1.Memorandum submitted by the British
Broadcasting Corporation (BBC)
The BBC Producers' Guidelines set out the BBC's
editorial values and standards. The relevant sections relating
to minority groups are as follows:
It is narrow-minded to identify people only
by ethnic origin or colour when they have a host of other characteristics.
Colour should be mentioned only when it is relevant. Ask yourself
each time: would you say "white" in similar circumstances?
The phrase "ethnic minority" is not
a universal shorthand for "black". White people can
also be ethnic minorities.
Geographic or ethnic origin is often more relevant
than colour of skin . . . "Bangladeshi", "Jamaican",
"West Indian", "Nigerian" and so on.
"Black" should not normally be used
to include Asians. Refer to "black and Asian people"
or "Asian, African and Caribbean people". Just as we
do not say "Non-blacks" we avoid "Non-whites".
Many people in Britain of African and Caribbean
origin prefer to be called "black British". Use the
term "black people" rather than "blacks".
A good rule of thumb is to ask how people describe
themselves: there have to be good reasons for calling them something
Most ethnic minority people living in Britain
are British nationals. A large and growing proportion was born
here. They are an integral part of British society.
Black and Asian people suffer considerably from
negative stereotyping. Programmes must not allow offensive assumptions
or generalisations in scripted material, and interviewees who
express them need to be challenged wherever possible.
People and countries should not be defined by
their religions unless it is strictly relevant. Particular religious
groups or factions should not be portrayed as speaking for their
faith as a whole. Thoughtless portrayal can be offensive, especially
if it implies that a particular faith is hostile or alien to all
outside it. For example, footage of chanting crowds of Islamic
activists should not be used to illustrate the whole Muslim world.
Words such as "fundamentalist", and
"militant" should be used with great care. What may
be a fair description of one group may not be true of all similar
groups. Use of a term such as "Islamic Fundamentalist"
has to pass the test of whether we would talk about Christian
or Hindu Fundamentalism.
Programme makers dealing with religious themes
should be aware of what may cause offence. Programme makers and
schedulers of international services should consider carefully
the varying sensitivities of audiences in different parts of the
world. What may be unexceptional in a UK programme may raise strong
feelings elsewhere. Advice can often be given by the departments
dealing with religious programmes in both domestic and international
services, or by the relevant World Service language sections.
Deep offence will also be caused by profane
references or disrespect, whether verbal or visual, directed at
deities, scriptures, holy days and rituals which are at the heart
of various religionsfor example, the Crucifixion, the Gospels,
the Koran and the Jewish Sabbath. It is against the Muslim religion
to represent the Prophet Mohammed in any shape or form. Language
must be used sensitively and accurately and be consistent in our
description of different religions. Use of a term such as "Islamic
Fundamentalist" has to pass the test of whether we would
talk about Christian or Hindu Fundamentalism.
Particular care should be taken with programmes
to be broadcast on the principal holy days of the main religions
to ensure that unnecessary offence is not caused by material that
might be more acceptable at other times.
In addition, monthly Editorial Policy Meetings
are held which bring together editors and senior producers from
across the BBC to discuss issues of current editorial concern.
Since September 2001, the coverage of Islam has featured three
times. Some of the points disseminated afterwards were:
We need to report and reflect the
many different dimensions of Islam: as a religion, as a political
movement, as a whole bundle of social issues and attitudes. Context
is essential to understanding those elements.
Care is still needed with language
especially in headlines. Stories can be sub-edited to give a misleading
impression. Take care with phrases like "Islamic" militants".
We are getting better at finding
the right spokespeople and representatives, but still need to
work harder at this. Who are the significant voices? No one can
speak for the whole Muslim community and all of them have agendas,
which need to be challenged.
It is important to be accurate, informed
and balanced in the coverage of Islam. These are values the BBC
applies to all its programmes so there is no requirement for special
treatment. However, Islam is many things at the same time: its
complexities require us to take care to ensure they are fully
informed and up to date in their knowledge, ensuring consideration
is given to all relevant facets. As always, it is important to
think not just about how a story is being told, and the language
being used, but also about how it will be received.
It is important to take care and
remain consistent in the use of language. When reporting acts
of violence we should stick to the facts of what has occurred
and avoid rushing into applying labels that may appear judgemental
or inappropriate ideological descriptions of the perpetrators.
Neutral language is key.
Programme makers are urged to seek
advice and make use of the expertise that exists within the BBCin
the World Service, Newsgathering, the Asian Network and News Analysis
Lastly, the BBC's statement on Charter Review,
Building Public Value makes the following commitment:
Social and Community Value: by enabling the UK's
many communities to see what they hold in common and how they
differ, the BBC seeks to build social cohesion and tolerance through
6 January 2005