been exceptions -- Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury, and Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, and on one occasion Richard Dawkings, Britain's most famous non-believer, was invited to give an alternative thought for the day. More recent bids by the National Secular Society have been rejected by a BBC which is already under fire from the Church of England for reducing the number of its religious broadcasts. If the Pope wants to address the British people directly he should not be asked to do it sandwiched between the business news and the weather forecast -- and if he would prefer not to speak in English an appearance on TV with captioned translation would be a better idea.