Friday, December 29, 2006

For the record

Very recently this message was posted to Newsround's In The News messageboard:

Gay rights. Messages 1 - 1 of 1

Message 1 - posted by MzKiedis (U6934819) **, Yesterday
I know this can be a sensitive subject and i'm probably not going to be allowed to post this thread here, but we were discussing this the other day so i thought i'd see what all you lot think.
I thought our society was pretty laid back and accepting of these people, but then i heard that apparently ours is one of the worst for this kind of thing. Even the ancient greeks and many other countries learnt to embrace the minority. I know things have changed since the war etc. when it was a punishable crime, but what do you think?
Also what about the meaning of the word changing so much? being used as an insult etc.

Would like to hear your views.

Hours later, by Thursday evening, the message had been removed along with replies. This is all that remains of the thread.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dressing up news

It's that time of year again - panto season - when it's okay to dress up in a lot of weird outfits and just have fun.

When Little Britain's Matt Lucas tied the knot with his long-term partner Kevin McGee a few days ago (see blog 17 December) he chose a pantomime theme for the reception. Matt was dressed as Aladdin and Kevin was dressed as Prince Charming. Other celebrity guests turned up in a variety of panto outfits and with hundreds of guests there was bound to be some duplication. Dozens of pictures were taken and appeared in the next day's press.

Look what Newsround reported - nothing. A few days earlier, on 8 December, there was a short news story about Matt on the celeb gossip page, but that was only about the possibility of him playing Friar Tuck in the second series of Robin Hood.

On Monday 18 December, the day after Matt and Kevin's happy event, Newsround's celeb gossip page reported this story:

Soup-er work, Justin

Justin Timberlake's been dressing up in a lot of weird outfits, all for charity. The singer sported a number of strange costumes, including dressing like 1980s-style singers and even a giant cup of soup.

What have you done for charity?

Newsround Bias blog has always been doubtful of Newsround's integrity so we did a little bit of investigating for ourselves. It turns out that Justin Timberlake had hosted and appeared in some comedy skits on NBC's Saturday Night Live programme on 16 December. One of his skits was Dick in a box. In another he dresses up as 1980's pop singer Barry Gibb.

On the same programme Justin Timberlake dressed up as a cup of soup and was successfully collecting a lot of money from passers-by for a nonexistent charity called "Homelessville" whilst the Santa Claus next to him was making almost no money for the Salvation Army.

I have asked Tim Levell for more details about what seems to be a misreported story. I want to find out if Justin's fee was donated to charity (for example the Justin Timberlake Foundation) as implied in the Newsround story. No reply so far.

Good luck to John Barrowman and Scott Gill who tied the knot in Cardiff yesterday. After the ceremony John had to change quickly for his panto performance in Jack and the Beanstalk at New Theatre, Cardiff.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Distressing news and Difficult stories

Newsround's editor, Tim Levell, says that there are four key principles to consider when deciding which distressing news stories they cover. Firstly, he considers whether the story should be covered at all. He says "If we don't think an upsetting story has registered with most children, we don't want to bring it to their attention."

So it's interesting to note that within hours of a gunman breaking into an American school and killing some of the children, Newsround's website had wasted no time reporting the news. And the very next day it was Newsround's lead story.

Another series of murders two months later has been making the top headlines in Britain. Although this was a very important and distressing story, especially to people in Suffolk, Newsround failed to report the news for several days, until on 12 December this report (revised Wednesday) appeared on their website.

The programme on Tuesday led with Lydia's press pack film review of Eragon. Eventually on 13 December Newsround led with the murder story, and included a live report from Adam in Ipswich.

It's obvious that the story had registered with most children days beforehand. Tim Levell says "Once we are sure the story has registered with children, we believe our job is to cover the story accurately, reliably and without sensationalism... If you add to that the hearsay and half-heard comments that children can pick up in the playground or from friends or parents, and the story can often become far wilder or more scary in their minds than it should be."

So why the delay in reporting it?

Adam writes about covering the "really big story" in the Newsround presenters' blog under the title Difficult stories. He asks "What do you think? Is it too scary or too horrible for us to do on Newsround?"

Newsround was probably more scared of the story because all the women involved worked as prostitutes than because they were murdered. The real world isn't always the simple and straightforward world which CBBC would prefer it to be.

Writing on an altogether different topic Newsround's editor says "Every time I write a letter defending our policy, something in me worries that we are being irresponsible."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Matt ties the knot

Good luck to Matt Lucas and Kevin McGee who became civil partners today. I bet Newsround and its website ignore the happy event, but you never know!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The BBC broadcasts to all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, has decided that the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) will come into operation at the beginning of 2007 - just two weeks away. It will then be unlawful to treat people less favourably on account of their sexual orientation. Soon, similar laws will apply in the rest of the UK.

We've seen how CBBC Newsround regularly discriminates. Only last Wednesday my latest survey found that older kids' feedback is discarded. But when you look at Newsround's web feedback pages you see a message telling people under the age of 16 to obtain a parent's or guardian's permission before sending their comment. Under the "Send" button is an assurance stating "We'll try and put up as many e-mails as possible."
We'll try and put up as many e-mails as possible
But this blog deals mainly with the discrimination against lgbt people. When Civil Partnerships were introduced very nearly one year ago, and Elton John and David Furnish became legal partners Newsround kept silent about the news. That was the last straw which brought Newsround blog into existence.

Most UK organisations have welcomed equality. The BBC however boasts that it's a unique institution. Its management do whatever they want. But whether unique or not the BBC must not be allowed to treat some people differently to others.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On 25 April 2006, Director-General Mark Thompson announced that, as part of "Creative Future," CBBC would be targeted at 7-11 year olds. Tim Levell took over editing Newsround in August, and ever eager to please his employer took immediate action to target a slightly younger audience.

It now seems that Mr Thompson's announcement of a change in the target age range for CBBC viewers was misconceived, and the BBC eventually decided to keep the age range at 6-12 year olds after all.

When I found out in September that Newsround was discarding feedback from older kids (blog 13 September) I contacted the programme to see what they would say about the discrimination (blog 29 September). At least I thought they should warn kids that messages from younger kids get priority on the feedback pages.

Whereas in the past the majority of emails read out on air used to be from over 12 year old kids (blog 13 April), now the majority is from under 12's.

My latest survey of website feedback responses indicates that the age discrimination hasn't stopped there, and has actually got worse. And they still haven't made clear that priority is given to messages from younger viewers. Responses from 14 year olds, many of which were published until September, are now nearly always discarded (see charts below).

Someone should tell Mr Levell and his Newsround team that the BBC abandoned its plan to target younger kids. And anyway, if CBBC Newsround doesn't want to hear from over 13 year olds they should make this clear so that young people stop wasting their time writing in.

December 2006Latest survey (above) - shows almost no feedback from over 13 year olds

September 2006September survey - shows almost no feedback from over 14 year olds

March/April 2006March/April survey - shows 30% of feedback from 14 & 15 year olds

Survey data were taken from these Newsround webpages.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Surveys are flavour of the month at the BBC. Newsround's editor seems to have decided to report survey results on a strictly "need to know basis." So on Thursday there were no details of who carried out this survey about text bullying. And on Friday we were told this survey was carried out by Newsround, but nothing about the methodology and the ages of kids taking part. Newsround's audience still gets a blinkered view of the world.

Comments are requested for Newsround's website:

Biggest problems for kids?
What would you change?
Life in the future?

But only those meeting Newsround's age and acceptable subject criteria are selected. At the moment this means that messages from kids over 13 seem to be discarded, as are responses touching on the subject of homophobia, even though it's almost certain that some of those surveyed have to put up with daily homophobic prejudice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More thoughtless BBC insensitivity

Remember those stupid sexist remarks by a football manager last month? His remarks were followed up with a ridiculous question on Newsround's website. (see blogs for 14 & 16 November)

The BBC World Service is no better. It has been asking stupid and insulting questions. They've spent money on a survey of teens in London and other cities around the world, which asked amongst other things whether women should have the same rights as men, and whether homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals.

I won't taint this blog with any survey results. Suffice to say that sexism and heterosexism prevalent on BBC children's programmes may be partly to blame for the apparent less than wholehearted support for equality amongst British teens.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

CBBC has been busy preparing for a few presentation changes. Simon Grant and Angellica Bell left on Friday. Of the remaining continuity presenters Gemma has a boyfriend, Anne is a friend of her local Evangelical Alliance church, and the BBC seems proud to announce that Jake lives with his girlfriend. I think he will enjoy a long career in the Corporation.

