Wednesday, July 01, 2015

Email just sent to BBC Director-General, Tony Hall -

Dear Lord Hall,

You say that you spend a day a week out around the BBC talking to people, but I'd like to know how much time you devote to dealing with the concerns of TV licence payers. Please could you advise how many letters and emails get responded to, and how many get ignored?

Thanks.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

GoodCorporation "conducts independent and confidential assessments of ethical management practices." They were founded in 2000, and have worked with a diverse range of organisations including BBC Worldwide, the main commercial arm of the BBC.

In March last year GoodCorporation was asked by the BBC to carry determine whether the BBC’s child protection and whistle blowing policies are fit for purpose. The BBC is in possession of that report, but thus far they have declined to make it public.

The substantive part of my email to a senior figure at GoodCorporation (29th June 2015) -

... I did get in touch with the BBC to ask about a publication date. Unfortunately, however, I've not received a reply, despite a reminder last week.

You will recall that I am not alone in having reservations about the BBC's integrity.

It seems to me that something of an ethical dilemma has arisen. The BBC has asked GoodCorporation whether their policies are 'fit for purpose' and now they appear reluctant to publish the results which, as stakeholders, we are surely entitled to know at the earliest opportunity. In fact, according to the BBC, the original terms of reference to the Dame Janet Smith Review were amended, and a separate assessment carried out for the very reason of avoiding further delay.

GoodCorporation has confirmed the report is confidential, and say it can only be made public by the BBC. Presumably the broadcaster will eventually publish. Watch this space.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Introducing his show last Sunday, Andrew Marr mentioned that Lord Hall was a giving a "relatively rare TV interview." Marr said that "both the Tories and the Labour Party, not to mention the SNP, complained loudly about the BBC all the way through the election campaign. After it, Auntie's enemies are circling."

Newsround Blog has previously commented on Lord Hall's reluctance to submit himself to tough questioning but, of course, Andrew Marr is not exactly noted for giving his guests a difficult time.

During the interview Lord Hall was asked about problems the BBC faces -

Andrew Marr: .. there are a series of things, which, if they all happen together, would be quite serious for the BBC. Decriminalisation of the licence fee, so you can pay it or not as you wish - that could cost something like £200 million.

Lord Hall: About two hundred

Andrew Marr: .. but it could be a lot more than that. We don't know how people will behave, so it could be much more than that. Then there's a possibility of a freeze of the licence fee going beyond 2017, and the BBC having to pay the licence fee for OAPs, for instance. If all of those things happened together, a kind of general squeeze, how serious would that be for the BBC?

Lord Hall: Well if all of those things happened together, then of course that would be serious.

Strange as it may seem, nowhere did Andrew Marr mention another issue which could greatly compound the BBC's predicament, namely, the possibility of having to pay very large sums of money by way of compensation to victims of Jimmy Savile & Stuart Hall. Neither did Mr Marr ask about inordinate delays to publication of the Dame Janet Smith Review or the BBC's separate independent assessment of child protection and whistleblowing policies carried out by GoodCorporation.

Topics which were discussed included cuts in staffing, severance payments, and changes to Top Gear.

A telling moment came right near the end of the show, when Andrew Marr asked Lord Hall about the satirical sitcom W1A


Lord Hall doesn't veto the scripts

Saturday, June 06, 2015

In the absence of any response to enquiries about misleading information in the BBC online staff magazine, Ariel, it is probably worthwhile looking at the discrepancy in more detail.

This is the article in question. You should notice the article is currently dated 17th April 2015 at 9.15am. Now if you check this archive, made on 19th April 2015, you will notice exactly the same date/time information on the web page.

The present version is different from the archived version in at least one obvious respect: the photograph captioned "Future leaders? Adeluwoye, Abbey, Tezisler, Moncrieffe-Johnson, Pemberton and Berkeley with DG" was removed some time after 19th April, but that change hasn't been acknowledged by Ariel's editor, Claire Barrett.

Newsround Blog will, at a future date, consider why the page was edited.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Review of 'So Awkward'

CBBC's widely publicised, but only slightly amusing, sitcom series So Awkward began its first run on 21st May. The series follows the lives and mishaps of three teenage girls - Lily Hampton, Jas Salford and Martha Fitzgerald - who attend Cranmede Upper School.

Episode 1 starts with the three girls finding themselves being embarrassed by their parents. Lily has a big crush on Matt Furnish but, in an attempt to avoid embarrassment, Lily tells her mum that her boyfriend is actually the nerdy Ollie Coulton. Mrs Hampton suggests Lily invite Ollie for tea. So Lily has to ask Ollie to pretend to be her boyfriend, and he reluctantly agrees.

