Monday, August 31, 2015

The top story on this morning's Newsround bulletin at 8.15am -

Ricky: One of Britain's most popular scientists, Professor Brian Cox, says not enough girls are considering a career in science. He wants that to change, and went back to school to urge more girls to experiment with science. Leah was there.

Professor Brian Cox: 'More girls needed in science'

(ITV News London - 24th August 2015) How to be as good at science as Professor Brian Cox

Earlier this year there was a great deal of controversy surrounding the issue of sexism in science. Newsround didn't mention the story which was sparked when leading scientist, Sir Tim Hunt, told an audience in South Korea "Let me tell you about my trouble with girls - three things happen when they are in the lab: you fall in love with them, they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them they cry."

Sir Tim found himself in hot water over the remarks and had to resign from posts he held. Some thought he was right to go, but others, including Brian Cox, felt he was being treated unfairly.

Monday, August 24, 2015

The third series of The Next Step began on CBBC today in the UK.

Yesterday I pondered on why The Family Channel website is blocked outside Canada. I've now found that CBBC, too, is blocked in other countries.

The lack of diversity is another subject Newsround Blog raised with the Family Channel last year when they invited some of The Next Step stars to answer questions via Twitter. I was mainly concerned about the failure to portray gay characters. And, of course, a recent survey indicates that a lot more young people consider themselves bisexual or gay than had been previously thought.

There is an attitude amongst those involved in children's TV whereby, whenever the subject of lesbian and gay relationships is broached, they just clam up. So my attempts to get answers from anyone at the Family Channel, or working on The Next Step were doomed from the start. But that doesn't mean we should give up trying. After all, it's less than fifty years since an interracial kiss caused outrage in some States when it was broadcast on American TV.

Towards the end of series 2 of The Next Step West told Emily how he had feelings for her, but in the first episode of series 3 we find out that 'Wemily' won't happen; they'll just remain friends:-

Emily and West on The Next Step: Coming Home? (S3E01)

Emily: After my [knee] injury there's been a lot going on, and my mind just isn't on him right now.

West: I realise now, that with all the drama that's happening with her, and with the troupe, I know that there's really no hope for this relationship.

Emily: But I still really want to be friends, so I'm not really sure what to say to him.

West: All I know is that Emily needs a friend, and I'm going to be the best friend that I can be for her.

Emily: I think we both understand what's going on ... we're friends and that's it.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Some in the UK are eagerly awaiting more from The Next Step which begins a first run of series 3 on CBBC tomorrow. The Next Step is made in Canada for the Family Channel, with backing from, amongst others, the Shaw Rocket Fund.

Last year Newsround Blog tweeted the Family Channel asking why people from other countries aren't welcome to visit their website. Unfortunately I didn't get a reply. I've now tweeted CBBC with a similar question, and hopefully they will be able to explain.

Watch this space!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Some broadcasters, including the BBC, have been criticised for breaking Ofcom's rules by screening news films and documentaries funded by foreign governments, charities and non-governmental organisations. Last year Newsround Blog revealed similar concerns over the dubious circumstances surrounding the acquisition of Canadian TV series The Next Step for British audiences. In one episode the characters are seen making fun of British accents. The heteronormative mockumentary forms a mainstay of the CBBC channel, with series 3 starting on Monday 24th August 2015 at 10am.

A CBBC Newsround investigation of vlogging on the internet has led the ASA to add to its earlier advice, so that vloggers are asked to make it clear if they are getting paid to promote a product. Ricky explained it all to Leah on Newsround this morning. He talked about the need to be more honest and more transparent.

According to the new advice "There is nothing wrong with vloggers (or others creating editorial content), marketers or agencies entering into commercial relationships: what’s wrong is if consumers are misled."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


From time to time Newsround Blog has published emails sent to various individuals, mainly people who work at the BBC. However, following my investigation of whistleblowing procedures, I received an email from the BBC on Friday 14th August 2015 which stated "a human error was made in our email system which caused your emails sent to a wide variety of other addresses around the BBC to be diverted for a number of months and not delivered to their recipients."

I've been told that the mistake has now been corrected.

In fact Newsround Blog had not received replies from anyone at the BBC since late November 2014. I did try to check with some of the intended recipients via other means, for example, via Twitter. The BBC's clarification would account for the lack of a responses to emails mentioned in this blog over the last few months.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

There was a Doctor Who-themed same-sex wedding on this morning's episode of Marrying Mum and Dad.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

An excellent report about gay rights in Uganda on Newsround this afternoon (1.50pm bulletin) -

Ricky Boleto: Next - what rights gay people should have is a big issue around the world, particularly in Africa. In the African country of Uganda, gay people have been holding rallies to try to change the law.

