Monday, May 29, 2006

The graph on yesterday's blog is derived from the 'coming out' page on the BBC experimental prototype catalogue. Although not the full database, this public catalogue indicates that, in the last ten or eleven years, there has been an overall decline in 'coming out' information for young lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

A programme transmitted on 12 December 1999 as part of the 'Sort It' series was catalogued with this description:

Series tackles issues of interest to young people with practical advice on problems. Today's prog deals with bullying, racism, bereavement, and the problems of "coming out" in the classroom. Arbitration item on bunk beds.

ITEM 01: DRAMA-RACISM/BULLYING: drama showing how a boy suffers from bullying and racism at school. Viewers have the chance to ring up and decide the end to the drama's dilemma. (dur 04m35s) ITEM 03: GAY KIDS: Serious film about the problems of "coming out" in the classroom. (dur 04m08s) ITEM 04: ARBITRATION: READING IN BUNK BEDS: Dispute between Victoria & Samantha Foulds, with panel's discussion and verdict. ITEM 05: BEREAVEMENT: Friends Helen & Hannah discuss. (dur 01m38s)

Many important advances in lgbt equality have occurred this century: The age of consent is equal. Section 28 is no more. Gay people have legally recognised partnerships and can adopt children together. We have employment equality with legal protection against discrimination at work. And it's planned to outlaw discrimination in the supply of goods and services this autumn.

But whilst all these changes have happened, Newsround has become less inclusive, not more.

Newsround's website has only one relevant story, and that dates back more than four years to March 2002, when Will Young came out.

Two days later Newsround's website reported that Will's double A-side single was still a massive seller "despite revelations this week that he's gay." It continued "Some people in the music biz were worried this would hit his record sales, but it hasn't at all."

Of course the problems of homophobic language and bullying have been ignored by Newsround for ages. I think it's time to call in 'Newsround Investigates.'

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Why was Byker Grove axed? Richard Deverell's interview on Newsround earlier this month (see blog for 13 May 2006) left some questions to be answered.

Was it anything to do with the BBC's increasing non-inclusiveness towards lgbt young people, I wondered? After all the storyline with Bradley coming out to Sadie might have ruffled a few homophobic feathers at the BBC. And then in the last series we saw him happily dating another boy. Was all this just a bit too much?

No, rest assured, says Mr Deverell, it has nothing to do with gay relationships or any of the other issues portrayed in the drama. It was - as we said in the press release - because we felt it was not targeted at the core audience of 6-12 year olds.

He didn't say if the BBC is happy and willing to see gay relationships portrayed or discussed on CBBC, but judging from the number of programmes about 'coming out' the BBC is now less inclusive for young lgbt people than it was last century.

Relative number of 'coming out' programmes from 1970 to 2006 Original .png file covered 1930-2006

Thursday, May 25, 2006

All this Newsround interest in Dr Who:

Dr Who Specials
Rise of the Cybermen
The Age of Steel

...and much more. But no interview with Andrew Hayden-Smith? What's up?

Andrew is a CBBC presenter and he played Jake in the latest episodes of Dr Who. You would think he was an ideal subject for an interview about his role. Maybe they were worried he might say a bit too much about the interpretation of his relationship with Ricky, who was killed in episode 6 - The Age of Steel. Probably just one more example of prejudice.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

What do you think about Newsround's new look?

Speaking for myself, I don't care one way or the other about any cosmetic changes Newsround has or hasn't made to its studio, theme music and website. What the programme really needs is a change to bring it into the 21st century. And that won't begin to happen until Newsround becomes inclusive of lgbt issues and people.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

International Day Against Homophobia

Today is the second International Day Against Homophobia. People are still beaten up or persecuted because of their sexual orientation.

A few weeks ago I was taken to task by someone on a message board when I argued against endemic BBC "homophobia". I was told, that describing it as homophobia was "a crime because it desensitizes us to true homophobia which ruins innocent lives and reinforces ignorant prejudice." But I think that we need to challenge homophobia at all levels - a policy of zero tolerance. And as Stonewall has noticed, low level homophobia is endemic in the BBC.

Why has Newsround failed to report on homophobic bullying and efforts to stamp it out? Why didn't it report the Football Association's work to combat homophobia in the sport or Spurs' initiative to stop homophobic chanting? Why was there no mention of civil partnerships? Why is all lgbt news filtered out? Why is "gay" a four letter word on CBBC message boards? Why did a BBC DJ big up a homophobic hate musician last month?

The BBC has a lot of questions to answer.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Richard Deverell, head of CBBC interviewed by Ellie on 12 May 2006

Newsround's entry for the Prix Jeunesse 2006 may have failed to garner any support for prizes this week, but yesterday Newsround demonstrated just how relevant a programme it can be. Richard Deverell, head of CBBC was brought in to explain the decision to axe Byker Grove.

