Saturday, December 31, 2005

The reasoning of Ian Prince, Editor of Newsround

Someone else received an almost identical email last February and posted it on a web forum.

Ian Prince says that Newsround is aimed specifically at primary school children, the same audience as Blue Peter, and that they have a responsibility to make a programme which is accessible for viewers who may be as young as five or six.

He goes on: "Dealing with any subject which is of a sexual nature - irrespective of orientation - is a particular challenge for us or any other children's programme due to the different age range and levels of comprehension among the CBBC audience."

Mr Prince has made the mistake of seeing gay and lesbian people in sexual terms, a common thing to do (see Elizabeth Atkinson's article), but it indicates homophobic prejudice, especially so when you look at Newsround's relaxed reporting of heterosexual adult relationships. For example, on 2 November 2005 viewers heard Lizo talk about the next Harry Potter film where "things get pretty steamy" between Harry and his "love interest" Cho Chang.

According to Mr Prince, same sex relationships are not taught as part of Sex Education until secondary school, which is not their target audience. I'm not certain about this but I don't think that the Iraq War is taught in primary schools, nor the rudiments of elephant polo but that doesn't prevent the items from being reported.

Ian Prince goes on to say that they receive many emails from adults and pressure groups who want Newsround to reflect a different agenda, however they are more likely to respond to emails from an eight year old who is in their target audience.

More from the email soon.

Friday, December 30, 2005

New laws come into force today Unmarried and same-sex couples can now adopt children together for the first time. Just to emphasize the point that Newsround is so completely out of touch, and going along with old family stereotypes and prejudice.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

How I know Newsround is prejudiced

After watching the programme for a few days anyone will notice that Newsround likes to cover news stories about animals. Quite often there are two, three or more animal related news items in the early evening edition on BBC1. News about children from Britain and around the world is another important component of Newsround, as are items about celebrities, world record attempts, the environment, sport and important national or international news stories.

Newsround does not shy away from most issues. They have covered famine in Africa, elections in the Ukraine and Afghanistan, racism, knifing incidents, kidnappings, murders and the Iraq war. But when the news is anything related to being gay, or to issues of homophobia, Newsround remains silent. The news may be important and relevant to many children, but it is never reported on Newsround.

On that evidence alone there is reason to suspect bias against lgbt people. But there is more. In February 2005, and in response to criticism, Ian Prince, the editor of Newsround, sent an email to me and at least one other person who had complained, which many may see as prejudiced and which explains the reason for Newsround's non-inclusivity. More about this email later.

As long ago as 1996 the BBC acknowledged in their Producers' Guidelines that "gay and lesbian people make up a significant minority, entitled to be served and treated fairly by the BBC."

Elizabeth Atkinson, in her recent Guardian article called "Homophobia for Beginners" wrote: "There are several important issues to be dealt with urgently here: that young children use the term "gay" consciously as a term of abuse perpetuates the view that being gay is a bad thing: even where primary teachers challenge the use of the term, it is often only to silence it, rather than to unpack and address its negative connotations. And all too often teachers don't challenge it at all, because they are unsure how to go about it, or frightened of the association between sexual identity and sexual activity .."

A recent article in The Observer said that the government believes that 6% of 16s and over are lesbian or gay (based on several surveys) and - assuming the percentage were true for everyone - I worked out a graph of the number of lesbian and gay kids you would likely find in a school class of 30. You can see from the graph that it is more likely there will be 3 in a class than none at all. It is most likely there will be one or two. Also 10% of school classes are likely to have 4 or more.

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A survey found that four fifths of primary age kids saw the use of the word "gay" as a way of attacking or making fun of someone, while the corresponding figure for secondary school kids was less than half. So Newsround's failure to report on lesbian and gay issues is another example of condoning homophobia in schools.

A petition was delivered to Jacqui Smith, the Minister for Schools, on Wednesday 7 December 2005. It was called stamp out homophobia and was one of the longest petitions ever. I told Ian Prince about the petition on the evening of the previous Monday, hoping that Newsround would cover the petition because it was very relevant and newsworthy to what he called their 'target audience' for all kinds of reasons. And as usual for Newsround there was no mention of the petition on Wednesday.

Schools Minister Jacqui Smith receiving the 'Stamp out homophobia' petition (

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

BBC Diversity Department

Sorry, I forgot to say why Andrea Callender is involved in my complaint about Newsround. It's a long story, but here goes -

On 3 September 2005 there was an early Christmas edition of the Saturday Show. There was a Christmas tree and Christmas decorations in the studio. The show presenter was talking about Christmas tree decorations and asked a boy in the audience if he liked fairies. The boy said he did, and then the presenter said "You're a boy and you like fairies. I bet you wish you hadn't said that." The audience giggled.

The remark annoyed me so I asked a question on the BBC feedback form. I asked the BBC why shouldn't a boy say he likes fairies, and I also asked if the remark was homophobic.

The reply, from Gary Briggs of BBC Information, didn't answer my question about why the boy should wish he hadn't said he liked fairies, but Mr Briggs did say "It is certainly never the deliberate intention of the BBC to be homophobic in any way or condone any form of prejudice." He then went on to dismiss the remark as lighthearted "playground humour." He concluded the email with "I hope this clarifies the BBC's standpoint on the matter. Thank you for contacting us with your views."

I was unhappy that there was no attempt to answer my specific question because I didn't think a racist comment in similar vein would have been made, or later excused in that way.

So I contacted Alison Sharman, who at that time was Controller of CBBC. She told me that she had referred the matter to the people directly responsible for The Saturday Show, and I subsequently received an apology from Donald MacInnes, its Senior Producer. Mr MacInnes said that the remark shouldn't have been made, and hoped that it would be seen as a one off, and not a regular occurrence.

Had I just accepted the original response I might still think the BBC condoned the homophobic remark, but by following up it seemed that they were prepared to own up that it was wrong and shouldn't have been made.

A few weeks later I contacted Ms Sharman about Newsround but it turned out that she was just leaving the BBC and I did not get a reply.

I found out about the BBC Diversity Department and its Head, Andrea Callender, so I emailed Ms Callender, who was on leave at the time. Later I explained to Ms Callender that the BBC Complaints Department was not taking complaints about homophobia seriously, and asked her to look into my concerns about a television programme. Ms Callender has told me that she asked Cyril Husbands to liaise with me directly. I emailed him and am waiting for a reply at the moment.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Newsround is on BBC1 at 5.25pm Monday to Friday. Also it's on the CBBC channel. Is was originally planned as a time filler in the 1970's, and was presented by someone called John Craven who now presents Countryfile on BBC.

Issues which are relevant to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (lgbt) people are never reported, and this non-inclusivity has been a deliberate policy. Although the editor, Ian Prince has denied it in the past, more recently he has not replied to criticism or suggestions.

I have complained for over two years, and asked them to cover lgbt-related news and information about homophobia and homophobic bullying. People now think that homophobia needs to be challenged at primary school stage otherwise it can be too late.,9828,1660272,00.html

Thankfully the BBC's Head of Diversity, Andrea Callender has emailed me to say that she asked a member of her department, Cyril Husbands, to liaise with me about my concerns. I have emailed him and will wait to see what can be done about the non-inclusivity of Newsround.

I searched the internet and found that Cyril Husbands, a senior diversity manager,joined the Diversity Centre about four years ago. In 2004 he said: “The equality agenda, important though it is, is not the whole agenda. It’s not just about numbers and representation, it’s about inclusiveness and meaningful diversity.”

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Today is Christmas day and I started this blog to show people that Newsround is biased and non-inclusive. I will have more to say soon.