Last Friday there was a Newsround Extra programme about child poverty. The programme, called The Wrong Trainers, was made up of six animations of real kids explaining their situations. At times the programme got political as, for instance, when Chris said that "this Government is not spending money as wisely as they should be." The programme received a lot of good comments in Tim Levell's blog, and I think the BBC may enter it into some competitions like the Prix Jeunesse. But however good an example of children's tv The Wrong Trainers might be, Newsround is not inclusive and would still refuse to cover any issues involving gay kids or their families.

The Wrong Trainers was broadcast on the same day as Blue Peter's "Wear Your Wellies Day." The idea was that schools register with the scheme, and then allow kids to wear their wellies providing they donate £1 towards the 'Shoebiz' appeal. Obviously CBBC hadn't considered the pressure on kids from poor families to pay up, whether or not they can afford the money.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Newsround blog readers know I keep a close eye on the daily gossip page.

On 24 November CBBC Newsround's home page included a link to the gossip page titled "Celeb goss: Who has Britney been partying with?" And the story was this:

Back on the town

It seems Britney has been making the most of being a single girl after her split from Kevin Federline. She was snapped out on the the town with Paris Hilton. They partied at a nightclub after the American Music Awards ceremony.

And then yesterday there was this about Britney:

Looking forward to the future

Rumour has it that Britney Spears has already found herself a new fella! The soon-to-be-divorced mum of two was spotted partying with oil heir Brandon Davis.

So Newsround thinks that when Britney is seen partying with Paris Hilton it's just fun, but when she's spotted partying with someone of the opposite sex she's looking to settle down with a fella. This is all so typical of BBC sexism and heterosexism.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gay or lesbian swan

Lizo was presenting Newsround on Friday 10 November. The fifth story that day asked what people look for in a girlfriend, before talking about a swan called Peter who seems to have fallen for a large swan shaped pedalo boat.

Now have a look at the web report of the story. Someone responsible for the webpage must have decided that the much larger "swan" looks rather masculine so must be a boy swan. And that means Peter must obviously be a girl swan. After all, gay swans are no more welcome on Newsround than any stories about gay animals or gay humans. Newsround does, however, like to report stories about animals falling head over heels in love with inanimate objects such as petrol pumps.

Newsround stories

Newsround has covered around 540 stories on the weekday CBBC1 programmes between Wednesday 14 June - Friday 13 October 2006. The stories are broken down into eight categories:

Main news 15.8%
Kids/school news 15.4%
Sports news 19.1%
Celeb,music,films arts 20.8%
Environmental,climate 13.8%
Animals 6.6%
Sci/tech 5.7%
Other 2.8%

Stories about, or touching on 'bullying'- 30 June, 25 July (cyberbullying)
29 August (ChildLine), 14 September (animal bullying behaviour)

None of the programmes mentioned lgbt issues. As a result the ChildLine story was misreported.

Newsround-bias blog hopes that Michael Grade will ensure that ITV remains forward-looking and inclusive.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The British Academy Children's Film and Television Awards have been announced.

Here a some of the winners:



DRAMA: The Giblet Boys - CiTV

PRESENTER: Holly Willoughby - CiTV

All the winners are highlighted in bold on BAFTA's website

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nipping prejudice in the bud

Anti-Bullying Week has finished, but that doesn't mean we can just forget about bullying for another year. And it's not just kids who get bullied. The National Union of Teachers believe that a fifth of primary and two thirds of secondary school teachers experience sexist bullying. Sexist jokes and put-downs make female pupils feel degraded too, the NUT said.

Look no further than TMi, the Saturday morning CBBC programme for kids. On 28 October 2006 we heard Caroline and Sam thinking out loud. Caroline wanted to please Sam and wondered how to impress him. "I know, I'll get my bongos out" she thought, before putting a pair of bongos on her lap. Sam looked round at her and thought "nice bongos." Yes, Caroline did get a real pair of bongos out, but the sexism involved was obvious and deliberate.

Last Wednesday I wrote about a teacher forced from his job because of prejudice. Tony Green believed that only visibility would help reduce the problems of homophobia. He can be seen in the video School Matters: Challenging Homophobia.

The government has launched plans to tackle prejudice-based bullying in schools, but CBBC isn't helping by allowing programmes to make sexist jokes, and by Newsround invisibilising lgbt people. Today on TMi a question from a young viewer asking Lil Chris if he was single was followed up by Caroline asking what kind of ladies Chris liked. Teachers are told not to make assumptions about a person's sexual orientation, and nor should CBBC.

CBBC and Newsround could do much more to nip prejudice in the bud.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bullying: "being left out"

Last Monday was the start of Anti-Bullying Week. What has bullying got to do with Newsround, you might ask. A clue to understanding the answer can be seen in this teachers' video from 6mins 30secs into the recording until 7mins 10secs.

The boy in the white T-shirt says "Being left out is probably a more common type of bullying because like bullying isn't always so huge like some people put it out as." In other words "being left out" or excluded is a form of bullying.

Newsround won't have anything to do with reporting about gay people, families or relationships. But they're happy giving ample time to reports about heterosexual people and families. Take, for instance, the wedding of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise last weekend:
Katie and Tom
Tom and Katie set for wedding
Tom and Katie's guests arrive
Tom and Katie celebrate wedding
Katie and Tom's wedding
Tom and Katie go on honeymoon

Tony Green, a gay teacher forced from his teaching job in London because of homophobia said: We've got to get through this "You're gay, and that tells me all I need to know about you." And only visibility can do that.

But far from helping, BBC kids' programmes are silent on lgbt issues, thereby making gay people invisible to children. From the comfort and safety of their Television Centre offices the programme makers plan children's programmes with deliberate unconcern for those kids and teachers who have to deal with homophobia and homophobic bullying every day of their lives. The Children's Commissioner has at last reiterated what others have been saying - that bullying must be picked up at an early stage.

In a short video specially made for Anti-Bullying Week, Stephen Williams MP says it's more difficult for gay kids at school and explains why action is needed against homophobic bullying.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Harry Potter is featured on Newsround's website again today - and as usual they've mentioned his kissing scene. If Harry had been gay, I doubt Newsround would give any time to the films - kissing or no kissing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Anti-Bullying Week

"Aggressive and demeaning language, e.g. homophobic or sexist language, can erode the protective ethos of a school and needs to be challenged," says the Children's Commissioner in a report about bullying published today. And he also confirms what I have been trying to get through to Newsround for some time: homophobic abuse starts at an early age. His report says that it is more difficult to change the behaviour of older than younger children, and that engaging with children and young people in understanding and tackling the culture of homophobic and sexist language is crucial.

Jim Knight MP, the schools minister said today that there should be a zero tolerance approach to bullying, and it's clear to sensible people that the BBC governors made a huge mistake when they condoned homophobic language on BBC programmes, especially where those programmes are aimed at a young audience.

Both the Children's Commissioner and CBBC Newsround have drawn attention to the problem of Islamophobic bullying, which has increased greatly since the terrorist attacks in New York and London. But Newsround has done absolutely nothing at all to raise awareness of the problems of bias- or hate-bullying inasmuch as this affects lgbt kids.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ofcom flexes its muscles to protect kids' health

Commercial broadcasters will lose a big source of revenue when the ban on targeting tv junk food adverts at under 16's comes into effect next year. Ofcom has demonstrated its concern for the health of young people, and these concerns outweigh worries about the possibility of many independent tv companies being forced out of business.

Ofcom has so far only addressed the physical health of kids: fatty foods leading to obesity, salty foods - a cause of high blood pressure and strokes and sugary foods causing dental decay, obesity and diabetes.

But what are Ofcom doing about the emotional well-being of kids? Shouldn't broadcasters also have a duty to ensure that they aren't harming the mental health of children? The BBC has been deliberately discriminating against lgbt kids for years, and discrimination is known to be a cause of health problems (see blog on 18 August 2006.)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the mass media ensure that kids have access to information and material of social and cultural benefit from a diversity of national and international sources in order to help promote social, spiritual and moral well-being, and physical and mental health.

