Belfast Telegraph

Who would really want to go on a date with BBC?

By Gail Walker

Sometimes when I don't make it out of bed for church on a Sunday morning and feel I'm due a little punishment, I tune the old Roberts to Sunday Sequence, Radio Ulster's strange little religious programme.

Last weekend I paid for it indeed, listening to presenter William Crawley steer his guests through a review of the papers. 'Steer' being the word.

One item up for discussion was the Mail on Sunday story about the BBC's apparent abandonment of the terms 'AD' (Anno Domini) and 'BC' (Before Christ) because they are so outrageous to non-Christians.

Yes, if you've ever marvelled at how out of the touch the BBC is as it sucks its licence fee out of your bank account, here's further evidence. While the rest of us are worrying about the recession, the Beeb is worrying that our calendar and dating systems are offensive.

So the sack of Jerusalem didn't happen in 70AD but 70CE ('Common Era'). Confucius wasn't born in 551BC but 551BCE ('Before Common Era') and so on.

BC and AD are such outrageous terms that University Challenge, Radio 4's In Our Time and the BBC education websites now use the "inoffensive" and "neutral" CE/BCE to mark time.

The practice is creeping into BBC news reports too. And guess who else uses them and is cited in the MoS story for using BCE on his BBC blog? Why, none other than our very own Mr Crawley!

Cue then the personal insight of one of those at the very beating heart of the story? Not a chance. Our host began by sneering at the MoS, just so we all knew we were dealing with a crazed, right-wing rag...

Then he got round to this assertion: "Why is that (the usage of BC/AD) a Marxist plot? Academics have been doing that in Biblical studies for 30 or 40 years... it never occurred to anybody that Jewish Old Testament scholars have never used these terms?"

All very arcane and erudite - and talking down to the public and pretending Sunday Sequence is a show for intellectuals rather than believers.

But what about this crude little intellectual question, William?

Why is it that a BBC journalist is using a BBC vehicle to defend his position against comments made in a newspaper, as if it were a news item that didn't involve him?

Could William - or any of his team - really have been unaware that he was mentioned in the article? But even at that, why did he not tell the listening Ulster public why he himself used the terms?

The BBC religion and ethics department takes a stern view: "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 no one outside universities uses CE and BCE. And no one is offended by AD or BC either, outside of sectarian or atheistic fundamentalists or the BBC, and frequently both.

The irony is that CE and BCE are based on the life and death of Jesus anyway. This is still 2011 - two thousand and eleven years since the birth of Jesus Christ. Sunday Sequence can't alter that with a memo.

And we'll still have Gavin -amp; Stacey's 'Christmas special' and Songs of Praise and the dreadful sequence of Sunday programming foisted on us and the bells will still ring out in Ambridge.

These little guerrilla actions against Christianity are attacks on religious programming itself. Those huffy presenters, who would much rather be doing quiz shows or reading the news, are rapidly whittling away their own raison d'etre.

Who cares about any of this? The only people listening to SS, anyway, are nutty religious people, most of them Christians.

Thankfully, we haven't yet achieved that BBC nirvana where people are only interested in religion as history or as a module of social study - like RE with a particularly dull teacher.

Sunday Sequence's look at an important religious topic was just plain old defensive and one-sided and punched yet another hole in the BBC in Northern Ireland where it really didn't need one.

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