BBC faces outcry as shows drop BC and AD

The BBC has been roundly criticised after some programmes dropped the terms BC and AD and replaced them with the “religiously-neutral” BCE and CE.

The Plain English campaign, Christian leaders, people of other faiths – and people within the broadcaster itself – have all hit out at the move.

The furore surrounds the dropping of the terms BC, Before Christ, and AD – which translates from Latin to ‘the year of our Lord’.

Modern practice

The BBC’s religion and ethics department states: “In line with modern practice, BCE/CE (Before Common Era/Common Era) are used 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.”

The terms BCE and CE have been used on prominent BBC programmes such as University Challenge, as well as in news bulletins and on its GCSE Bitesize web pages.


However, presenters of Radio 4′s Today programme, James Naughtie and John Humphrys, indicated they did not back the change.

And Andrew Marr, speaking on his BBC1 Sunday morning show, commented: “I say AD and BC because that’s what I understand”.

The BBC said it had not issued “editorial guidance on the date systems” and added it was up to “individual production and editorial teams” which system to use.

The Plain English Campaign said it was “difficult to see what the point of the changes are if people do not understand the new terms”.


Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali commented: “I think this amounts to the dumbing down of the Christian basis of our culture, language and history.”

The Revd Peter Mullen commented that the move was an example of the BBC “trying to undermine Christianity by pushing an aggressive secularism”.

He added: “I would be very surprised if any other faith had complained about the use of Anno Domini and Before Christ.”


Dr Ghayasuddin Siddiqui, of the Muslim Institute, said: “I don’t know anyone who has been offended by AD and BC, so why change them?”

And Historian Simon Schama commented: “As a Jew I don’t have any problems with AD or BC.” He did note that CE and BCE are used “frequently” in Jewish circles.

Columnist Melanie Phillips suggested that as she is Jewish, she is “presumably a member of this group that must not be alienated”.

She continued: “It so happens, however, that along with many other Jewish people I sometimes use CE and BCE since the terms BC and AD are not appropriate to me.

“But the idea that any of us would be offended by anyone else using BC and AD would be totally ridiculous.”

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