Ricky reports on gay rights in Africa

Ricky: Hundreds of people waved the Ugandan national flag and Rainbow banners. They danced and sang. They say they're fighting for more freedom to admit you're gay across Africa. It's against the law to be openly gay in Uganda and in many other African countries. But there have been some changes recently. Up until last year gay people could be sentenced to life in jail. Now that can't happen any more, and the demonstrators think African governments should be more understanding. They say they want equal human rights for gay people.

Moses Kimbugwe (gay rights supporter): Violence, discrimination, harassment and stigma against all LGBT people is bad. So we are here to send a message to the wider population that we do exist and we do want rights like any other Ugandan.

Ricky: The demonstrators say they're proud to be gay and they want society to respect them. In Africa many people hold traditional beliefs and do not approve of gay people. Some African leaders have said it's not part of their culture. But a few weeks ago President Obama visited East Africa and gave his support for equal rights. The gay rights demonstrators are hoping that President Obama's words and today's marches will begin to change people's minds.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Young dancers (aged 11-15) are being offered the chance to try out for a guest role in The Next Step. CBBC has been advertising this opportunity for a while now, and this morning's Newsround bulletins included a message from Blue Peter's Lindsey Russell asking for kids to take part. It's not clear whether lesbian and gay teens are welcome.

Sunday, August 02, 2015

One of the questions at this year's Children's Media Conference was about the lack of disabled representation on children's TV.

Anna Home agreed with the questioner that more needs to be done. She mentioned that, in the distant past, there was a BBC programme specifically for deaf children, but nowadays it's felt important to avoid ghettoising kids. Anna said that drama is a very good way of bringing in more diversity.

Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children's told the CMC that she was very proud of what the BBC is doing on TV: "26% of portrayal on CBBC & CBeebies are of diverse characters."

Alice Webb: I think it's right that we look at the whole range of diversity, not just disability. I think we cover that with LGBT, and, as I say, we cover 26%. I don't think that we need to do any more in terms of measuring individual elements because we cover it all.

Steve Hewlett: Except that the overall figure hides a multitude of sins, doesn't it potentially? Especially if you're disabled?

Alice Webb: Yeah. And I'll look to the guys across the piece in terms of how we break that down. I don't exactly ... I'm very happy to get those figures out.

More recently, a piece appeared in The Guardian entitled Children's TV pretends disability doesn't exist. The journalist, Tim Smedley, believes that it's mainly the commercial TV channels, rather than the BBC, which are at fault. I did ask Mr Smedley whether he'd also investigated the lack of LGB portrayal on children's TV, but failed to get a response.

Monday, July 27, 2015

BBC: "Watch the new BBC trail celebrating the unique role that the BBC plays in all of our lives"

For All of Us - BBC

The Government's public consultation about renewal of the BBC's Charter briefly refers to a BBC study into LGB portrayal which was carried out a few years ago:-

Despite that government claim, there actually is no specific mention of LGB portrayal in the recently published BBC document Equality and Diversity at the BBC 2014/15. BBC Director-General Lord Tony Hall, who wrote the Foreword, does not appear to consider lesbian and gay portrayal as important as other diversity strands.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Last week was quite an important one for the BBC. The Annual Report and Accounts 2014/15 were published, and Lord Tony Hall even made a rare appearance in front of the cameras, though some were concerned at his reluctance to be interviewed by non-BBC media organisations -

Another development was the publication of GoodCorporation's Report about the BBC's whistleblowing and child protection policies - something I've covered in a few recent blogs. The BBC Executive response suggests they are fairly happy with GoodCorporation's findings (pdf).

But probably the most important media news was publication the Government's public consultation on the future of the BBC (pdf).

BBC Media Centre - Statement in response to Government Green Paper on the future of the BBC

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Doctor Who is a programme made by the British Broadcasting Corporation. Peter Capaldi got a chance to meet some of his fans at Comic Con in San Diego, USA -

Newsround report about Doctor Who (12th July 2015 at 10am)

Peter Capaldi: Doctor Who wouldn't have been around for this length of time if wasn't for its fans....

It seems Peter forgot to mention the help of TV licence payers in the United Kingdom ... yet, two days ago, Newsround reported that a trailer for the new series of Doctor Who was unveiled in America.

Monday, July 06, 2015

Newsround report (24th May 2015 @ 12.05pm) on the same-sex marriage referendum in Ireland : ".... almost 2 million people voted, with 62% saying they wanted to allow two men or two women to be married. But lots of people disagreed ..."

Newsround report (6th July 2015 @ 7.40am) on the economy referendum in Greece : "Yesterday there was a big vote, and the Greek people decided to say 'no' to a deal with the countries that lent them the money. Many Greeks felt it was unfair to keep paying back money in the way they have been doing ..."

Although the percentage of dissenters was marginally higher in the Greek referendum than in the Irish referendum, Newsround only mentioned dissenting views in the report about the same-sex marriage referendum.

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?


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