The BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and ViacomCBS, which runs Channel 5, have agreed that use of the BAME acronym for people of black, Asian and minority ethnicity should be avoided, wherever possible, in their content and corporate communications.
ITN, which produces news programmes for ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, also confirmed a move away from the acronym in its newsrooms and other communications.
The UK’s main broadcasters have committed to avoid the acronym as part of the creative industry’s wider focus on increasing representation and boosting diversity, inclusion and equity.
It follows a recommendation made in an in-depth report by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity (LHC), which included in-depth interviews with journalists, academics, network groups and writers, as well as audience focus groups.
Zaid Al-Qassab, Channel 4’s chief marketing officer and executive leader for inclusion and diversity, said the broadcaster welcomed the desire within the industry to stop using such vague terminology.
“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’,” he said.
BAME, an acronym in decline
“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.”
There was acknowledgment that the BAME acronym is still widely used in society, so may still be included in reported speech and official documents.
However, in a joint statement the broadcasters said they will strive to ensure any use of the term is accompanied by clear transparency, for example stating when specific information on ethnic groups is unavailable or using “black, Asian and minority ethnic” before the acronym, to recognise the constituent groups that make up the collective term.
The LHC research, which was UK focused since international media tends not to use the collective acronym, found there was a lack of trust around the collective term, due to the belief that it has been used to hide failings in the representation of specific ethnic groups.
The authors – Sarita Malik, Marcus Ryder, Stevie Marsden, Robert Lawson and Matt Gee – 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 move towards specificity and away from a catch-all term paves the way for greater acknowledgement of the unique experience of people from different ethnic backgrounds and offers insight into the issues facing particular groups. The move is hoped to inspire similar action across the creative industries.
Ade Rawcliffe, ITV group director of diversity and inclusion said: “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.”
Miranda Wayland, BBC head of creative and workforce diversity and inclusion, said: “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.”