Ernest Rea was born in Belfast in 1945. He graduated from Queens University Belfast with an Honours degree in History and Politics and another in Theology.
In 1978 he joined the BBC as a Producer in the Religious Broadcasting Department. For the next 23 years he worked for the BBC in a variety of production capacities, including a three year period when he was Head of Network Radio for the South and West of England, responsible for, among many other programmes, Any Questions. In 1989 he became Head of Religious Broadcasting, responsible for all of the BBC`s religious output across both radio and television.
In the 12 years in which he was Head of Religious Broadcasting (later renamed Head of Religion and Ethics) his department won many awards for outstanding programmes. He was closely involved in many key national events, including the Funeral Service of Diana, Princess of Wales. In 1997 he was personally awarded the Gold Medal of the International Council of Christians and Jews for his outstanding contribution to Inter Faith Understanding.
In 2001 he resigned from the BBC to pursue a career as a freelance broadcaster and writer. He presents Beyond Belief, a weekly series on Radio 4 on issues of faith in today’s complex world.. He broadcasts regularly on issues of faith and ethics on BBC Radio 2.
He is a member of the Advisory Board of the Three Faiths Forum which exists to foster understanding between Muslims, Christians and Jews.
In 2005 he won a Gold Sony Award for Beyond Belief as the presenter of the Best Speech Programme on British Radio.