But by broadcasting thousands of kids' programmes portraying exclusively heterosexual relationships, the significant minority of young people who aren't heterosexual are being ignored completely and the BBC is flouting these kids' rights, adding to their social isolation, as well as being a contributory factor in the already severe problem of homophobic bullying in primary and secondary schools.

With Ofcom's advertising ban, children's physical health might improve. Independent tv companies will disappear and the BBC will gain an even bigger share of young audiences. Ofcom should also ensure that broadcasters are mindful of the emotional well-being of kids, and that means requiring broadcasters be fully inclusive.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lizzie wasn't pleased with the Mike Newell's comments about female football officials. In her blog on Tuesday afternoon she wrote:

Next-up was a piece about Mike Newell for today's CBBC 1 Newsround. He's the Luton Town manager who outrageously said women shouldn't be allowed to referee men's football matches. As you can probably tell I think he's out of order. He has apologised for his comments but I'm not impressed.

But although Luton Town's manager comments were worse than Lizzie says, Newsround still asked kids to vote (see my blog 14 November) on whether he was right.

Lizzie should be just as annoyed with her own colleagues who put the vote on Newsround's webpage.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

BBC answers

I have received a reply to my questions (blog 9 November) about the "Impartiality Summit." It seems that it was advertised beforehand on the BBC Governors' website. Therefore it was not a secret summit as the Mail had suggested. I'm told a report on the summit, with full transcript, will be published next year. So it still remains to be explained why Mark Thompson chose to answer criticisms in the Mail - the source of the initial misinformation. And why did BBC News fail to pick up on it?

We will just have to wait till next year to find out what was said about the BBC bias against lgbt people.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Continuing with the boyband theme in Sunday's blog, Westlife topped the singles chart again this week. Ever wondered about how long it'll be before Mark Feehily gets married? Newsround did in 2003. But I doubt CBBC will be giving us any more news or comment about Mark's romantic life for a little while yet.

It's also time to stop all the misogyny on CBBC. I've mentioned some problems on TMi before, but what about Newsround. Luton Town's manager made some ridiculous sexist remarks about women football officials. He later apologised. But Newsround's webpage quoted the remarks and asked kids to vote on whether he was right about what he said. Of course if the remark had been made not against women, but against another group of people, Newsround wouldn't have asked the question.

Next Monday, 20 November 2006, is the start of Anti-Bullying Week. This year's theme is the bystander.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

No one ever made me keep my sexuality a secret, Aaron Buckingham told Attitude magazine this August, and quoted in today's Observer.

But during an interview two years ago for Newsround, and in reply to a question about favourite teachers, he said:

I had a massive crush on my drama teacher, so much so that all my friends used to play tricks on me like give her love notes and stuff. Anything to do with drama I was there constantly - like after-school clubs, every show every year just so I could hang out with her!

So was he fibbing or telling the truth? What is certain is that loads of kids pretend to have crushes on the opposite sex in order to avoid homophobia and bullying. It's equally certain that if Aaron had told Newsround he had a crush on a male drama teacher Newsround's webpage would never have printed his reply.

Newsround is an active participant in discrimination, and in that sense they're no better than school bullies.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Oops! Britney and Kevin split up. Nicely put. Let's see if Newsround reports Britney's marriage number 3 as conscientiously as marriage number 2. But if her next relationship is with Katie Melua then I'm doubtful Newsround's audience would be kept in the loop.

Regular readers know that Newsround's news reporting isn't impartial - it's totally biased against lgbt people. That's why I'm so interested in the BBC's "impartiality summit" which was reported in the press last month (see blogs 24-26 October 2006). I want to know exactly what, if anything, was said about the BBC discrimination against lgbt people, revealed in a Stonewall report and also by this Newsround blog. All we do know is that some senior figures believe there are too many gays in the organisation.

Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News, claims the summit wasn’t secret and her statement was echoed a few days later by Mark Thompson, the BBC's Director-General. In an article for the Mail group of newspapers Mr Thompson wrote that the seminar was open to external participants and far from being secret, it was streamed live on the internet. I wanted to know when and where details of the summit were made available to the public. I'm still awaiting a reply to these questions.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Newsround's celebrity news and gossip

Britney and Kevin are in the news again today. Newsround has a great celeb goss page, updated daily. It's been dutifully keeping us posted with the goss on Britney, Kevin and family over the past few months:

Premiere performance (25/07/2006)
Britney Spear's husband Kevin Federline is set to unveil his own musical talents as he's confirmed he will perform his first single Lose Control on America's Teen Choice Awards next month!

Good advice! (16/08/2006)
Britney Spears is her husband's biggest critic, at least about his music. Apparently she's incredibly honest about Kevin's tunes, telling him off when he gets too excited about a track!

Short of money! (17/08/2006)
Wannabe rapper Kevin Federline, 28, has confessed he's broke but insists he's not the kind of person to just sit back and sponge off his wife Britney's fortune!

Celebs on show! (22/08/2006)
A very pregnant Britney introduced her husband Kevin's first performance of his debut single at last night's Teen Choice Awards. But before he came on she asked the audience to "please be nice to him"!

Baby boy (16/9/2006)
According to reports Britney Spears has named her new baby boy Sutton Pierce. The pop star and her husband, Kevin Federline, wanted to give the baby the same initials as his older brother Sean Preston.

And there are plenty of main pages devoted to Britney, Kevin & family. Here are a few of them:

Wedding is for love says Britney

Britney's not officially married

It's official: Britney is married

Britney angry at honeymoon photos

Britney announces she is pregnant

It's a boy for Britney and Kevin

Britney says she's pregnant again

Has Britney had her second child?

Britney's husband releases album

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just to clear up some confusion. The BBC is aiming CBBC programmes at a 6-12 year old target audience - the same age as before Mark Thompson's Creative Future announcement on 25 April 2006 (see blog 13 September 2005)

BBC hopes to start their teen brand in 2007, aimed at 13-17 year olds.


TMi is showing slight signs of becoming more tolerant of diversity.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Television awards

Most popular serial drama award for EastEnders despite Coronation Street being more popular in terms of viewing figures. EastEnders audiences were at an all-time low during the summer.

The BBC see EastEnders as a flagship programme. They probably got staff texting in votes to make sure it won again. And Charlie Clements won most popular newcomer as Bradley. But whatever happened to newcomer Petra Letang who played Naomi, Sonia's girlfriend? I haven't been watching the programme recently.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Oh purleese! Is this the best Newsround can come up with on the issue of inclusivity?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The BBC is best placed to know the truth about what happened at their impartiality summit last month. Someone leaked some of the comments to the press and as a consequence the world may be receiving a one-sided and misleading account of the summit. Senior figures, according to reports, admitted that the BBC is guilty of promoting Left-wing views. But we aren't told whether anyone was concerned about Right-wing bias.

The leaked remarks seem suspiciously 'in tune' with sentiments of certain senior BBC executives - perhaps a devout Christian or someone with American roots. Regular readers of this blog will know that the homophobic ethos of the BBC comes from the top. Until the summit took place, lower down staff have allowed homophobic attitudes and the creeping Right-wing bias to go largely unchallenged. In consequence a few bigoted executives have been emboldened to go further and remark on the "disproportionate" number of people from minorities at the Corporation. These bigots would benefit from a strong dose of Diversity training.

Speculation about the misconceived 'impartiality summit' should be stemmed before more damage is done. We need to know exactly who said what. Leaks cannot be unleaked, so the BBC has no option other than to immediately release the full minutes of the meeting and then investigate who was possibly responsible for bringing the BBC into disrepute by leaking one-sided information to the press.

By and large the BBC is not out of touch politically with people in Britain, but the BBC's failure to report this important story breaks their own editorial guidelines, and does no favours to the BBC's reputation for impartiality. Britain is a comparatively liberal country and, for the most part, the BBC reflects British culture and values.

Convening the summit was a ridiculous mistake, as was the BBC governors' juvenile decision to say that 'gay' means rubbish.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

BBC impartiality

News of the BBC's 'impartiality summit' is winging its way around the world, courtesy of the world wide web and internet blogs such as this one. But what does the BBC say have to say about the summit? Nothing.

As if to prove that the Corporation can't be trusted as an impartial news source, it has again completely ignored its own editorial guideline (quoted in my 9 October blog entry) by failing to report the leaked news.

The BBC never likes to report news which brings its integrity into question. That's why it buried Stonewall's report about anti-gay discrimination (blog on 1 March 2006), why it misreported the Rio Ferdinand incident on Radio 1 (blog on 9 October 2006), and why it has ignored the latest news about its 'impartiality summit.'


