Sunday 25 September 2011

BC and AD not 'jettisoned' by BBC

Last Sunday, Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens wrote:

The BBC’s Chief Commissar for Political Correctness (whom I imagine as a tall, stern young woman in cruel glasses issuing edicts from an austere office) was hard at work again last week.

On University Challenge, Jeremy Paxman referred to a date as being Common Era, rather than AD. This nasty formulation is designed to write Christianity out of our culture.

One week on, and his paper has decided this observation is worthy of the front page lead:

The article by Chris Hastings begins:

The BBC has been accused of 'absurd political correctness' after dropping the terms BC and AD in case they offend non-Christians.

The Corporation has replaced the familiar Anno Domini (the year of Our Lord) and Before Christ with the obscure terms Common Era and Before Common Era.

'Jettisoned'. 'Dropped'. 'Replaced'.

But skip to the statement from the BBC - inevitably relegated to the very last paragraph of the story - and we're told:

The BBC said last night: 'The BBC has not issued editorial guidance on the date systems. Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted date systems and the decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams.'

So the BBC uses both. Indeed, Hastings' article proves BC and AD haven't been 'jettisoned' when he points out:

The terms are not confined to religious output and have also been used in news bulletins. Some reports add to the confusion by switching between both terms in the same item.

He goes on to quote several people unhappy with the BBC, who seem to believe BC and AD have, indeed, been 'dropped' (probably because that's what Hastings told them when he asked for their reaction). But he also gets a quote from Today and Mastemind presenter John Humphrys who says:

"I will continue to use AD and BC because I don't see a problem."

Despite this Hastings believes his story is true and he knows what's behind it:

This is not the first time the BBC has caused controversy over its use of alien language to promote a politically correct, Europhile agenda.

It's not clear why CE and BCE are deemed 'alien' or 'Europhile'. It's not as if the terms are new - the Mail on Sunday includes a box which dates them back to the mid-nineteenth century. It also says they are becoming 'particularly common in the United States'.

In the article, Simon Schama says he's been 'familar' with BC and BCE 'since the Fifties'. And, as Hastings points out, it's not even as if the BBC has only just started using the terms - one example he highlights dates from March 2010:

Last year, Northern Ireland correspondent William Crawley referred to the construction of the Temple of Solomon in about 950 BCE.

So Hastings has the BBC quote denying the terms have been dropped. He has a prominent BBC presenter saying he's going to keep using the BC and AD. And he has his own evidence saying BBC journalists are 'switching between both terms'.

Yet Hastings still writes the article in this way, and the Mail on Sunday still splashes it all over the front page.

UPDATE: James Delingpole has a comment piece on this in the Mail's RightMinds section. He apparently sees this 'news' as evidence of a:

Marxist plot to destroy civilisation from within

He says:

No longer will its website refer to those bigoted, Christian-centric concepts AD (as in Anno Domini – the Year of Our Lord) and BC (Before Christ)...All reference to Christ has been expunged

If only the BBC website didn't prove him wrong.


  1. When i was younger and living in the UK. I remember the National Anthem being played before close down.Thank god for 24 hour TV as I am sure the BBC would rather have a Muslim calling everyone to prayer today.

    I now live in New Zealand, where they just wouldn't put up with this rubbish, Its a case here of , If you don't like it, don't come here.

  2. Not sure if I fully agree with you here. It would seem that, whilst the headlines is misleading (which doesn't surprise me), the BBC has allowed decisions to be made locally as to whether the terms BC and AD should be 'dropped', 'jettisoned', 'not used' or whatever else you wish to call it.

  3. 'Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted date systems'

    Beyond Mr. Schama, I'd be interested in more support for that than has been offered thus far.

  4. The first commenter obviously didn't read before responding. Bless.

  5. "I now live in New Zealand, where they just wouldn't put up with this rubbish, Its a case here of , If you don't like it, don't come here"

    Oh yeah? Being a guest in a country obviously means you don't read the news and prefer to read the UK's....

  6. The first commenter obviously doesn't realise that the BBC do still play the National Anthem every night before closedown. Have a listen to Radio 4 at just before 1am

  7. If decisions are made 'within individual production and editorial teams' then The Daily Mail's ire should be directed at them.... University Challenge is an ITV production

  8. The majority of theologians and church historians that I read tend to use CE/BCE, since the dating of Christ's birth has been shown to negate strict use of BC/AD anyway.