Martha, meanwhile, is getting increasingly frustrated by the lack of attention she gets from her mum who, by the way, is played by Carla Mendonça of My Parents Are Aliens fame. Jas tells the normally well-behaved Martha that a few detentions will get her mum to sit up and take notice.

Ollie isn't used to being a boyfriend, so he asks Matt for help. Matt teaches Ollie the basics of romance but Martha walks in and catches them in an embarrassing situation as the romantic music quickly grinds to a halt. It's not yet clear whether Cranmede school has any 'out' lesbian, gay or bisexual pupils. So, in context, the scene perpetuates somewhat old-fashioned homophobic attitudes.

Martha continues to struggle to get noticed by her mum, but follows Jas's advice leading to a meeting in school between the headteacher, Martha's mum and Jasmine's dad (played by Clive Rowe, best known as "Duke" from Tracy Beaker.) The plan works and Mrs Fitzgerald appreciates the need to devote more time to her daughter.

Lily pretends to be upset about breaking up with Ollie, but her mum has worked out the truth - that Lily really likes Matt, not Ollie. She tells Lily that any boy would be lucky to go out with her.

Episode 2 of So Awkward was devoted to fashion statements, and was exceedingly dull.

Jas, Lily & Martha in episode 2

The third episode dealt with the danger of taking studies too seriously at the expense of having fun.

So Awkward is, at best, mildly amusing; less so than Sadie J. And sometimes it has worthwhile points to make.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Part of last night's discussion on Newsnight between Evan Davis and Stephen Dubner, co-author of 'When to Rob a Bank'

Evan Davis: .. why is Britain's productivity - hourly productivity - lower than France's?

Stephen Dubner: Yeah, if I had to take a guess, I would say the one thing we know from this new field of what's called "workforce science" which is where you gather data on your workers on many dimensions - one thing we've learned is that salary, which most economists would say is the most important thing to making people happy and productive, is actually a very distant second, if that. The single most important thing in productivity is whether or not your boss and immediate co-workers are jerks.

Speaking of which, Newsround Blog is awaiting a response to the following email dated 13th May 2015:

FAO: Lord Hall, BBC Director-General

Dear Lord Hall,

I've recently been in touch with your Managing Director of Finance and Operations regarding misappropriation of funds. As I explained to Ms Bulford, whilst a licence fee of £2.80p per week may seem very reasonable, for those on the breadline and forced to rely on foodbanks and handouts, it is a significant sum of money. With that principle in mind, I trust you appreciate why I'm concerned about the wrongful use of licence-payers' money by a senior manager who is paid the better part of £200,000 per year.

Yours sincerely,

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Yesterday, most news channels, including BBC news, devoted tonnes of time to reporting the same-sex marriage referendum count in Ireland - and rightly so. The large majority voting 'Yes' is a hugely significant result, not only for Ireland, but also for gay people around the world, who have been treated as second-class citizens for way too long. Most of the coverage was good and reflected modern-day thinking on the need to treat all people fairly, without discrimination.

TV producers have traditionally sought to include minorities such BAME and disabled people, though virtually no current children's series portray lesbian or gay characters. Hopefully the outcome of the Irish referendum will help to drive things forward.

Making factual programmes inclusive presents more of a challenge than making dramas. The ideal answer is simply to look out for opportunities to report stories, issues and facts relevant to diverse families and children.

Newsround did report the same-sex marriage referendum today. They could have improved their reports by mentioning that many thousands of young people, both gay and straight, returned to Ireland from abroad just in order to vote for equal rights - #HomeToVote
Ayshah Tull reports on the same-sex marriage referendum

Newsround reports at 10.05am ... 12.05pm

Monday, May 04, 2015

There is a discrepancy relating to update information in the BBC's online staff magazine, Ariel. I've contacted the editor, Claire Barrett, to seek clarification. The article in question is about a new mentorship scheme.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Email sent yesterday morning to the BBC's Anne Bulford, Managing Director, Finance and Operations -

Dear Ms Bulford,

One of the findings of the 'Respect at Work' Review, published in May 2013, was evidence of inappropriate behaviour/bullying. Dinah Rose stated that some individuals are seen as being “untouchable” due to their perceived value to the BBC.

The BBC spent over £300,000 on the Review, so it's rather disappointing that there's been no sign of any genuine intention to change. Jeremy Clarkson's attack on Oisin Tymon was clearly unacceptable, and a responsible organisation would not welcome him back. But within hours of a police announcement that no action would be taken, the BBC reported Clarkson would host Have I Got News For You on 24th April.

