Aaqil Ahmed, the BBC’s head of religion and ethics, has responded strongly to reports that the Corporation has banned the terms BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini). Last weekend it was claimed that BC and AD had been replaced across the BBC’s output by the modern, secular terms BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era).
“The story was quite simply wrong,” Ahmed wrote on the About the BBC blog. “We have issued no editorial guidelines or instructions to suggest that anyone in the BBC should change the terms they use.”
The reports – which led to controversy that continued throughout last week – seemed to be based on this statement, contained in the BBC’s Religion website: “‘As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians. In line with modern practice, BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) are used as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD.”
Despite the website making it clear that this policy applied only to bbc.co.uk/religion – and the BBC releasing a statement saying “The decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams” – it was construed as applying across BBC programming.
“The BBC, like most people, use BC and AD as standard terminology,” Ahmed wrote. “But we recognise that it is possible to use different terminology, and that some people do: that is what is reflected on our Religion website.”
Ahmed, who was writing ahead of today’s 50th-anniversary edition of Songs of Praise, concluded: “For our religion and ethics programming on BBC television and radio we generally use AD and BC. It is a shame that people seeking to make mischief should cast a shadow over the wonderful celebration of our Christian religious heritage that is Songs of Praise.”