  9. I've just looked through the Christianity section on the BBC website bit under religion and it is littered with AD and BC references.

    Like the above, I've read -and am currently reading - Christian historians who use CE and BCE. There's no big deal really.

    Delingpole? He's an odd one ain't he? Seeing Marxists everywhere he goes...

  10. This country laws and precepts were built on Christian principles. This is yet more evidence of the consistent and concerted effort of a minority to dismantle and rid this country of these principles. If we continue to permit this we will not only be morally bankrupt but also financially bankrupt because the wisdom which put these in place will vacate the land.

  11. If you hop over to Delingpole's article, you can see the comments pointing out his factual errors are all being "voted down". It's sad that readers over there would rather boo the truth whilst clinging to lies that bolster their skewed perceptions.

  12. In fairness, Delingpole does deserve credit for (1) providing a reference to a non-existent section of the BBC website and (2) managing to shoehorn the "Baa Baa Rainbow Sheep" outcry (based, as we know, on two nurseries in Oxfordshire five years ago) into this wholly unconnected story, just to ensure even more foaming-mouthed outrage

  13. The first comment is satire, right?

  14. Interesting that they have used William Crawley as an example of the BBC's anti-religious slant, or to give him his old title, The Reverend William Crawley, as he was a Presbyterian minister/lecturer before joining the BBC full time.

  15. "This country laws and precepts were built on Christian principles. This is yet more evidence of the consistent and concerted effort of a minority to dismantle and rid this country of these principles. "

    Oh no! The Muslims are out to 'rid this country of these principles'. That is what you meant isn't it?

    Though I'm not sure how the use of BC/AD is down to laws and precepts but anyway.

  16. The first comment is clearly a troll, as is the comment at 25 September 2011 16:36. Ignore.

  17. Anonymous on 24th sept 14:54 said
    'i'm ashamed to be British!
    i'm not aloud to be a christian because i may offend another religion!
    my children are not aloud to do Christmas in school so not to offend another religion!'

    What are you on about? Pull your self together and come into the real world, not Daily Mail Island!

  18. Jesus Christ (ha), this story must have been at the bottom of the deepest barrel.

    Why the BBC (or indeed anyone in the DM's crosshairs) even bothers to respond or react to this kind of rubbish is beyond me. I wish the BBC (et al) would just cut all ties with the likes of the Mail and not mention them at all or interview anyone with anything to do with with the filthy rag. The paper would soon see a rather large drop in revenue from loosing all the free adverting the BBC gives it every evening and morning on the front page round up on TV, online and on Radio.

    Why do proper journalists not stand up and say that anyone who works for such a terrible newspaper (and the others like it) is an insult to the profession and demand they are stripped of the right to claim that as their career?

  19. Christmas has well and truly begun, the DM's first "Christians being ethnically cleansed in their own country" type story of 2011 has made the first page!

    Gonna be a long winter, folks!

  20. The irony is, of course, the first comment has come from an immigrant (either into England who then left or into New Zealand). Wonder if that's dawned on them yet...

  21. Taking a cue from the artist known as unpronounceable squiggle, how about using The Era Previously Known As BC, and The Era Previously Known As AD or TEPKABC and TEPKAAD for short. I'm surprised there haven't yet been calls for all dates to be given as A.H. and A.M. as well, for Muslims and Jews. It's all absurd; we don't ask the Chinese, Jews, Hindus etc to change their calendars for us, so why should we change? I'm not Christian and I don't find AD or BC offensive - does anyone else or is there just a fear that someone might?
    Is mixing up "aloud" and "allowed" mandatory for trolls? Along with GETTING THE CAPS LOCK STUCK of course.

  22. Im and Archaeologist and Ancient Historian. As someone who uses BC/AD and BCE and CE in everyday life, Im not sure why everyone else is so bothered. They both use the same time scale, so its just a way of saying the same thing.
    Actually in Archaeology if we stray past 1AD we sometimes (within reason) tend to avoid using BC and start to use 'Years Ago' because its irrelevant, you think its makes sense to say 198000BC and not 200000ya?

    All im trying to say is that the times when this is used most often is by specialists. And we already use it. So what are the BBC doing? They are just using what the specialists use. Simple.

    (I hope this makes sense, Posting on a phone)

  23. can u believe it. The mail have repeated the story today saying that the government is steping in to save BC and AD ha ha ha


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