Friday, March 31, 2006

Today Newsround's website included an item about some of the newly published findings of a bullying survey which were given in a paper to the British Psychological Society. The four year survey of 11,000 children found that nearly 15% had received nasty texts or emails.

Belatedly the item mentioned yesterday's newspaper story about the boy bullied by two boys at his school who had set up a hate website, but the item failed to mention the predominantly homophobic nature of the taunts. Once again Newsround and its associated website have deliberately failed to discuss the issue of homophobia, which is one of the most significant causes of bullying.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

The front page of this morning's Daily Mirror featured a story, which continued on pages 4 & 5, about a serious case of bullying. Bullies from a school in Southampton set up a website and posted rumours and untruths about a 12 year old boy who attended the school. Childline said it was the first example they had seen of cyberbullying, and that it was very disturbing.

The Mirror frontpage headline
So why wasn't this story reported on Newsround? After all, Newsround's editor says the programme is intended for 8-12 year olds and this boy was 12.

Newsround was amongst the first news programmes to expose the nasty phenomenon of mobile phone bullying or "happy slapping." And Newsround usually doesen't shy away from bullying news. On 21 February there was a report about a bullied girl in Blaenavon receiving compensation after enduring years of bullying, and Newsround carried a story about a girl bullied about her weight on 7 March.

Why wasn't this cyberbullying case reported? The answer becomes clear from reading the details in The Mirror story. Most of the taunting was about the boy's alleged gay sexual orientation - in other words homophobia was used as a means of tormenting the boy. And Newsround has never condemned homophobia or homophobic bullying. That was why Ian Prince and the Newsround team steered well clear.

Monday, March 27, 2006

CBBC has several message boards including a bullying board and a board specifically for kids' growing up problems - Your Life

Last Friday there was a message asking for help about being gay. Usually messages about being gay or homophobic bullying are filtered out, but on that occasion it was allowed through. There were sixteen replies, but they weren't visible because they were awaiting moderation. The next day the entire "Help I'm gay" thread was removed without explanation.

The BBC seems not to want support for gay people on its CBBC message boards.

On the same board were two messages touching on issues of sexuality. Recently Eastenders has featured a lesbian affair between Sonia and Naomi. This message was posted to the "Your Life" message board -

Eastenders is good

Message 6 - posted by xxRachie_Baybeexx
Hiya i lurve Eastenders watch it all da tym i hav lots of fav bits in eastenders.Hav u been watchin it lately with sonia an niome ewwwww lol an ben phils son came bak awwww he soooo cute lol he only liccle did u c da 1 on friday wen at da end grant came bac lol tra luv rach xxxxxx my asl is 12 nearly 13/f/uk

Not a very helpful message for any lesbians reading the board.

Here's another message:

a girl likes me wat should i do

Message 1 - posted by iloverangers1, Oct 21, 2005
a girl likes me wat should i do plz tell me i am really worried

Message 3 - posted by Xx% lil-minx %xX, Oct 23, 2005
Do you mean she fancys you or just as a mate? If you are a girl.. She may just be going through a time and might need someone to lean on if you get me.. someone to talk to.. it might not mean she likes you in that way.

If you mean she likes you in a nice way not in fancy.. well why is it bad??

Please reply and i will try to help you


Ok they did allow a reply which touched - rightly or wrongly - on sexual orientation. Maybe it wasn't very helpful. But if a word like "gay" or "lesbian" had been mentioned the reply would have been banned altogether. Why?

This is all about disempowerment. CBBC prevents words like "gay" being used positively. The Newsround team know that "gay" is very commonly used as an insult in primary schools, but they do nothing to help redress the balance by just reporting lgbt stories fairly.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Newsround Extra

Newsround is broadcast on BBC1 at 5.25pm. Some days it's replaced with Newsround Extra - a programme intended to cover one topic in more depth than the ordinary programme. However, as certain topics are effectively "no-go" areas for the Newsround team the resultant programmes may give a distorted or incomplete view of the subject they are supposed to cover.

Newsround Extra about Islam shown last year is a case in point, as is the Newsround Extra programme about depression shown on 13 March 2006.

