U.K. broadcasters BBC, ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5/ViacomCBS U.K. have agreed to avoid the use of the collective term B.A.M.E — a divisive term that’s short for Black, Asian and minority ethnic — wherever more specific terms are available.
The recommendation to avoid the acronym is from a Sir Lenny Henry Centre (LHC) for Media Diversity report, which included in-depth interviews with journalists, academics, network groups, writers and thought leaders, as well as audience focus groups and thorough linguistic analysis.
The report 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.
Going forward, “wherever possible,” the acronym will be avoided in internal and external corporate communications, content and editorial news content, the broadcasters said.
ITN, which produces broadcast news programs for ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5/ViacomCBS U.K., will also adhere to this decision.
“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 specific groups. It is expected to inspire similar action across the creative industry,” the broadcasters said in a joint statement.
Broadcasters will ensure any use of the acronym is accompanied by clear transparency. For example, stating when specific information on ethnic groups is unavailable or spelling out “Black, Asian and minority ethnic” before the acronym, to recognise the constituent groups that make up the collective term.
The authors of the LHC report, which include 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 we’re 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.”
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 recognized in our workplace speaks to our ongoing commitment and investment in greater inclusion.”
Ade Rawcliffe, ITV group director of diversity and inclusion, said: “Language plays an important role in building trust and confidence in organizations. 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 chief marketing officer and executive leader for inclusion and diversity, said: “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.”
Wincie Knight, VP, global inclusion strategy, ViacomCBS U.K., said: “As we strive towards an equitable future for all, it’s critical that our voices are heard as specific groups; avoiding the use of acronyms is the first step towards the transparency required to achieve that goal.”