Cardinal Keith O'Brien, the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland, has accused the BBC of resorting to an institutional bias against "Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular".
In an interview with the Sunday Times, the Cardinal said that the corporation has marginalised mainstream Christian views by allotting a disproportionate amount of airtime to atheists such as Professor Richard Dawkins.
He added that the forthcoming BBC documentary about clerical sex abuse on the eve of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Britain would amount to a "hatchet job" on the Vatican, as it covers the Catholic abuse scandal.
O'Brien expressed concern over a 15 per cent slump in religious programming over the past 20 years and suggested that the BBC should appoint a religion editor for ensuring sustained coverage of Christianity.
A spokeswoman for the BBC said in response: "BBC news and current affairs has a dedicated religion correspondent, and works closely with BBC Religion, ensuring topical religious and ethical affairs stories are featured across all BBC networks."