The Children Act 2004 incorporates the "five outcomes for children." These outcomes are:

Be healthy - physical and mental health and emotional well-being
Stay safe - protection from harm and neglect
Enjoy and achieve - education, training and recreation
Make a positive contribution - the contribution made by them to society
Achieve economic well-being - social and economic well-being

One of the causes of depression is low self-esteem. Prejudice, homophobia and discrimination lead to alienation of gay kids and therefore depression is more likely to be found amongst gay people than others. But as we know, Newsround itself discriminates against lgbt people by invisibilising, and by doing so it does nothing to help with depression in lgbt young people. Newsround has always ignored the issue of homophobia and the strategies employed to stamp it out in school and society. Recently (see earlier blog for 22 March), the Equalities Review Panel reported that the damage of homophobic bullying is likely to lead to long term disadvantage. Newsround is part of the problem, not the cure.

Newsround Extra: Depression - video (Note: BBC video links are not always available)

The Newsround Extra programme about Islam has been nominated for an award in Prix Jeunesse 2006. The programme went into a reasonable detail about the five pillars of Islam, and also reported on a specially commissioned survey about being Muslim amongst school children, but it failed to address the conflicts which arise between traditional Islam and human rights in a modern society. This meant that sex equality, gay rights and the treatment of apostates weren't discussed.

The BBC received complaints that Newsround promoted Islam without providing the proper balance necessary when making factual programmes. Newsround's editor, Ian Prince, defended his editorial judgement on BBC Newswatch.

Newsround Extra: Islam - video

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Four celebrity gossip stories from Newsround's web site today

Award-winning mum
Sharon Osbourne has been named Celebrity Mum of the Year. The X Factor judge has three grown-up children, Kelly, Jack, and Aimee who are all in their 20s. And she said she was "honoured" to pick up the prize!

Hair-raising donation
Britney's husband Kevin Federline has made a slightly strange donation to charity - he's given away some of his hair! The wannabe rapper has given some of his locks to a charity which makes wigs for children with cancer.

Gately ties the knot
Former Boyzone singer Stephen Gately has "married" his long-term partner Andy Cowles in a private civil partnership ceremony in London. Stephen had already made an official commitment to Andy Cowles in Las Vegas three years ago.

Permission granted
Hollywood star Tom Cruise has revealed that he only did his own stunts in Mission Impossible 3 after his fiancée Katie Holmes said it was ok!

Actually one of those stories wan't really on Newsround's web site. No prizes for guessing it was the third story about Stephen Gately's civil partnership ceremony last Sunday.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Newsround failing children in a civilized society

Prince Charles said: "The true mark of a civilized society is the respect that it pays to minorities and to strangers."

Ian Prince doesn't recognise the lgbt minority on Newsround. That's not very respectful.

The Equalities Review Panel published its Interim Report this week. They found, amongst other things, that homophobic bullying may well lead to long term disadvantage of lesbian and gay people. This is a topic relevant to Newsround's viewers, but it has never been reported or mentioned on the programme. There has still been no indication that Mr Prince intends to make Newsround meaningfully inclusive of lgbt issues.

This deliberate discrimination goes against the spirit of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Articles 17 & 29), against the "Five Outcomes for Children" recommendations, and it is also contrary to the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (Article 21).

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Cho kiss 'the talk of OOTP film'

The on-screen kiss between Potter stars Dan Radcliffe and Katie Leung is causing quite a stir on the set of the fifth film - Order Of The Phoenix.

Emma Watson, who plays Hermione, told Newsround that the kiss was "the gossip" of the movie.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Yesterday the second story reported on Newsround was about the FIFA attempt to cut racism at football grounds. Newsround has never reported on similar news about what is being done to stem homophobia and homophobic chanting in football grounds (see blog on 24 February 2006 and 5 & 7 March 2006).

On 22 February 2006, I asked a BBC Senior Manager (Alan Yentob) to do something about the discrimination on Newsround and the CBBC message boards. He has not replied and I'm not sure if he's even interested.

When people complain, BBC Information nearly always just make excuses for doing nothing and end their reply with a bit of meaningless nonsense such as: "However, please be assured that the strength of your concerns has been registered and made available to BBC Senior Management."

