By Matt Cresswell
THE BBC is under fire for ‘jettisoning’ the use of ‘Anno Domini’ and ‘Before Christ’ from its editorial lexicon. Although the corporation says it will still use AD and BC, critics think that CE and BCE (Common Era and Before Common Era) are replacing the traditional terms.
It was the religion and ethics section of the BBC website that triggered the flurry of abuse this week. A statement on the website said: “In line with modern practice bbc.co.uk/religion uses BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) as a religiously neutral alternative to BC/AD. As the BBC is committed to impartiality it is appropriate that we use terms that do not offend or alienate non-Christians.”
Critics such as former Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe said the policy was offensive to Christians. Others said the BBC was in danger of scrapping a system that was invented by scholar Dionysius Exigus in 525AD – an event that could not be extracted from British culture.
However, this week a spokesperson for the BBC said: “The BBC tells the paper [the Daily Mail] it has not issued editorial guidance on the issue: ‘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’.”
Widdecombe said: “This is just the result of one pen-pusher in the BBC trying to inflict his own views on everyone else.”
She added: “If this is happening in just one department then it is bound to happen all across the BBC.”
Professor Mary Beard, a lecturer in classics at Cambridge University, said CE and BCE had been around for many years in academia and that it was not surprising that the BBC would use it in some capacity. However, she objected to its use for phonetic reasons.
“My particular problem with CE and BCE is rather different though. It’s an oral one. If you lecture, then BC and AD are great, as it is so easy for your audience to ‘hear’ the difference,” she said.
“If you use CE and BCE when you are speaking you are always having to over-enunciate to make sure they get the point and the difference. And even then, many a hapless undergraduate fails to register, and gets Nero before Julius Caesar.”
A spokesman for the Church Society said: “Church Society endorses the comments made in other quarters to the effect that this proposed change represents another unnecessary concession to a politically correct agenda which seeks to marginalise the most significant event in history, namely the incarnation of God’s one and only Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will of course return to judge the world.”