Torchwood - separate from the Government, outside police jurisdiction and beyond the United Nations - sounds spookily like the BBC.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Biased BBC leak

Some newspapers have reported leaks of a 'secret' meeting of some BBC senior staff, held last month at the behest of the Chairman of BBC Governors, Michael Grade. The leaks if true and representative suggest that the BBC's top people still refuse to see the whole picture.

According to reports, BBC executives at the 'impartiality summit' admitted religious bias in favour of Muslims rather than Christians. Using Newsround's website as an example, the word 'Muslim' is found almost as many times as 'Christian' despite the much larger number of people calling themselves Christian in Britain. But Newsround has nothing to say on agnosticism or atheism. In other words it is unrepresentative of many people in Britain.

Andrew Marr is reported to have said "The BBC is not impartial or neutral. It's a publicly-funded, urban organisation with an abnormally large number of young people, ethnic minorities and gay people." A front bench MP told me that the BBC would collapse without its gay staff. But despite the large number of lgbt people working for them, the BBC is guilty of, as The Independent once put it, "institutionalised homophobia." The evidence is in Stonewall's report, and on this Newsround blog. This anti-lgbt bias wasn't noted at the meeting. BBC executives are oblivious to the continuing discrimination, but there is increasing concern amongst some BBC staff.

Mr Marr believed that the BBC has a cultural liberal bias rather than a party-political bias. He may be correct, but what he terms 'bias' might be considered as just fair representation of the culture and values in Britain. But when it comes to lesbian and gay people, there's little difference between the BBC and George W Bush.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Ancient child's skull found

The earth is not millions of years old according to a Newsround viewer:

i would like to say that i do not agree with the way the finding of the skull has been aproached! firsty there is no proof that humans evolved from apes. it was a theory by Darwin and even he admitted that this was only a theory!!!! newsround aproached this as if it were fact and this is what a do not agree with! if a small child who is watching newsround is also a christian then subjects like these could easily make them challenge their faith! after all the bible teaches that God created man from the dust NOT from ape!!!!! i think newsround should think about what they are saying before they go questioning anyones faith! after all if newsround questioned the faith of muslims then a lot would be said about it this is a sudject i feel very stongly about as i am a christian and i feel offended by what has been said!! thanx

One or two people agreed. And, in general, when it comes to religion this seems to be Newsround's ethos as well.

Eventually Newsround reported stories resulting from Jack Straw's remarks about the veil, but it is still silent about the recent faith school controversy.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Newsround's half-term film review

Today Newsround introduced Helen, the junior film critic of the year. She reviewed three films to watch this half-term. Barnyard, Open Season, and Ice Age 2 (DVD).

Helen summarised the films at the end of her review like this:

Out of all the films my favourite has to be Barnyard. I couldn't stop laughing and it's action-packed too. I gave it four popcorns out of five.

Open Season wasn't as good. I found myself yawning half way through. The storyline just didn't keep me gripped. It's only getting three out of five popcorns.

And it's another great film from the Ice Age crew. Characters are funnier than ever especially Scrat. It's getting a cool four out of five. Well maybe three and a half. This is Helen reporting for Newsround.

But now look at Newsround's webpage about the review

Helen, 11, is the junior film critic of the year and Newsround got her to take a look at the best films to watch this half-term

In Barnyard a party-loving cow has to grow up fast after his dad is killed by coyotes. He has to learn to look after the other animals - Helen says: "I didn't like it as much as the other films. I found myself yawning halfway through. It's only getting two out of five from me!"

Open Season is about a bear and a deer who team up so they don't get shot by hunters. They're a pretty odd couple - Helen says: "I really liked this film. It was funny and action-packed. I liked the slapstick humour. I'll give it four out of five"

Ice Age 2 is the second adventure for Scrat, Sid, Manny and Diego. You can get the DVD at the moment - Helen says: "Ice Age 2 is another great film from the Ice Age crew. It's even better than the first one. The characters are great, especially Scrat the squirrel. I'd give it four out of five"

Newsround must think kids were born yesterday to not notice the discrepancies. As to whether cows are "he" or "she" maybe that's not their fault.

Monday, October 16, 2006

The tragic sequence of events which led to the brutal murder of Joe Geeling would never be reported by Newsround with its current misconceived ethos. But today the surrounding circumstances of Joe Geeling's shocking murder came to be known. Although the circumstances were complicated, ultimately it was a rebuffed sexual advance which led Michael Hamer to murder Joe.

Newsround has decided that they can't keep the Muslim veil controversy under wraps any longer, and finally reported it today - in fact, all kinds of religious dress, including Sikh turbans, the Christian cross, etc were mentioned today but taking little account of progressive Muslims or Sikhs who usually don't wear niqabs or turbans.

Perhaps it's about time that Newsround faced up to the fact that the real world is not simply heterosexual, nor simply religiously observant, and that there are both homosexual kids and progressive Muslims, as well as others out there.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Distressing news for children

"I am happy to answer questions, if you post them as comments below," writes Tim Levell in his recent blog entry: "Covering distressing news for children." Well maybe he would be kind enough to answer some questions which I sent him by email weeks before his BBC blog even began. But if Mr Levell is still determined not to reply to me personally, nor to write an entry, maybe he could answer me via his blog.

Tim Levell says that a child psychologist helped write a webpage guide about what to do if the news upsets you. However, he continues to ignore all the psychologists and health professionals who believe that prejudice including homophobia should be combatted, and he won't even give his reasons for ignoring these experts.

Mr Levell says in his blog entry that he wants children to leave Newsround feeling happier, brighter and more reassured about the world they live in. Ahh! - that's nice! What a pity that he hasn't tried to make Newsround inclusive and challenge homophobic prejudice - the cause of distress to so many children in primary and secondary schools.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Rio, racism and homophobia

A transcript of part of Rio Ferdinand's guest appearance on the Chris Moyles show can be found on my blog last Monday.

Peter Tatchell the gay rights campaigner is reported as saying "Even as a joke, homophobic quips are just as unacceptable as racist ones but since Rio Ferdinand very promptly apologised, I am happy to accept his regret and leave it at that."

Having read up on Rio Ferdinand over the last few days, I think Peter Tatchell is naive to believe that a simple apology is enough.

Mr Ferdinand has done a great deal of work in the fight against racism. In his autobiography, Rio: My Story he talks of the racist abuse a teammate received being called "a black bastard" and a "coon." Rio said things have improved since the 1970's when his hero John Barnes was playing. He said it's still around in pockets of England, but it's worse abroad.

Rio has written to UEFA supporting their efforts to stamp out racism, backing plans to give referees increased powers at matches affected by racist chanting. And of course Rio has been one of the main supporters of the anti-bullying campaigns. Two years ago he took part in an anti-bullying video reading part of a poem - "I am the person you alienated, I am the person you ridiculed and hated"

But ten days ago he used just about the most offensive homophobic term there is. I think his claim not to be homophobic isn't enough. Rio Ferdinand is a role model. He should go out there and campaign against homophobia with the same vehemence as he has done against racism. People might then start to believe what he says.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

At the end of Sunday's blog I asked a question. The answer lies at the heart of Newsround's philosophy - it doesn't want to get kids thinking for themselves about religion etc, and maybe thinking their parents' beliefs might not be the whole story.

This is what Paul Smith meant when he talked about a 'contract' with parents (see blog 3 September 2006). It's a contract not to rock the boat! It is deeply disempowering to kids.

It's National Coming Out Day in the USA.

Monday, October 09, 2006

BBC News report of Rio Ferdinand on Radio 1

Anyone who relies on the BBC News website could be forgiven for believing that BBC Radio 1 had apologised for Rio Ferdinand's unguarded remark which was broadcast last Monday. BBC News reported that Radio 1 have issued an apology after premiership footballer Rio Ferdinand called Chris Moyles a "faggot" live on air. I've yet to see the full wording and other details of the apology, if it exists. The report seems to fail the test of the current editorial guideline:

Where BBC content or the BBC is the story

Our reporting must remain accurate, impartial and fair even when our content, or the BBC itself, becomes the story. We need to ensure that our impartiality is not brought into question and presenters or reporters are not placed in potential conflict of interests. It will be inappropriate to refer to either the BBC as "we" or the content as "our". There should also be clear editorial separation between those reporting the story and those responsible for presenting the BBC's case.

