Monday, 26 September 2011

The end of history: BBC bans BC and AD. Or not.

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There was, no doubt, much consternation around the breakfast tables of middle England yesterday as the Mail on Sunday declared that the "BBC turns its back on year of Our Lord", in a cover story that claimed executives at the public broadcaster had banned the use of the dating terms "Before Christ (BC)" and "Anno Domini (AD)" in favour of the "politically-correct" terms "Before Common Era (BCE)" and "Common Era (CE)".

So have the BBC, as the Mail suggested, really "jettisoned 2,000 years of history"? It would certainly be an impressive feat, even for an organisation of the BBC's size and influence, but of course a close reading of the story shows that there was really no need for the paper to have its readers spluttering into their Earl Grey. As the Mail point out in the final paragraph, via a spokesperson from the broadcaster, history is safe and the use of AD and BC is still considered perfectly acceptable within the BBC:
"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."
Not that such a clarification means much to Mail columnist Melanie Phillips, who this morning uses the story to rail against "members of the majority who want to destroy their own culture" through political correctness and suggest that "it is hardly frivolous to wonder how long it will be before the Bible itself is banned".

Because, obviously, the next logical step after an organisation gives its staff the option of choosing between two sets of terms for historical eras is the outlawing of a major religious text.

(For more on this, I heartily recommend Guardian blogger Martin Robbins' piece, which alerted me to the story in the first place and amused me a great deal.)

Update: If Melanie Phillips' interpretation isn't sensationalist enough for you, why not try James Delingpole's "How the BBC fell for a Marxist plot to destroy civilisation from within".

It's also worth noting that the journalist Cristina Odone has today launched a new site, "Free Faith", aimed at "fighting the new atheist intolerance". Now that should be interesting...
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