By John Martin

The BBC, already under fire for farming out its flagship religious program, Songs of Praise, for private production, is taking more heat after announcing the closure of its Religion and Ethics Department.

“It is a failure of the BBC as a public service broadcaster,” said the Rt. Rev. Graham James, Bishop of Norwich and the Church of England’s media spokesman. James said it was a strange decision, given the BBC’s pledge to the media watchdog Ofcom, which begins regulating the corporation on Monday, that it would boost religious programming.

For its part, the BBC refuses to say how many staff jobs would be lost following the changes.

The BBC will “continue to have a religion and ethics team” and “a wealth of religious broadcasting expertise within news, radio, and the World Service,” a spokesman told Premier Radio, the London-based Christian station.