Here is a transcript of the exchange on the Chris Moyles show (Ferdinand in blue) which took place at about 8.25am that morning, 2 October:

You know men can't see beauty in other men. But you know, you're not a bad looking man right. But you must hang out with some ugly footballers?

I'll be honest. There are some ugly, ugly ones.

But they all do well with the women.

It's banter init. If you've got banter you're alright.

Are you trying to tell me that Peter Crouch is like Peter Kay?

Peter Crouch - he's a half decent looking geezer.



Don't ever be gay, Rio. I'm telling you you will go out with some ugly men.

(laughs) I'm not like feminine, or gay in any way but like, he's not like ugly and like - a few birds like him.

Yeah .. you know I'd rather go out with Michael Owen.

I don't want to start talking about going out with players. Let's move on.

Rio, you got it right because if you keep hanging around with these people then it puts you at the top of the, you know, pecking order.

No, I'm not into that good looking fellow hangs out with ugly fellows to get the birds.

Well let's ask you this. If you had to, who would you rather go out with - Smudger [Alan Smith] or Scholsey [Paul Scholes]?

(laughs and pauses to think) That's not my bag that, seriously.


That is not my game: talking about going out with geezers.

(music starts playing in background) (laughs) It's a great question though, isn't it?

Who would you go out with?

Smudger all the time.


Cos he's leet, he knows he is.

You're a faggot.

(burst of laughter) You can't say that .. (laughs) .. er which is football terminology for a funny lad.

Yeah I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm not against any erm gay guys or anything like ..

Don't, don't, you'll make it worse.

Stop there, I say

I'm not homophobic, man.

No, I know. You'll make it worse. I know you didn't mean anything by it, you're just messing. So we've got lots to talk to you about. Are you gonna hang around? Can we get you anything? Are you nice and comfortable?

No, I've got some water here .... What music can I put on?


And that was about it for a while. Later Moyles steered the conversation towards the topic of comparing footballers' penis sizes.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Ramadan began late September 2006. Newsround didn't miss the opportunity to mark the month with a new set of teachers' notes - this time citing the month and its customs in a Citizenship lesson about living in a diverse world.

Last week Jack Straw caused a controversy when, as a columnist for his local newspaper, he decided to write about Muslim women and the veil. This story quickly made the main news story in Britain.

Broadcasters received thousands of emails on the issue.

In the past Newsround has reported items about the conflict caused by headscarves and Islamic dress in the UK and France, where religious dress is banned in state schools. And Newsround's messageboards are filled with lively debate on religion. So why no report of the new controversy?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Black History Month

The teachers' area on Newsround's website is getting very 'diverse' recently.

October is Black History Month and it is nice to see a Literacy lesson based around the life and work of Mary Seacole. However I think that the Newsround programme itself should be doing much more to report black history events from around the country.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

BBC plays down Moyles 'faggot' row

The BBC has dismissed as "banter" an incident on the Chris Moyles Radio 1 show yesterday, in which footballer Rio Ferdinand called Moyles a "faggot".

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Not much sign of improvement on TMi yesterday. A little less sexism maybe, but CBBC is as heterosexist as it was when they made those star chats with Andrew Hayden-Smith and Alex Parks three years ago.

Special guest on TMi was Jesse McCartney, who was asked questions sent in by viewers - including one asking "is there a girl in your life, and if not why not?" If Jesse McCartney was openly gay would he be asked if there was a "boy in his life?" You don't need rocket science to know the answer. In fact I doubt he would be invited on a CBBC show in the first place. The programme also included his video - Right Where You Want Me.

Early this year Alex Parks decided she needed to step back for a while and think about her career. She said "I've had almost no support from the media - hardly any coverage on the radio and TV or in the press and whether that's because they don't like my music, or they don't like me, or maybe because I came from a reality TV programme - I don't know." She explained that these comments were not directed at the regional press, radio or TV (especially Cornwall) who have strongly supported her. She was very grateful for that support.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

BBC employment discrimination - part 2

Almost three years ago it became unlawful to discriminate against people at work because of their sexual orientation. That means that employees must be treated in the same way no matter whether they're gay, straight, lesbian or bisexual. The problem with the BBC is that it doesn't seem to believe in, and adhere to the principles of equality and diversity - as can be seen, for example, in the differences in the way Andrew Hayden-Smith and Alex Parks were each interviewed for their star chats in 2003 just before the laws against sexual orientation discrimination came in.

Andrew Hayden-Smith chat video - 7 October 2003.

Alex Parks chat video - 14 November 2003.

Andrew Hayden-Smith, who wasn't "out" as gay at the time, was asked several questions relating to romance, dating and his "love life" - the questions are shown in red on the chat transcript. Alex Parks, on the other hand, was "out" as a lesbian and, although she had said previously in a newspaper interview that she was happy to be a role model, she wasn't asked any similar questions in her star chat.

Paul Smith, the CBBC editorial policy adviser who I contacted this summer, wasn't interested in any apparent evidence of discrimination (blog 3 September 2006), saying he didn't believe the comparison between the interviews was valid. However I think the difference between these "star chats" means it's also quite possible that gay staff aren't treated as equals - especially if they work on CBBC. In 2005 Stonewall's chief executive, Ben Summerskill spoke of a pink plateau in many British workplaces, and in March 2006 wrote that BBC staff were aware of a plateau.

Last May's edition of Attitude included an interview with Andrew Hayden-Smith who had then been out for about a year and a half. Attitude's editor wrote:

So much has been written about gays on television, it seems there’s little left to say. The arguments around representation - too much, too little, the wrong sort, the right sort - seem to recirculate every couple of years, most recently in a widely reported Stonewall survey that, essentially, found the BBC’s gay tally sadly underwhelming. While there’s still someway to go, it certainly seems, to these eyes at least, that things are getting better.....

Andrew spoke in his interview for Attitude about coming out and his role in Dr Who. His character, Jake, was supposed to be in love with Ricky - the parallel universe's Mickey. But in the interview Andrew mentioned not being able to include a kiss because they couldn't push it that far. Andrew said he hadn't come across any homophobia in the BBC. However, for whatever reason he left his CBBC presenting job two months after that interview was published. His departure means that there aren't any openly gay presenters on children's television.

And in June the BBC governors condoned insulting language such as calling a ringtone "gay". This derogatory usage can be said to be directly rooted in homophobia. Subsequently, and in spite of the kerfuffle over the governors' decision, Jeremy Clarkson called a Daihatsu Copen car "gay" and a bit "ginger beer" (queer) on Top Gear.

As to age discrimination - that like the other anti-discrimination laws will outlaw unacceptable language as well as direct discrimination. BBC News recently reported that when it comes to ageist language, employers will have to avoid phrases such as saying an employee is "wet behind the ears."

In the early days of BBC tv, some children's presenters, like Annette Mills and Johnny Morris were much older than the current presenters. In fact, Annette Mills was over 50 when she started presenting Muffin the Mule on 20 October 1946, and Johnny Morris was still presenting a BBC children's programme when he was nearly 70 years old.

But look at CBBC today. How many of its presenters, if any, are over 30 years old? A clear example of age discrimination.

And then there's old-fashioned sexism - revived in programmes like TMi (see last Saturday's blog entry). In a newspaper interview last week, Sam and Mark said they discovered their co-host, Caroline, in a 'dirty skip.' They need to ditch that nasty sexist attitude - and be quick about it.

Many types of discrimination seem to linger on at the BBC. The BBC's Diversity Centre will have its work cut out if BBC senior management doesn't see sense and make it clear immediately that all discrimination is unacceptable.

Friday, September 29, 2006

BBC employment discrimination - part 1

With only a day to go before the new employment regulations to combat age discrimination, in this and the next blog we look at the BBC's own very mixed record on the issues of equality and diversity.

The BBC boasts that it is "a unique institution, owned by the British people and independent of political and commercial interests," and its purpose is "to enrich the life of every person in the UK" - but we uncover the truth: the BBC still discriminates by age, gender and sexual orientation.

On 13 September 2006 Newsround Bias blog discovered evidence of discrimination against older kids. I was so surprised by this that the following day I emailed Newsround's website editor, with a copy to Newsround's editor, asking for an explanation as to why it seemed responses from 15 year olds were being systematically discarded. At the same time I asked why Newsround's website never included lgbt news or gossip, giving, as an example, Matt Lucas's intention to 'tie the knot' with his partner Kevin McGee.

