Following a report produced by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity Several major UK broadcasters have agreed to avoid using the acronym BAME.
The acronym, standing for black, Asian and minority ethnic, has been widely used to group together discussions relating to race and inclusion. For many however, the term singled out those from ethnic minorities placing them into a one size fits all category.
We can report both Asian Standard and Asian Sunday chose to dispense with the tag even before the BBC, Channel 4, Channel 5, its parent company and ITV were consulted.
Fatima Patel, Managing Editor of both publications has said: “As a newspaper whose aim is to platform the South Asian community, representation for us is extremely important and using the term BAME is a very lazy way of representing Britain’s diverse and multicultural communities.
“As a newspaper focussing on the South Asian community, we know there are people of Indian heritage, Pakistani heritage, Sri Lankan heritage and Pakistani heritage, who all have unique identities and so you simply cannot box them all under the A meaning Asian in the BAME acronym.
“Terminology matters and it makes a huge impact on how one is seen. People rightly deserve to have their identity clearly defined, otherwise it gives the view these people are not important or second-class citizens so let’s just label them as such.”
Each one of the broadcasters has pledged not to include the controversial acronym in both corporate communications and editorial content.
It’s believed the term BAME initially came about in response to the ill-named “political blackness” anti-racist movement of the 70s, criticised for placing all ethnic groups together under the word “black”.
In presenting the report the LHC explained: “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.”
Zaid Al-Qassab, Channel 4’s chief marketing officer and executive leader for inclusion and diversity, added: “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”.
In compiling this report the group sought the views of journalists, focus groups and academics. They found the collective term had been “used to hide failings in the representation of specific ethnic groups”.
In terms of the broadcasters the term may still be used in reported speech and official documents but will usually be accompanied by an explanation involving specific information on a particular ethnic group not being available.
Marcus Ryder, head of external consultancies at the LHC based at Birmingham City University added:
“We hope that our report and recommendations will lead to better journalism on issues covering race as well as build trust, both internally and externally, between broadcasters and their audiences and employees when it comes to issues of race and racism. We applaud how the broadcasters have been able to work in a coordinated fashion to address the issue and draw on external expertise in the industry.”
The report concluded there “was a lack of trust” around the term BAME.