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Last Updated: Wednesday, 16 March, 2005, 13:44 GMT
Metric 'mish-mash' splits audiences
By Ian Jolly
Series Producer, NewsWatch programme

For some viewers, the only way to give measurements is in metric. Others insist the BBC sticks to imperial units of feet, pounds and pints. Here we give both points of view and the BBC's response.

Road sign
Many people feel BBC News should educate people by using metric

"When we shop at supermarkets and corner stores, the prices are clearly marked in kilograms and grams," said Riane Martin.

"Yet when we come to a street market all the prices are in pounds and ounces so we can't compare them."

She continued: "The BBC seems to be doing the same thing in the way it reports haphazardly and chaotically between one system and the other.

"Often news items present metric and imperial measurements in the same report, or even in the same sentence."

Riane added: "The BBC is inconsistent. It's presenting excellent documentaries using metric only and then the news presenters often use imperial.

"I was lucky enough to grow up in Australia and remember that in the 1960s, when Britain announced it was going to metric, Australia and the rest of the Commonwealth decided to do the same.

There is no BBC policy enforcing absolute usage of either the metric or the imperial system
BBC spokesman

"The Australian Broadcasting Commission decided to present all its information in metric to help the country move along and to save on the confusion.

"The BBC however, does not take its policy of educating and informing the public properly very seriously, and continues to give confusing measurements."

Philip Hall wrote: "The BBC should take a lead as an educator and a public service broadcaster and ensure a consistent use of the only single universal system available to us."

Ian Bennett agreed: "In today's news reporting (from the BBC and others) it's all too easy to find examples of a ludicrous mix of measurements that do nothing to add clarity to a story."

Metric martyr Steven Thoburn
Should the BBC use imperial measures to relate to audiences?

"Please explain your self-imposed crusade only to use metric measurements," demanded Josephine Bennington.

"I am largely short of info because of your arrogant refusal to speak to me in a language I understand. Do you seriously think I am suddenly going to get myself on board your metric ship?"

Ray Douglas said: "We still use the imperial system in this country and for a lot of us it's very frustrating that the BBC refuses to use yards, feet and inches or at least give us a comparison between the metric and imperial systems."

Graham Harper agreed: "I am not asking for them to stop using words such as kilometres or metres, but when reporting would it be too much trouble for them to also give imperial measurements?"

And Charlie Kemp wrote: "Until such times as the government makes metric the legal measurement for the UK, the BBC should give all measurements in imperial."

Weights on a scale
The BBC weighs up the audience for each programme before deciding

"There is no BBC policy enforcing absolute usage of either the metric or the imperial system.

"We aim to reflect common usage in this country today and to aid understanding for different audiences.

"The metric system is becoming increasingly widespread, and has been taught in schools for many years now, but many people, for example, usually refer to their own height in feet and inches, or their own weight in stone.

"Programme makers, producers and presenters are allowed to use their own judgement to use what different audiences will find easiest to understand."


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