Ellie, who usually presents the programme, put viewers' questions to Richard. But as we've seen previously, most of the feedback Newsround receives is from secondary school aged people.

CBBC head defends Byker decision

I'll have more to say about the interview later.

Report and interview in full

Ellie: Why is it over for Byker Grove? We put your questions to the boss at CBBC.

Yesterday on Newsround we told you how after 17 years the Geordie drama is coming to a close. The next series is going to be the last one ever. One reason for the decision is that CBBC wants to focus more on shows aimed at younger children of primary school age.

Well since yesterday so many of you have emailed us to say how upset and angry you are about Byker going that we've brought in the head of CBBC, Richard Deverell to answer some of your points.

Richard, thanks for coming in. We've had so many emails about this - people saying how important Byker Grove was to them.

Nicola says Byker Grove is useful for younger children. She says it deals with issues like bullying and relationships so it's educational. And Max says surely the BBC needs more shows that relate how hard teenage life is, not less. What do you say to them?

Richard: Well I agree with Nicola and Max. I think it's very important that we cover those subjects, and we will continue to cover those subjects both in our existing shows such as Tracy Beaker and Grange Hill, but also of course we've got a number of exciting new projects in the pipeline.

Several people have also picked up on this idea of CBBC going for a more primary school audience. Mark says "so now there'll be CBeebies for toddlers, CBBC for primary school children, BBC for adults. Where does that leave us teens?"

Well, he's right. I think there is a gap there for teenagers, particularly for the 12-16 year olds and actually the BBC has recognised this and they've announced that they're going to launch some new services aimed at exactly that age group. So hopefully in the near future you'll see some services and programmes aimed exactly at the people that he describes.

And what about other shows? Things like Grange Hill, a similar kind of age to Byker Grove. Is that going to go as well?

No. I think, you know, it's important to keep the programmes fresh, we can't keep programmes forever. Having said that, there are no plans to change Grange Hill.

Are you sad that Byker Grove's going?

I am. It's been around a very long time. It's launched some great careers, some fantastically talented people and some great stories. But we felt it was the right time to end it. We wanted to make sure that all the shows on CBBC were right for that 6-12 year old audience. And of course we needed to end some shows in order to be able to launch new ones.

And also Luke has emailed us from Newcastle saying "I'm gutted Byker Grove is finishing. Not only is it a great teen drama, but also a pillar of Newcastle's culture. Is there going to be anything else coming from the North East to replace it?"

There will be. We are determined to maintain our commitment to the North East. I hope that, maybe not next year but the year after, we will absolutely be doing a drama or some other major production based in the North East.

Lovely, thanks for joining us today Richard.

And we'll keep you posted of course with news about what's going to replace Byker Grove as soon as we get it.

Monday, May 08, 2006

BBC Statements of Programme Policy 2006/2007

Last week the BBC published its Statements of Programme Policy 2006/2007.

Under the Accountability heading we read: "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."

So I was also interested to see that "All newly submitted programme proposals have a diversity statement attached highlighting how, where appropriate, the programme will fulfil the BBC’s commitment to reflecting the diversity of the licence fee paying public, both on and off screen. We will continue to assess how effectively this enables us to deliver against our pledge."

But someone had pointed out to me that sexual orientation, unlike race, religion, age, sex and other diversity strands was not mentioned anywhere in the 106 page document. I wanted to know if the 'diversity statement' should equally take account of sexual orientation.

With the section on BBC accountability fresh in mind, but also mindful of Stonewall's Tuned Out report and also my own concerns about Newsround as detailed in this blog, I emailed the BBC on 3 May 2006 to see if they can confirm that the diversity statement does indeed refer to sexual orientation as well as the other forms of diversity listed in the BBC document.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Internet only Press Pack TV was launched on Friday 5 May, coincidentally the very same day that the five day long Prix Jeunesse Festival began in Munich. The Newsround team is hoping to scoop a prize in the 7-11 non-fiction section with its offering of the Newsround Extra programme about Islam. And, of course, 'Newsround Investigates' begins on Monday.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The first UK nationwide newspaper for children is out today. The front page story features David Beckham and other celebrities wishing the paper well.

First News will be on sale every Friday. Its news coverage is in some ways similar to the stories covered on Newsround. The first issue has 24 pages covering sports, school, tv, and interesting stories from home and around the world. There is a news feature on kids' rights which deals with the basics of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Other sections in the first edition include the environment, animal news, showbiz, star interviews, local elections explained, science, gadget ratings, books and programmes to watch out for. Newsround's special investigation into arson at school receives a recommendation.

The newspaper makes good use of colour and includes jokes, games, puzzles and competitions.

Newsround-Bias.Blogspot rating 7/10 - maybe higher in future weeks if First News does a little more to empower kids in a way that Newsround has singularly failed to do.