The BBC has come under strong criticism after reports appeared in the media stating that it is encouraging the use of the secular date references Common Era and Before Common Era, over Anno Domini and Before Christ.
Anger has grown following a recent article by Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens, who accused the British broadcaster of bowing to political correctness and attempting to “write Christianity out of our culture” after University Challenge presenter Jeremy Paxman used CE rather than AD in reference to a date.
The BBC clarified in a statement on Saturday that it does not insist on the use of the CE and BCE terms.
“The BBC has not issued guidance on the dates system. Both AD and BC, and CE and BCE are widely accepted dates systems and the decision on which term to use lies with individual production and editorial teams,” it said.
James Naughtie, the presenter of BBC Radio 4’s Today program, told The Telegraph he was not aware of any change.
“Nobody has suggested this to me, and if they do, they will get a pithy answer, which may be too pithy to share with readers of the Telegraph,” he said.
BBC presenter Andrew Marr also said he would continue to use AD and BC because “that’s what I understand.”
“I don’t know what the Common Era is. Why is it the Common Era in 20AD and it wasn’t the Common Era in 20BC?” he said during his Sunday morning show on BBC1.
The BBC’s Religious and Ethics Department explains on its website that it uses BCE and CE in order to be “religiously neutral.”
It states on its FAQs page: “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.”
The use of CE and BCE has been criticized by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, who said it was “unnecessary.”
Writing in The Telegraph on Monday, London Mayor Boris Johnson described moves to adopt CE and BCE as “absolute drivel” and “deeply anti-democratic.”
“Objecting to the use of Christ’s birth to mark each year is puerile political correctness,” he said.
“I urge all those who are fed up with the advance of pointless political correctness to fight back.”