Clarkson, himself, reflected on the position and realised that an appearance on TV at such an early stage might be seen as a slight against Mr Tymon, and therefore would not be appropriate. It beggars belief that the BBC didn't get that.

I am still awaiting a reply to my email of 30th March 2015 in relation to what amounts to a fraudulent expense claim by one of your senior managers.

Yours sincerely,

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Jeremy Clarkson will not, after all, make an appearance in Have I Got News For You on 24th April.

Jimmy Mulville, managing director of show producers Hat Trick Productions, said "On reflection, Jeremy Clarkson has decided not to host Have I Got News For You." Mulville expects Clarkson to host HIGNFY later in the year.

Clarkson's decision not to take part in the programme so soon after his verbal and physical attack on Oisin Tymon reveals at least a modicum of integrity that is totally lacking in the BBC's own top decision makers - Lord Hall in particular.

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The 'Respect at Work Review' was set up in the wake of the Jimmy Savile scandal to look at BBC policies and processes relating to sexual harassment as well as what it is like to work at the BBC more broadly with regard to respect and appropriate behaviour for staff and freelancers. It was carried out with the help of Dinah Rose QC.

An important finding of the Review was evidence of inappropriate behaviour/bullying: Some individuals are seen as being “untouchable” due to their perceived value to the BBC. (pdf)

You might think the Respect at Work Review was carried out with the aim of changing the culture which had led to people abusing their status and position within the Corporation. However it's now less than two years since the Review was published, and it seems nothing has really changed.

Within hours of the police confirmation that no action would be taken against Jeremy Clarkson, the BBC announced he would chair an edition of Have I Got News For You on 24th April. What kind of message is that supposed to send out?

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Difficult to decide who's the more pathetic: Lord Hall for agreeing to allow bullying thug Jeremy Clarkson to appear as host on Have I Got News for You (24th April 2015) - or Clarkson for accepting the invitation?

Of course Lord Hall knows full well that Clarkson will use the opportunity to aim loads of digs at the BBC.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Lord Hall was right to fire Jeremy Clarkson, but even that dismissal was carried out in the cack-handed way we've come to expect from this BBC director-general. Clarkson had already been given a 'final warning' last year, following more accusations of inappropriate language and behaviour.

The first of the Corporation's values states: "Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest."

It emerged, On 10th March 2015, that Clarkson had been involved in what the BBC described as a 'fracas' with a producer. Naturally people who still trust the BBC would have assumed nothing much more than a serious row between the people involved. But the truth is that the producer in question, Oisin Tymon, had to be treated in hospital on account of Clarkson's physical assault.

Tony Hall would have known the all facts, but instead of being honest with the public, he approved this mealy-mouthed press statement to disguise the severity of the attack.

When Lord Hall did eventually decide that Clarkson had to go, his final words of appreciation were out of place. Opera buff Hall's claim to be a fan of Clarkson's work on Top Gear was probably untrue.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Jeremy Clarkson has been sacked by the BBC.

Reports about the story, including this Newsround report by Ayshah, and this one on the BBC's main early evening news programme, played down Clarkson's history of racist, sexist and homophobic remarks.

Tony Hall making a rare appearance in front to the cameras, laid out the BBC's position. Here, frequently looking down at notes, Hall explains his decision. And in another very similar video, presumably using the same notes, he explains himself once again.

Lord Hall appears reluctant to be interviewed on live current affairs programmes such as BBC Two's Newsnight.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Dame Janet Smith Review was set up in October 2012. Much as the BBC would like to delay publication forever, it looks like they're now running out of excuses.

The original terms of reference mention Jimmy Savile only, but in May 2013 BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten insisted that the inquiry should also address allegations about Stuart Hall. Accordingly the Review added separate terms of reference specifically to look into Hall's crimes. Then allegations about Dave Lee Travis surfaced. Dame Janet said "the possibility does exist that publication of the report may affect the fairness of the trial of Dave Lee Travis."

In a statement:
"For that reason and in the interests of ensuring that the independence and fairness of the criminal process is maintained, Dame Janet has decided that her report should not be delivered until after the conclusion of the trial of Dave Lee Travis.

"The BBC is aware of and agrees with this decision."

Yesterday's update suggests that Dame Janet's Report will not be published before the General Election.

