University says media outlets should drop use of damaging 'BAME' terminology

Broadcast media outlets should drop the use of the term ‘BAME’, with the phrase found to be a damaging catch-all, which fails to acknowledge the varied lived experiences of people from non-white backgrounds, a new report has found.

Research published by the Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity at Birmingham City University examined use of the acronym BAME (to signify Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) across media platforms, with the term coming under increasing scrutiny from the public and politicians.

The report, commissioned by the BBC, found that use of the term failed to provide nuanced consideration of the different experiences of those from disparate cultural and ethnic backgrounds. In some instances it was found that the phrase could actively increase the stigma and marginalisation experienced by disadvantaged groups, and created confusion with the public about its use.

Using a range of direct interviews, social media analysis, audience research, creative sector and academic literature, the report assessed changing attitudes and the media landscape to draw its conclusions.

The report recommended that broadcast media outlets should drop verbal use of the term and that print media should remove it from story headlines and properly contextualise it where used in copy.

It also emphasised that any work on discussing appropriate language used should be part of a broader package of robust policies designed to eliminate racial barriers in the industry.

Following the report’s findings, all of the UK's big-four terrestrial broadcasters as well as Sky have confirmed they will be moving away from use of the term, and will instead focus on more specific details. Marcus Ryder, Head of External Consultancies at Birmingham City University’s Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity, said:

“The Sir Lenny Henry Centre for Media Diversity is incredibly pleased to be involved in this important piece of work examining the racial terms and language used by British broadcasters.

“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 recommendations laid out in the report include:

  • Dropping use of the term BAME in verbal reporting
  • Removing the use of the term BAME from print headlines
  • Directly specifying groups referenced in news stories rather than using catch all terms where possible
  • Acknowledging the importance of language alongside a broader package of policies which should be implemented to tackle racial disparities.


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