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BBC BCE Addendum

A couple of interesting new developments in BCE-gate.

Firstly, the BBC have apparently had a large number of complaints about this issue and yesterday they published a response on their complaints page.

Complaint

We received complaints from people concerned about press reports claiming that the BBC has replaced the reference terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini) with BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).

BBC Response

It is incorrect to say that the BBC has replaced date systems BC and AD with Before Common Era (BCE) and Common Era (CE). Whilst the BBC uses BC and AD like most people as standard terminology, it is possible to use different terminology, particularly as it is now commonly used in historical research. The BBC has issued no editorial guidance on date systems, and the decision rests with the individual editorial and production teams. It should also be noted that for every BCE or CE reference, there are still a great many BC and AD references used across the BBC.

All of which is pretty clear and should see the end of the story. It won’t though, of course.

Another thing that was bothering me about the story was the timing. Why did it suddenly blow up last week? As I said yesterday, I suspected that it was just because Peter Hitchens happened to see BCE mentioned on University Challenge and complained about it in his column. But in Delingpole’s article he says:

From now on, it will use initials which strip our traditional Gregorian calendar of its offensive religious context.

Notice that “from now on” which heavily implies that this is a new ruling. He goes on to state that the new ruling is explained on a Q&A section on the BBC Religion site. That’s clearly a reference to the FAQ that I mentioned yesterday.

So Delingpole clearly believes that this is a new BBC initiative. And I think that it’s his belief that informs Chris Hastings’ front page story on Sunday.

But just how new is that section of the FAQ? I had suspicions that it had been around for a while (it was built using a technology that the BBC no longer uses for new web development) so I sent an email to the BBC to ask them how long that answer had been on the FAQ page.

I haven’t yet received an answer to my email, but the same question occurred to the people at Tabloid Watch who got in touch with the BBC Press Office for clarification. The response they received was that the FAQ had been on the site, unchanged, for over four years.

So let’s review what we know:

  • The BBC does not have a policy in place forcing programmes to use BCE and CE in place of BC and AD
  • There is a policy on the BBC Religion web site to use BCE and CE on that site[1].
  • The Religion web site policy has been in place for at least four years

There is simply no story here. The story that the Mail has been peddling for the last few days just isn’t true. And the tiny grain of fact at the centre of the Mail’s story has been there for many years.

The Mail has embarrassed itself here. The echo chamber of its writers (I almost wrote “journalists” there but stopped myself just in time) has spun this story out of nothing. Writer after writer has repeated and expanded this story. If any of them had stopped to check facts they would have realised what fools they were making of themselves.

You just can’t trust anything you read in the Mail.

[1] However, it’s worth noting that every page on that site which talks about Christianity seems to break that policy and uses BC and AD.

2 replies on “BBC BCE Addendum”

Could it be more than mere coincidence, that we have the letters ‘CE’ thrust upon us from yet another quarter, the CE Mark having become colloquially , if unintentionally, associated with the Latin phrase ‘Caveat Emptor’ – Buyer Beware – perhaps the European Union’s only true contribution to a free market.

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