The BBC is not good at dealing with criticism. Quite how bad things have become is summed up in a recent Observer article entitled The sinister treatment of dissent at the BBC. Whether Lord Hall and his cronies will be able to cope after publication of Dame Janet's Report remains to be seen, but no doubt the BBC's own journalists and editors will have a clear understanding that the Corporation is to be given an easy time. And woe betide any who fail to comply.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The BBC, according to Jana Bennett in 2007, helps children understand themselves and their relationships. But things went badly wrong this Valentine's Day.

Most CBBC programmes dealing with romance and love are heteronormative, with very little directly relevant to the significant minority of viewers who are lesbian and gay.

There were signs that BBC children's TV was about to become more inclusive - for example, Benny revealing his sexuality at the end of series 2 of Wizards vs Aliens. And then Newsround, for the first time, directly reported on the issue of homophobic bullying in November last year. Additionally an episode of the documentary "Our School" included a section about how Conyers School dealt with an incident of homophobic bullying. A short clip of Shaun Dellenty's anti-bullying assembly at Conyer's school appeared on CBBC's website along with a chat board asking whether kids had suffered discrimination. For the first time in many years gay kids' messages weren't censored.

But any progress on CBBC appears spasmodic. One step forward - then two backward. Benny was written out of Wizards vs Aliens during series 3, and we never saw him date another boy. We do regularly see gay celebrities on CBBC & Newsround, but no direct support - for instance a gay sportsperson talking about LGBT and equality related issues. The clip of Shaun Dellenty has now been taken off CBBC's website, along with kids' messages about being discriminated against. So far CBBC has shown no obvious interest in LGBT History Month.

There's no excuse for the BBC spending licence payers' money on homophobic children's programmes. But that's exactly what we see in "The Worst Year of My Life, Again" The clip below was from an episode shown on Valentine's Day. -

Monday, February 16, 2015

Remember, in 2011, that morning when Newsround was keen to show off their new iPad. Well today Leah Boleto seemed intent on viewers seeing a customised Newsround tablet -


Leah shows off her tablet this morning

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Most of CBBC's afternoon and evening programmes today were about love or Valentine's Day -

CBBC programmes today

Even though we're now half-way through LGBT History Month, I wan't exactly expecting an LGBT-fest on CBBC. Nevertheless it was unfortunate to come across one quite homophobic joke in the Valentine's Day programme mix.

The Valentine's Day edition of '12 Again' was repeated once again, but with no attempt whatsoever to update viewers on mariage equality legislation in Britain. I might well contact the incoming Director of BBC Children's, Alice Webb, about concerns over this significant discrimination-related issue. But, of course, moral integrity has never been a strong point of the BBC, as is evidenced, amongst other things, by Trust chairperson, Rona Fairhead, and her failure to answer questions about her work at HSBC

Sunday, February 08, 2015

A week into LGBT History Month, but no mention yet on CBBC. To be fair we have seen a few famous gay people on the channel, such as Sir Ian McKellen in a new series called Cinemaniacs.

What would be really good to see is more real recognition of today's stars, as well as some from history, like Alan Turing and Leonardo da Vinci.

Here are a couple of modern-day suggestions:

Lesbian journalist and newsreader, Jane Hill.

Ms Hill came out to all her BBC colleagues in December 2009. Her exemplary journalistic skills can be seen in this excerpt from an interview with Kate and Gerry McCann (May 2007):

Jane Hill: I've spoken to a lot of people over the weeks - local people who'd given up a lot of time - and you've talked about the support they'd given you. I met people who didn't go to work for more than a week because every day they were down on the beach ... searching the streets ... did you, as a mother, Kate, just sometimes think: I've got to be out there with them - I want to go and just physically look as well

Jane Hill interviews the McCanns in Portugal (May 2007)


Another person, who also came out as gay in December 2009, is Welsh rugby legend Gareth Thomas. The BBC gave him loads of publicity at the time, but not on CBBC Newsround. The current editor of Newsround, Lewis James, is a real fan of Welsh rugby, and with the Six Nations Championships underway, there couldn't really be a better time to make up for the past omission.

Kids need to see that being lesbian or gay is no bar to being the best, whatever their career choice might be.

Sunday, February 01, 2015

An open letter to Her Majesty's Government, published in The Guardian yesterday began:-
Alan Turing was one of the greatest heroes of the twentieth century, a man whose work on machines that deciphered the Enigma codes helped win World War II and who was pivotal in the development of modern computers. Winston Churchill said Alan Turing "made the single biggest contribution to the Allied victory in World War II"

The letter went on to mention the appalling treatment meted out to Turing and other gay men after the war.

February is LGBT History Month in the UK - a great opportunity to celebrate all those who, in past times, were silenced and had to live in fear.