Is it that hard for Western media to get Asia right?
By Zhao Guozhu
We have moved ahead, BBC. Into another year. Nope, we are not stuck in the year of other zodiacal beasts. We are firmly in 虎年, the Year of the Tiger. 🐯 But the news and graphics editors at the BBC are not entirely aware. Or, perhaps, as some people say, they were sleeping. Eagle-eyed Netizens spotted the above faux pas on chuyi (初一, the first day of the Lunar New Year) and social media went bonkers with the indeterminate creature (above) that is clearly not the 百兽之王, King of Beasts. In a statement to Marketing Interactive, a BBC spokesperson said, “We inadvertently used last year’s bug on the channel, but will immediately remove it. We apologise for the oversight and thank our viewers for spotting it.”
Chinese New Year (CNY) has about 3,500 years of history. It is generally thought to date back to the Shang Dynasty (1600–1046 BC). CNY is, therefore, not a festive celebration of modern times. Yet, some international news outlet can’t seem to get details pertaining to the most important date of the lunar calendar (农历) right. In the BBC title page, it looks to me like someone Google-searched a CNY image without entering the year and this came up, and they employed it. But, the news media said they used “last year’s bug” (roughly: label), but why does the animal look more like a rat than an ox? Could this then be from two years ago? Or were the BBC editors so charmed by the bug’s exotic potential—perhaps, all jianzi (剪纸, paper-cut) animals, in their eyes, look alike?—that it didn’t occur to them that the lunar year corresponds to a specific animal to form the 十二生肖, 12 signs of the Chinese Zodiac?
It is disconcerting that the nearly a-century-old BBC, which I have regarded and read with respect, would be this slack in visual accuracy. That it has happened before, as recently as two weeks ago, making it the second error in less than a month, 重蹈覆辙, is not entirely digestible. 好事成双吗? Do good things really come in pairs?
Screen grab: BBC Lifestyle