September 27, 2011

BBC in AD/BC controversy

by Jan Harris

A report in the Mail on Sunday that the BBC has stopped using the terms BC and AD in case they offend non-Christians, has caused an almighty kerfuffle, with Boris Johnson the latest to wade into the fray.

The Mail on Sunday reported that the BBC has replaced ‘Anno Domini’ (the year of Our Lord) and ‘Before Christ’ with ‘Common Era’ and ‘Before Common Era’, which are commonly used in historical research.

According to Guardian blogger Polly Curtis, the BBC has denied that the terms have been dropped, although programme and website editors can use the ‘religiously-neutral’ terms if they so wish.

However, the use of the new terms on some programmes led to the BBC being accused of ‘absurd political correctness’.

Christians have spoken out against the alternative terms, which are being used on programmes such as University Challenge and The BBC’s Learning and GCSE Bitesize websites.

However, Radio 4 presenter John Humphrys said he would continue to use BC and AD.

Commenting on the adoption of ‘Common Era’ and ‘Before Common Era’, The Rev Peter Mullen, Anglican chaplain to the London Stock Exchange, said: ‘I think it’s an example of the BBC trying to undermine Christianity by pushing an aggressive secularism.”

Adopting a more neutral tone, a spokesman for the Church of England said that BC and AD ‘more clearly reflect Britain’s Christian heritage’.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, pointed out that both sets of terms used the birth of Christ as their reference point.

Writing in The Daily Telegraph this morning, London’s mayor, Boris Johonson said: “This decision by the BBC is not only puerile and absurd. It is also deeply anti-democratic, and I urge all those who are fed up with the advance of pointless political correctness to fight back.”

Whatever the outcome of the debate one thing is certain, no matter what the BBC decides, it isn’t going to please everyone.

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