On Friday 22 September 2006 I received an email from the head of CBBC. On the point about lgbt news he said Newsround tries "to avoid coverage of post-watershed celebrities," which explains why the story about Matt Lucas wasn't covered. However I noticed there are some other stories about both Matt Lucas and David Walliams on Newsround's website. But fair enough, I'll just wait longer to see whether they include any gay celebrity news or gossip in the future.

Mr Deverell confirmed that CBBC services discriminate by age, but said that doesn't mean that they completely exclude all children outside the core audience of 6-12 year olds. The BBC, he said, offers other services for kids both older and younger.

In response to what he said about age discrimination, I replied that if Newsround doesn't want to hear from older kids then perhaps the web feedback page should emphasise that, because of the "Creative Future" policy, preference is now given to under 12 year olds. I said it seems older kids aren't receiving the same standard of service from the BBC, and also mentioned the Council of Europe's "all different, all equal" campaign. I added that the British Psychological Society had made clear that young people should not have to put up with homophobic bullying and that it should be combatted from Key Stage 1. Therefore Newsround should not avoid the topic.

The new age discrimination laws have been given a lot of publicity on the BBC news channel. Funny thing is the BBC appears to think it's such a special institution that it doesn't need to obey the same laws itself. British businesses, it reports, are unprepared for the new employment legislation. In part 2 of the blog we see how the BBC is at least as muddled as British businesses.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

TMi - misogyny rules at CBBC

CBBC has seen off Dick and Dom but the new stuff they've dreamt up for Saturday mornings is hardly an improvement. No more jokes about snot and bogeys - the butt of humour now seems to be women. Yes - would you believe that six years into the twenty-first century one half of the human race is still treated as something to laugh at?

TMi is unbalanced - with two male presenters Sam and Mark who are supposed to live in a "Big Brother" style flat, watched 24 hrs a day by tv cameras. Excerpts from the week are shown during the live programme on Saturdays. There is also one female presenter, Caroline, who isn't part of the same living arrangements, and wasn't mentioned by name in the pre-show publicity.

To make matters worse, on the Saturday morning show, Sam and Mark don't miss an opportunity to dress up as women and behave in a ludicrous way. After a week of training, this morning we saw Sam and Mark compete against each other to see who could do the most skips in one minute. When Mark won the skipping competition, he was allowed to choose a forfeit or punishment for Sam. This was to dress as a girl, go out into Leicester Square and make a fool of himself. Sam was told by Mark to "run like the girl that you are."

If the best CBBC can do is rely on old-fashioned and insulting stereotypes, it's time they got in new advisers.

Friday, September 22, 2006

ALL DIFFERENT, ALL EQUAL - European Campaign for Diversity, Human Rights and Participation 2006 - 2007

The aim of this Europe wide campaign is to encourage young people to participate in building societies based on diversity and inclusion, in a spirit of respect, tolerance, and mutual understanding. There are links with the 1995 campaign against racism, anti-semitism, xenophobia and intolerance; to this end, the slogan selected for the Campaign is that of the previous initiative: "All Different, All Equal".

all different - all equal
The partners in organising this campaign are the Council of Europe, mainly the Directorate of Youth and Sport (DYS), the European Youth Forum, and the European Commission. Its activities are being undertaken essentially by young people in partnership with public authorities; the target group of the Campaign is civil society, both at European and national levels. However, the campaign should of course reach out to as many young people in Europe as possible, with a particular focus on those who are victims of discrimination, and in particular through activities involving schools.

This new campaign is aimed to have a wider focus than previous European campaigns on discrimination. It targets not only racial and ethnic intolerance but also discrimination on the basis of someone's beliefs, sexual orientation or ability.

Shortly before the launch of "All Different - All Equal", Terry Davis, Secretary General of the Council of Europe, made a short video outlining the reasons for the campaign, and its aims. At the launch, on 29 June 2006 he said:

"...The youth campaign of 10 years ago condemned discrimination based on ethnic origin and the colour of someone’s skin. This new campaign will have a wider focus. It will target not only racial and ethnic intolerance but also discrimination on the basis of someone’s beliefs, someone’s sexual orientation or someone’s level of physical or mental ability. This wider approach does not mean that racism is no longer a concern. On the contrary: as we know from the reports of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance, racism has not vanished from European societies.

"But with our new campaign, we want to denounce all kinds of discrimination - even those very subtle forms which diminish the daily lives of people who are different in some way. Unlike 1995, this is not a campaign "against" but a campaign "for", a campaign to bring our core values - diversity, human rights and participation - closer to the people of Europe.

"These three simple words carry three simple messages:

1) diversity is not only the stuff of life, it is what makes life exciting and challenging
2) human rights are not inborn, they need to be learnt in schools and through youth activities
3) democracy will not live on if the younger generations shy away from public life.

The Youth Campaign will encourage young people to take action against abuses of human rights - to act now, in their towns, through their organisations, through the Internet. ..."

On 13 September 2006 a Report on Social Exclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people was presented to the European Parliament.

Members of the European Parliament (MEP) taking part agreed to draw up a declaration to stop homophobic behaviour in schools. MEPs from the Intergroup on Gay and Lesbian Rights committed to take a lead on this initiative.

The launch of ILGA-Europe's and IGLYO's joint publication on social exclusion of LGBT young people led to concrete promises coming from the European Parliament.

All Different - All Equal cartoon

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

It's been suggested that I need to be more careful with the word 'homophobic' because I'm told that Newsround doesn't have "an anti-homosexual agenda, in the sense of perpetrating derogatory beliefs about them." I'm not sure I agree. Maybe Newsround doesn't in itself perpetrate derogatory beliefs, but by not treating people equally and fairly it perpetuates homophobic bullying and the homophobia which exists in so many schools. In the same way, if CBBC Newsround deliberately excluded black news and never had black people on tv or its website, I wouldn't say it was whitenormative - rather I'd say it was racist (Discrimination or prejudice based on race).

The perpetuation of homophobic bullying in schools is not irrelevant to primary school kids, as claimed by Newsround's former editor. The recent ChildLine Casenote (as not properly reported on Newsround) made the relevance perfectly clear. The problem is also covered in a recent study presented to the European Parliament on 13 September 2006. More in the next blog.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

BBC vision and values

The BBC says its vision is to be the most creative organisation in the world. If they mean 'creative' as in the sense of 'creative accounting' then they're getting close to achieving their goal.

Take Dragon's Den - it's a BBC con. The programme deceives the audience into thinking that innovators who impress the "dragons" are clinching deals on tv, and will receive the money they ask for to improve or develop their business plans. In reality only about 30% actually get the dough.

By the time Dragon's Den is aired it's probably known what actually transpired. But the BBC conceals the truth from its viewers.

"Trust is the foundation of the BBC." Looks like its foundations are a bit shaky.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Matters of sexuality, of whatever nature, straight or gay, are not within the remit of CBBC, says Paul Smith, a BBC editorial policy adviser.

If that were true, why, on the first edition of TMi, was a boy asked to guess which celebrity his friend fancied?

And why does CBBC deem this gossip acceptable:

Lindsay Lohan has apparently splashed the cash on her new boyfriend - she's reported to have bought him a £5,000 watch.

But not this:

Little Britain star Matt Lucas is to "tie the knot" with his long-term boyfriend Kevin McGee. The star decided to pop the question in May this year and is reported to be 'absolutely delighted' that his partner said yes.

The answer is that CBBC knowingly discriminates against people who aren't heterosexual, but they never admit to doing it.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

BBC not homophobic (apparently)

One of the best things about writing this blog is the chance to make a wide range of contacts in the media, entertainment, education, psychology and politics. One MP who read my blog said he didn't think the BBC was guilty of discrimination. After all, he said, take gay people out of the Beeb and it would collapse!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Mark Thompson's "Creative Future" folly

The advance of Creative Future seems to be unstoppable. Staff in the Corporation are obediently carrying out the boss's orders without thinking of the consequences and how much damage it's doing.

Not so long ago the BBC claimed, under the Diversity banner, that it "aims to offer something for every age group and every cultural group as well as every part of the UK." Newsround's former editor, Ian Prince, was well aware of the concerns of young people about the lack of programmes for secondary school kids. Newsround received a great deal of negative feedback when the BBC announced that Byker Grove was to be axed (See blog 13 May 2006).

