BBC TURNS ITS BACK ON YEAR OF OUR LORD; 2,000 Years of Christianity Jettisoned for Politically Correct 'Common Era'; Faith under Fire as BBC Shuns AD and BC for 'Common Era' Years.While New Testament Verses Are Deemed 'Deeply Offensive' under Public Order Laws

Article excerpt

Byline: Chris Hastings

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.

Some of the BBC's most popular programmes including University Challenge, presented by Jeremy Paxman, and Radio 4's In Our Time, hosted by Melvyn Bragg, are among the growing number of shows using the new descriptions.

The BBC's religious and ethics department says the changes are necessary to avoid offending non-Christians. It states: '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.'

But the move has angered Christians, mystified other faith leaders and been branded unnecessary by the Plain English Campaign. Critics say the new terms are meaningless because, just like AD and BC, they still denote years in relation to the life of Christ.

Dr Michael Nazir-Ali, the former Bishop of Rochester, said: 'I think this amounts to the dumbing down of the Christian basis of our culture, language and history. These changes are unnecessary and they don't achieve what the BBC wants them to achieve.

'Whether you use Common Era or Anno Domini, the date is actually still the same and the reference point is still the birth of Christ.'

Marie Clair of the Plain English Campaign said: 'As with most politically correct innovations, I am sure this was done with the best of intentions. But it is difficult to see what the point of the changes are if people do not understand the new terms. It sounds like change just for the sake of change.'

The website for BBC Religion and Ethics, headed by commissioning editor Aaqil Ahmed, who is a Muslim, is littered with references to Common Era and Before Common Era.

However, the BBC bizarrely insists the bbc.co.uk/religion website has nothing to do with Mr Ahmed and is actually the responsibility of BBC Learning.

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. A report on historic monuments in Jerusalem, for instance, informed viewers that Temple Mount, a shrine which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims, was built in '70AD (the Common Era)'; while a recent report on frankincense quoted one reference to 7000BC before describing another event as taking place in the 1st Century BCE.

The BBC's Learning and GCSE Bitesize websites, which are aimed at schoolchildren, also use the terms. The Learning website advises that 'BCE/CE is now more acceptable to a greater number of faiths and religions'. One of the BBC's study guides highlights Greek philosopher Demokritos, whose dates are given as 460-370BCE, while a section on GCSE Bitesize on American playwright Arthur Miller says that the first tragedies were written by the Greeks in the 5th Century BCE.

Similarly, a section about the rules of Hindu warfare refers to 3000BCE.

A Radio 3 profile of Confucius, the Chinese philosopher, stated he lived from 551 BCE to 479 BCE.

BBC presenters and producers have used the phrase in their online blogs. Last year, Northern Ireland correspondent William Crawley referred to the construction of the Temple of Solomon in about 950 BCE. Earlier this year, Stephen Marsh, producer of the upcoming 23 Degrees science programme, used a reference to 250BCE in an item on the summer solstice.

Often viewers have no idea why presenters, contributors and guests are using the new terms. In an edition of In Our Time broadcast in March, one contributor made several references to the Common Era in a discussion on sacred Hindu texts. …