Media & PR

Dear BBC… (a letter about the word “reform”)

Dear BBC,

I’d like you to reconsider your decision to ban the use of the word “reform” when your staff are reporting or commenting on the proposed changes to the voting system for the House of Commons (as reported in The Independent last month).

Given that the phrase “electoral reform” has been a widely used term for decades to describe all sorts of different proposals to change the electoral system and given that it has been widely used by proponents on all sides of those exchanges too, I’m surprised that you now are of the view that it isn’t an appropriate phrase for the BBC to use.

But what really baffles me is the continued use of “reform” by the BBC in all sorts of other contexts where the question of whether or not the changes are a good idea is being much debated in political circles and more widely.

Whether it is talking about “syllabus reform” in the UK, “economic reform” in Kazakhstan, “reform” to the political system in Jersey, “economic reform” in Haiti, “reform of the financial services” in Europe, “reform of the Common Agricultural Policy” or many other topics where proposed changes have prominent and vocal opponents, the BBC regularly uses the word “reform”. All of these examples are from stories current on the BBC website and dated as last edited within the last seven days.

My list is not even close to a comprehensive one of the last week alone, nor indeed does it cover such obvious examples as health care reform in the US. Not exactly an uncontroversial issue I hear…

So why single out electoral reform for this special treatment, or is the word reform going to be generally expunged from the BBC’s vocabulary? If the word reform is really going to be removed wholesale from the BBC’s output then, whilst a strange decision, I could at least appreciate the editorial consistency. But unless that is what the BBC is going to do, why single out electoral reform?

Yours etc.

The Yes to Fairer Votes campaign is running an online petition to the BBC on this issue. You can sign it here.

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