Since then Ian Prince has gone, to be replaced by Tim Levell.

Mr Levell has already been dutifully implementing "Creative Future" changes to target a slightly younger audience. However, despite CBBC being targeted at 7-11 year olds, my latest survey of Newsround website feedback shows that more than half of the web responses (around 55%) are from kids aged 12 or over. So the target appears to bear little relation to the ages of actual viewers.

CBBC Newsround website responses - Sept 2006
An even more worrying finding of the latest survey is that, since the Creative Future announcement, it seems that Newsround is simply binning almost all emails from anyone aged 15 or more. The original survey, blogged on 13 April 2006 (about two weeks before Creative Future was unveiled,) showed about 14.4% of quoted feedback came from 15 year olds, but the latest study has the figure down to only 0.4%.

The latest analysis is based on 258 data from four web stories collected up until 12 September 2006 at 5pm. The relevant web pages are What do you think about healthier school meals?,... Back to school: Your thoughts,... What is your town or village famous for?,... September 11 anniversary: Your thoughts.

The difference between the findings of the survey in April and the latest survey is significant. It's extremely unlikely that the reason for the change in responses from 15 year olds is due to chance or differences in the audience demographic over the 5 month period since April. Much more likely is that someone from the production team has been binning feedback from 15 year olds - deliberate age discrimination is the only credible explanation. I wouldn't be surprised if they stop putting ages on some, or all, of the responses in future to try and disguise what's happening.

In 2003 and in the 2004 Charter Review the BBC said it was committed to "universal availability of BBC services". It said that it will continue to ensure that all its services remain universally available and free-to-air." Mark Thompson and his 'yes men' are making a mockery of the commitment.

All changes which are being made at the BBC go against the principle of Diversity. Age limits are more tightly defined, and those considered too old are simply being ignored while the BBC struggles to implement the "Teen Brand." And certainly without free-to-air tv, teens will be treated as second class. The Corporation also discriminates against its workforce - more about that subject in a future blog entry.

As stated previously, I believe one of the purposes of Creative Future has become an excuse to avoid issues of family diversity and inclusiveness. If this is the case the BBC is making yet another mistake. Educationalists believe that these are things which children should start to learn about from Key Stage 1 - a younger age than the new target for CBBC.

The half completed teen website, which is only for girls at the moment, is evidence of more gender stereotyping and shows that the BBC still has no sense of where it's going with its broadband based so-called "Teen Brand." The Teen Brand, if it ever gets off the ground, will clearly breach the BBC's stated commitment that its services remain universally available and free-to-air. Teenagers (and 12 year olds) have been betrayed by the BBC.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Teachers' notes - part 2

Teachers' notes - part 2

In a recent lesson plan the BBC has decided to use Islam as a basis of 'education' and information on exclusion and bullying. By doing this the lesson plan sidesteps diversity issues within religious culture itself. And this year's Prix Jeunesse entry from Newsround did the same when it attempted to combat prejudice against Islam following 9/11. Their entry failed to win any prizes because the only legitimate way to combat bullying and prejudice against any group is to foster the values of inclusiveness, tolerance and diversity.

The lesson plan called Group blame after 11 September considers what it feels like to be a member of a group wrongly blamed for something you didn't do. But it does not look into the problems of religion itself which so often promotes "group blame" against "unbelievers". For example Islam has no place for lgbt people and Islam Expo in London, on the anniversary of 7/7, refused to allow any gay Muslim groups to participate this year.

Islam is not the only religion which sees gay people as an easy target. Ever since the destruction of Sodom, lgbt people have been blamed for many of the world's ills. Some Christian fundamentalists in America have even blamed the twin tower attack of 9/11 on homosexuality, and more recently homosexuality has been suggested as the cause of the tsunami in 2004.

So coming back to the theme of Teachers' Notes - teachers should ask kids to look carefully through the lesson index page to see if they can find anything specifically supporting lesbian, gay, bi, or trans people. Maybe they could save time by looking under more likely headings. What about trying to find information about homophobia or anti-gay discrimination.

Ask the class to consider why they have found nothing. Could the BBC be prejudiced? What can be done to make the BBC less prejudiced?

Always treat people as you would like to be treated yourself says Gavin Ramjaun, Newsround's latest presenter. Pupils should think carefully about what Gavin says and now consider what it would feel like to be a member of a group which is frowned upon, sometimes even hated. What if no one wanted to hear what you had to say, or worse, pretended that you didn't exist? Who would want to be treated like that?

Lesson Objectives

At the end of the lesson, students should feel empowered, on behalf of their fellow human beings, to tackle prejudice and discrimination. They should understand that discrimination will persist until people are prepared to stand up and be counted against unfair prejudice in all its forms.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Teachers' notes
Teachers' notes - part 1

John Reith said the purpose of the BBC should be to inform, educate and entertain. I doubt Reith wanted to inform people about his feelings for Charlie Bowser, but today's BBC bosses are still determined to keep lgbt people well and truly in the closet, or else used as a joke and source of amusement.

Newsround produces teachers' notes for lessons based on issues in the news. A quick look at a recent Citizenship lesson plan might make you think that the BBC is a fair-minded organisation producing plans to teach tolerance and the value of diversity.

Teachers and kids shouldn't be so easily fooled. The BBC is homophobic in its outlook. There isn't a single lesson plan which acknowledges lgbt kids or the problems of homophobia which they face at school.

The person responsible for the teachers' lesson plans is Paul Whelan. In the summer I emailed him to ask why there is no lgbt-relevant information on the site, and if there are any plans to correct the omission.

Mr Whelan explained the purpose of the lesson plans, and said that editorial values reflect subjects that have appeared on Newsround or its website. He claimed that same-sex relationships are not taught as part of Sex Education until Key stage 4 (age 14-16) at secondary school which, he said, is not their target audience. He said that Newsround’s target audience is now children aged 7-11, however viewers and readers may be as young as five or six. Consequently content that deals with any subjects of a sexual nature requires very careful consideration, due to the different ages and levels of understanding within this audience.

Finally Mr Whelan claimed that they receive a lot of audience feedback and they aim to shape what they do in response to comments. He said he had been visiting schools from around the UK for several years, talking to pupils and teachers. He had also "sifted through some of the many thousands of emails" they receive each year and found that his experience has been that there is "no tangible demand" for more coverage of LGBT issues, and that my comment was "the first such suggestion" he had come across.

I told him that experts recommend challenging homophobia at an early age - Key Stage 1 - addressing children's understandings of diversity and difference, different family structures and what it means to be different from others.

I was surprised he had never heard homophobic language being used on his visits to primary schools and asked if he had ever asked about homophobia and homophobic bullying. I explained that both pupils and teachers are likely to be reluctant to discuss this subject unless he raised the issue first - and even then some might prefer not to talk about it.

Paul Whelan has not answered these questions, however a page which about sex education was removed (see below).

Ever spoken to Paul Whelan at school? Let's have your comments!


First part of the page which was deleted after my enquiry:

Updated 03 December 2002, 15.23

PSHE 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F

Amy Crowhurst from West Sussex is expecting a baby boy in spring 2003.

The father is a boy she met at a youth club. Amy is only 12 years old but decided to keep her baby after seeing his image during a hospital scan.

Learning aims
Why sex education is important
Some sources of advice and information on the web

Thursday, September 07, 2006

On 21 August 2006 I emailed Tim Levell to confirm that some of us have felt over the last few years Newsround has seemed to exclude lgbt news and people, and also to ask if possible he would make the future of the programme more inclusive - for example, by reporting news on initiatives to stamp out homophobic bullying in schools.

The BBC says it is "an open and transparent organisation which is trusted by the public it serves, seeks to engage its audiences in dialogue, to learn from them and to respond honestly to what they have to say."

Not having received a reply, I then gave Tim Levell the opportunity to answer the criticisms here in Newsround Bias blog, and also to write the 100th entry himself in any way he wished.

If, at the time you're reading this, the previous blog entry is still reserved space, it's because Newsround's editor has yet to take up, or to decline my offer to answer points in the blog.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Newsround Blog 100

I received an email from Tim Levell on Monday 5 February 2007

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Blog 99

Childline's report on telephone calls asking for help about sexual orientation, homophobia and homophobic bullying mentions about some kids being triply isolated with schools, friends and families all being unsupportive at best or overtly homophobic at worst. Some young people who were homophobically bullied said they were in a catch-22 situation: by reporting the bullying to their school or parents, they would effectively "out" themselves. They were often reluctant to do this because they were aware of commonly expressed homophobic attitudes.

