1.15 to 3 pm, and will take place in van Wijkplaats 4, 004.
Auntie and Prescriptivism: the fine line the BBC treads to ‘uphold language standards’
Many people believe the British Broadcasting Corporation, the BBC, has a duty to maintain English language standards. Listeners, viewers and online readers complain vociferously when the BBC, in their opinion, fails in this regard. In particular, people appear intolerant of mistakes in ‘Auntie’s’ news output. Incorrect grammar and a poor choice of vocabulary will be noticed, if not by everyone in the audience, certainly by enough who will be troubled by a perceived decline in standards. The danger is that if the language is misused, audience members will start to doubt the validity of the facts reported to them.
To help journalists produce linguistically accurate copy, the BBC regularly produces so-called News Style Guides. As the (publicly available) 2003 version of the Guide says: ‘Our task is to tread a fine line between conserva-tism and radicalism, to write in such a way that we do not alienate any section of our audience.’
There is no evidence to suggest that BBC audience expec-tations on accuracy and fairness are any different now than several years ago. What does appear to have changed is that many journalists themselves now also worry about a decline in standards. As 24-hour rolling news is the norm and fewer BBC journalists have to pro-duce more output, the layers of control have disappeared.
Dr Luscombe will discuss the BBC News Style Guides produced between 1967 and 2008, giving a glimpse of which issues were pertinent to news coverage in different decades and the types of linguistic issues which were thought important. In addition, she will outline what BBC radio journalists and audience members have to say about language standards.
Please leave a comment to this post if you wish to attend. The deadline for this is 1 April (no joke).