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Getting Equal

On 13 March 2006 the UK government unveiled its promised proposals to outlaw sexual orientation discrimination in the provision of goods & services.

The government says it has already taken steps to establish "the principle that, in a modern and diverse society, it is not acceptable for someone to be discriminated against because of their sexual orientation." However they also say there is "clear evidence that LGB people are still facing unacceptable discrimination – whether deliberate or inadvertent – in their everyday lives."

Amongst other things the new proposals will make all schools deal properly with homophobic bullying, and if a school fails to deal with homophobic bullying as firmly as any other kind of bullying, for example racist bullying, they would be vulnerable to a claim of discrimination.

"Getting Equal" Proposals - pdf file 374k

I'll probably post more about the proposals another time.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

New CITV Channel

The new children's channel CITV started broadcasting yesterday. At the moment CITV hasn't got any plans for news or current affairs programmes similar to Newsround. I think it's a shame because the channel is missing out on the chance to show how much better it can be than CBBC. And there's plenty of time available to fill with new programmes.

Why not seriously involve young people in making the programmes like they do in some other European countries, instead of as in the UK where we just have the CBBC Newsround Press packers. Innovation and empowerment will cost more, but can pay dividends.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Newsround Blog
Newsround Blog Summary

Too lazy to read the whole blog? Here is a summary of the main points:

Newsround doesn't report any lgbt stories or stories about combatting homophobia and homophobic bullying.

Ian Prince, Editor of Newsround, has been asked to be inclusive for over two years.

Mr Prince believes, contrary to recent studies of homophobia in primary school, that tackling homophobic bullying is better suited to older people in secondary schools. But he said that there is no actual policy against including lgbt news stories.

Despite Mr Prince's emphasis on the age range of his "target audience," the majority of kids who are interviewed or who appeared recently on Newsround are in the secondary school age range. Also the feedback which they receive, quoted on the programme, is often from kids aged 13 to 15.

Newsround has consistently avoided lgbt news stories - even those making national headlines such as the introduction of Civil Partnerships last December. Newsround has also failed to report any initiative to combat homophobia, whether it be homophobic chanting in football stadiums or homophobic bullying at schools.

The BBC Diversity Centre has recently said that diversity should form a substantial element of editorial judgement and that all editors share an obligation to give adequate and meaningful consideration to diversity matters.

So far the Newsround team have given no indication that they intend to change and become inclusive of lgbt young people and issues.

Newsround Blog

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Newsround loves to report sports related stories - there were 24 over the last two weeks on the 5.25pm programme . We know they want to avoid any news about gay people but one day a story might break about a gay sports celebrity which is just too important to ignore.

Twice recently Newsround could have reported on homophobia in football:

Football to boot out homophobic fans -Oct 2005

Spurs issue warning to fans - Feb 2006

But they failed to mention either of these news items. Newsround's prejudiced attitude makes honest reporting of important stories more difficult for the future.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

More on BBC response to Stonewall

A spokesperson for the BBC is reported to have defended the BBC against Stonewall's "Tuned Out" report by saying that the data was collected within a limited timeslot - between 7pm and 10pm on BBC1 and BBC2 - thus excluding "nearly all of the BBC's news and current affairs output."

Newsround is a news and current affairs programme and it's broadcast outside the timeslot investigated by Stonewall. But things are no better at that time either. In fact Newsround is an lgbt-free zone.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

News reports of Stonewall's survey

'Caveman' BBC criticised for homophobia - Telegraph (28 February 2006)

BBC accused of 'institutionalised homophobia' - Independent (1 March 2006)

BBC presenters accused of poking fun at homosexuals - Telegraph (1 March 2006)

The Telegraph report says that the criticism is particularly embarrassing for an organisation that makes great play of its commitment to serving minorities and reflecting "cultural diversity". Which probably explains why the BBC buried the news away on this page about another story:

'Fewer young people' watching TV - BBC News (28 Feb 2006)

The news story ends with a BBC spokeswoman saying: "We feel the notion that gay men and lesbians only receive value for money from the licence fee through seeing direct representation of gay life is misconceived."

But this isn't only about value for money. It's about diversity and fairness. So the BBC should look at each and every point in Stonewall's report and admit honestly where they are at fault.