The flagship religious programme will still be broadcast on the BBC but will now be produced by Avanti Media and Nine Lives Media. Speaking to the Daily Mail, Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James said the decision was “another nail in the coffin of our religious literacy as a nation”.

He also warned the move will have a “knock-on effect on the broadcast of worship at other times”. Speaking to The Telegraph, Bishop of Leeds, Rt Revd Nick Baines said: “An independent company may well bring a fresh approach to Songs of Praise, but the BBC should also continue to bolster its religious output.

“At a time when the need for religious literacy and understanding is more acute than ever, the expertise of the BBC’s religious department is an asset that needs protecting.”

The change in production is a result of the Corporation’s new charter agreement with the government which requires some of the BBC’s output to be put out to competitive tender. In this case, the BBC did not produce a strong enough bid to produce the programme.

Fatima Salaria, the BBC’s commissioning editor, religion and ethics said: “Songs of Praise remains our flagship religious programme right at the heart of our religion offer. “This decision secures its future for the next three years and reflects both a commitment to the ongoing success of this much-loved series and to religious coverage more broadly.”