The exception to the BBC rule on place names

The BBC News style guide reveals plenty of examples of the corporation's policy of moving away from using place names introduced by foreign conquerors.

A browse through the BBC News style guide reveals plenty of examples of the BBC’s policy of moving away from the use of place names introduced or preferred by foreign conquerors and past rulers.

“Belarus

formerly part of the Soviet Union as Byelorussia; now independent. Adjective, Belarusian.”

“Burma

The BBC has been moving towards calling the country Myanmar. We should use Myanmar rather than Burma in headlines and summaries. Inside the body of our stories, preferably on first mention, we should include the wording “Myanmar, also known as Burma”. Further references should be to Myanmar. We should talk about the main commercial city as “Yangon, also known as Rangoon”, and thereafter Yangon.” 

“Calcutta

As of early 2015, our style is to use Kolkata for the Indian city. It may be helpful for readers if we use this construction once high up in the story: People in the Indian city of Kolkata (Calcutta)…”

“Chennai

As of November 2011, our style is to use Chennai rather than Madras, but we should include the formulation Chennai (Madras) once high up in the body of the story.”

“eSwatini

The country formerly known as Swaziland. Add “previously known as Swaziland”, high up. It’s Swati when describing its people.”

“Kyiv not Kiev”

One entry specifically instructs BBC journalists not to use the terminology favoured by an invading country.

“Cyprus

The northern part, occupied by Turkey, is not internationally recognised, so do not refer to “North Cyprus” – the term the Turks have chosen. Instead, say northern Cyprus, describing it either as Turkish-occupied or Turkish-controlled. And we should speak of the Green Line – not “the so-called Green Line”.”

The exception to the rule in that BBC policy is of course its permanent employment of a term that the Jordanians invented some seventy years ago after they invaded, occupied and later annexed foreign territory – without recognition from the international community. The BBC refers to Judea & Samaria exclusively as “the West Bank” and its website even has a tag for that term.

So much for BBC consistency, impartiality and ‘progressiveness’. 

More from Hadar Sela

BBC WS’s ‘Newshour’ continues the promotion of a myth

The afternoon and evening editions of the January 15th BBC World Service...
Read More