UK broadcasters including BBC and ITV agree to avoid use of term BAME
A number of major UK broadcasters have committed to avoid using the acronym BAME following recommendations from an industry report published by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity (LHC).
The acronym, which stands for black, Asian and minority ethnic, has been widely used as a catch-all in discussions relating to race and inclusion, but has faced criticism over its lack of nuance.
The BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Channel 5 and its parent company, Viacom CBS UK, have all agreed to avoid using the term in their editorial news content and corporate communications.
In addition, ITN, the producer of news programmes for Channel 4, Channel 5/ViacomCBS UK and ITV, has said it will move away from using the acronym in “newsrooms and corporate communications”.
The broadcasters hope the move will inspire similar action across the creative industries.
The authors of the report from the LHC said: “We are very happy that British broadcasters are taking the issue of racial language seriously and were happy to undertake this piece of work.
“We believe that, while there can still be utility in the use of collective terms, the priority should always be to ensure clear and simple communication that is trusted by audiences.
“We hope that our report will help broadcasters to achieve this, and, as language develops, they regularly revisit this and related issues.”
The listed authors of the document – which draws on interviews with journalists, academics, audience focus groups and more – are Sarita Malik, Marcus Ryder, Stevie Marsden, Robert Lawson and Matt Gee.
BAME, which is not used widely outside the UK, has its roots in the anti-racist movement in the 1970s and, according to the report, has become “the preferred dominant term” to describe non-white groups, especially since 2020.
The report says the acronym should never be used verbally and generally recommends against its use in writing.
The term, however, can be used in reported speech but should always be written out in full to ensure against the “homogenising of all ‘non-white’ ethnic groups”.
Miranda Wayland, BBC head of creative and workforce diversity and inclusion, said: “We’re proud to have collaborated with our broadcasting partners and the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity on this important work.
“Ensuring that the rich and complex lived experiences of individual ethnic groups are accurately reflected and truthfully portrayed on air and properly recognised in our workplace speaks to our ongoing commitment and investment in greater inclusion.”
Ade Rawcliffe, ITV group director of diversity and inclusion, said: “We were delighted to work with the other broadcasters on this very interesting and useful piece of research from the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity.
“Language plays an important role in building trust and confidence in organisations.
“We will use the findings to build on our internal race fluency training, which will help us to further embed an inclusive culture at ITV as we work to deliver the actions that we have committed to in our Diversity Acceleration Plan.”
Zaid Al-Qassab, Channel 4’s chief marketing officer and executive leader for inclusion and diversity, said: “We welcome the desire within the industry to stop using such vague terminology.
“At Channel 4 we began to move away from using the acronym last year and, in consultation with members of our employee rep group, The Collective, we’ve followed their recommendation to use the terminology ‘ethnically diverse’.
“I’m sure this is an area which will continue to develop, we need to keep talking and looking for more inclusive language which acknowledges our uniqueness and experiences as individuals.”
Philippa Childs, head of entertainment at union Bectu, welcomed the news.
She said: “Using clear and specific terms is vital in ensuring full inclusivity in the broadcast industry and establishing a culture that welcomes all.”
In October last year, a music taskforce set up by UK Music, the body which represents the commercial interests of the sector, said the “outdated and offensive” term BAME should be “consigned to the dustbin of history”.