The report says "Many homosexual children know - through years of hearing slurs - that their parents are homophobic. The fear of telling parents, and problems that resulted from telling them, was the second most frequently mentioned issue for young people calling ChildLine about their sexual orientation."

However Newsround and CBBC do nothing to help alleviate the isolation of lgbt young people; Newsround and its website include gratuitous references to heterosexuality - boyfriends, girlfriends, husbands, wives, engagements and marriages. For example on Friday's Newsround, Adam's report about Ashley Cole's transfer included this comment: "Cole, who recently married Girls Aloud star, Cheryl Tweedy, has netted himself a five year deal worth a whopping £90,000 per week." The web report is no better.

A news programme for kids made by the national broadcaster should be expected to be fair minded when covering news. Not only does Newsround not cover lgbt news and issues, we saw in our last blog that they also censor stories with lgbt content, even where it is the main part of the story they are supposed to be covering, to remove the lgbt content so the story will fit in with their agenda.

Newsround's former editor, Ian Prince, said that these issues are not particularly relevant to the target audience and are better left to secondary school level. However the Childline report made it clear that homophobic bullying is an issue at primary as well as secondary school level, as I have been telling the BBC all along. This is well documented by educationalists and psychologists, who say the problem should be tackled from Key Stage 1 onwards.

The BBC is well aware of these facts, yet I still get given the excuse that sexuality is not a matter for CBBC, since children are not grown-up enough. Funny how this always means lgbt sexualities are unsuitable, but on the other hand heterosexuality is invariably ok - programmes are fine as long as they are about boy/girl crushes, and not girl/girl or boy/boy crushes. In the past a few kids' programmes did touch on the issue, but now the BBC is clamping down on diversity using the "Creative Future" excuse.

Paul Smith, a CBBC policy adviser, says that CBBC policies are built on the premise of no discrimination against any persons because of their race, gender, age, sexual orientation etc., but he also claims the BBC have a secondary, but very important, 'contract' with parents to provide material that, while challenging the audience, also takes account of parents' expectations. He said CBBC output should be suitable for the entire target age range at all times [email from Paul Smith of 10 July 2006].

I offered to send Mr Smith full transcripts of two half-hour CBBC web chats so he could see for himself how Andrew Hayden-Smith was asked about relationships and romance etc in his interview yet Alex Parks was asked no such questions. Paul Smith admitted that he wasn't familiar with the interviews with Andrew or Alex Parks (see blog on 16 Feb 2006 for details), but when offered a chance to see the transcripts he declined and said he didn't accept the comparison between the two interviews. It seems he was not willing to look at the evidence of discrimination for himself, nor discuss its implications with the BBC's own diversity experts. He simply wasn't willing to accept that homosexuality had any place on CBBC, even when I tried to show him evidence that heterosexuality was covered all the time.

Paul Smith's view on CBBC was that knowing and understanding their audience is something the BBC take very seriously, and the success of the CBBC "brand" suggested they get it right most of the time. As far as sexuality is concerned, he said he believed that this is not really a meaningful or relevant subject for the range of CBBC's target audience, and its inclusion would raise some understandable concerns from their parents. He said that if a post to a CBBC messageboard were to mention homophobic bullying and there is a specific issue, then it would be passed on to one of the other BBC websites, e.g. teens and/ Radio 1 both of which have the supporting knowledge and material to deal with the issue.

The BBC's discriminatory attitude is against the spirit of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and Every Child Matters - the basis for modern UK policies involving young people. It is incredible that this attitude pervades the BBC from the very top downwards and little is being done to combat it, in spite of all the best evidence that kids can feel isolated, depressed and even despairing or suicidal when they are bullied. The Childline report is an attempt to look honestly and frankly at the problems some kids have to face at school. It includes comments from kids such as ‘I’m really attracted to other girls, but I don’t want to be gay. It’s not right.’ -- ‘I look at some boys and get really excited, but I don’t like fancying them. It feels wrong.’ -- ‘I’m confused. I’ve always thought I was straight, but now I’ve started having fantasies about other boys. The things I’m thinking make me feel like I must be sick.’

Other kids whose comments are included in the Childline report are happy with their sexuality but face prejudice and harassment from their peers and/or parents: ‘I’m happy I’m gay, but nobody else is. Everyone calls me "batty boy" and kicks me when I go past.’ -- ‘My parents are very religious,’ said 14-year-old Dipesh. ‘They say that being gay is a sin - I’ll never be able to tell them the truth.’ -- ‘I think my parents are okay with gay people in general but I think they’ll freak if they find out I’m a lesbian. I’m an only child, and my mum’s always talked about how much she’s looking forward to being a grandmother.’

The Report says even when a parent was supportive there were sometimes caveats. For instance, 16-year-old Zoe said ‘I told my mum I’m a lesbian, and she was alright about it - but she told me not to tell anyone else. I know that’s partly to protect me, but it feels weird to have this big secret, especially when all my friends are talking about boys. What am I supposed to say?’

CBBC and Newsround are doing absolutely nothing to help kids, parents and schools combat homophobia, and to help make Britain an inclusive society. In fact by censoring news in the way it does, Newsround is compounding the problem. By pandering to the prejudices of some parents, Newsround will almost certainly help nobody and will simply reinforce stereotypes and bigotry, feeding the misery and despair that some kids feel at school.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

In January 2006 Newsround reported that Google was being censored in China, and they said that "Children in China won't be getting the full picture for some time to come" (see my blog for Thursday January 26th). Laura noticed, when she was in China, that children seemed afraid to speak freely. So you'd think the BBC would be against censorship. But listen to the second news item on Newsround yesterday -

Ellie: "The charity Childline says more of you are calling them about being bullied in school than ever before. They say last year a record 3000 young people a month needed help and advice after being picked on."

That was it. End of story as far as Newsround's tv programme was concerned. Their webpage has a little more detail on some aspects of the Childline report.

But Childline's actual report about bullying was titled - "Calls to ChildLine about sexual orientation, homophobia and homophobic bullying (ChildLine Casenotes)" and it's available for download here. It includes incidents from both primary and secondary school kids.

Childline's website says "The Casenote series is a set of studies based on analysis of calls to ChildLine. Each Casenote will focus on a different issue that is important or relevant to the children and young people calling the helpline."

Note that last bit - "issue that is important or relevant to the children and young people calling the helpline."

So why was the news censored in this way? I think one clue may be found right near the start of Childline's report (Section 1.2 - Methodology) where you will see the following:

"And if a young person called to say that she was comfortable being lesbian, but her parents were homophobic, the call would be classified under the heading ‘family relationship problems’ (because the problem is not with the caller’s sexual orientation, but with her parents’ lack of acceptance of it)."

It seems there is a problem with Newsround's lack of acceptance also.

In the case of Newsround it is BBC staff rather than parents who have the problem. It is looking increasingly like homophobia is endemic in the Corporation. Newsround needs some brave individual to stop going along with this discrimination and make a stand in favour of diversity, acceptance and inclusiveness.

Two of the key findings of the Childline report are:

Some young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people reported being triply isolated, with schools, friends and families all being unsupportive at best or overtly homophobic at worst.

ChildLine counsellors report that young people calling about their sexual orientation are often extremely lonely and isolated, and feel that they have nowhere else to turn.

The BBC's own diversity centre say that editors share an obligation to give adequate and meaningful consideration to diversity matters, and diversity should form a substantial element of editorial judgement (see blog 11 February 2006; also see blog of 29 December 2005 about the 1996 BBC producers' guidelines)


BBC - audience dialogue

Remember my blog dated 8 May 2006? Well I'll remind you that I was quoting from the BBC Statements of Programme Policy 2006/2007. The document says: "The BBC, as an open and transparent organisation which is trusted by the public it serves, seeks to engage its audiences in dialogue, to learn from them and to respond honestly to what they have to say."

That, if true, would be a very good thing. So, knowing Newsround's new editor is keen on blogs, last Thursday I emailed him a personal invitation to reply to the criticisms here in this blog and also to write the 100th blog entry which is due very shortly. A reminder was sent yesterday. I hope he will take up this opportunity to engage in dialogue and let us know whether he would like Newsround to become more inclusive than it has been up until now.