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.

Monday, August 28, 2006

What is Newsround waiting for?

Last year Anthony Walker, an 18 year old boy was murdered in a barbarous and vicious racist attack. Those responsible for the attack were caught and punished.

On 9 May this year a 15 year old schoolboy was brutally attacked by a gang of about six teenagers. He didn't die, but was badly injured. This wasn't a racist attack - it was a homophobic attack. One of the attackers was recently sent to a young offenders' institution.

Kids are bullied everyday because of their perceived sexuality. Some, like that 15 year old, are physically attacked. This is why education experts agree that homophobia should be tackled before it takes root, and that means at Key Stage 1. Yet what does Newsround say? Nothing at all. That's right, Zero - Zilch - Nada. However you want to put it, Newsround simply refuses to acknowledge the existence of lgbt people, thereby discriminating against them and making them more susceptible to victimization.

Newsround condemns racism. But these days homophobia is also a real problem which needs to be brought out into the open and condemned. It leads to low self-esteem and depression amongst lgbt kids - something the Newsround Extra programme on 'Depression' shown on 13 March failed to mention. And few schools in Britain are free from homophobic language or bullying.

So what is Newsround waiting for? Must a schoolboy or schoolgirl be killed in a homophobic attack first? And even if that happens will Newsround cleanse the report of its significance by not saying why he or she was attacked? Will they continue to invisibilize lgbt people just as they've been doing for years?

How much longer can BBC bigotry continue before someone there has the guts to stand up to it?

Thursday, August 24, 2006

I've written about empowerment in a blog on 9 April 2006. But, if empowerment is to be fair and meaningful then it cannot be that some kids are left invisibilized and thus disempowered.

Maybe there is a glimmer of hope for Newsround. International Left-Handers Day, celebrated on 13 August 2006, was reported on the CBBC website. Left-handed people have traditionally been encouraged to write with their right hand, because that's the way most people do it. Now we recognise that it's naturally easier for some to use their left hand to write, and that's ok also.

Press Packer Ashek is left-handed. Ashek tells us about some of the difficulties he faces and why he loves being different. His report presents left-handedness in a positive way - the same way that all diversity issues should be reported. If this inclusiveness continues, then maybe lgbt stories will soon be covered on Newsround. Let's hope so.

On the other hand the daily gossip page on Newsround's website still avoids lgbt stories. Yesterday, for example, they could have reported that Robbie Williams thinks that Louis Walsh fancies him.

Or they could have reported that Duncan James said he was bullied and called 'gay' at school, so he wants to help with an anti-bullying campaign. But as usual they said nothing.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The mouths of babes and infants

Tonight Channel 4 screened a documentary called "Secret Life of the Classroom" which was about the reception class in an infant school in Bath.

Two girls talking - one explained to her friend that when two girls marry that's called gay. Those infants probably had more sense than the homophobes in charge at the BBC who discriminate against lgbt people and treat 'gay' like a four letter word.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Bare all survey of 30,000

A new survey aimed at 16-24 year olds and carried out as a joint initiative between Radio 1, 1Xtra, MTV and Durex indicates that the number of people identifying as lgb is a little higher than the estimate of 6% used in my blog on 29 December 2005. One question asked was "how do you define your sexuality?"

The options given were 'heterosexual', 'homosexual', 'bisexual' and 'experimented'. Ignoring the 'experimented' category, the results show that a total of 9% of men and 7% of women identified as homosexual or bisexual - averaging as 8% of the population identify as lgb.

Some people are unsure of their sexual orientation until they're in their teens, but many people know years earlier and, as the BBC is aware, crushes are common in primary school. Andrew Hayden-Smith, the former children's tv presenter said he must have been five when he realised he was gay.

So based on a figure of 8% I've recalculated the chances of lgb kids in a class of 30. As can be seen, the chances of zero lgb kids in a class of 30 is less than 1 in 10 - in fact, based on this latest survey, it's slightly more likely that at least five kids in a class of 30 will be lesbian, gay or bisexual.

Percentage chance of N kids in a school class of 30 being lesbian, gay or bisexual

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has pointed out that "groups which tend to be most discriminated against are also likely to have poorer health than the rest of the population," and that "these health inequalities have an impact on opportunities for these groups to improve their lives."

CBBC has gone out of its way to cater for straight kids and encourages primary school romance and dating with a programme called Crush. Now it should put an end to the discrimination and recognise lgb kids as well.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Creative Future or Destructive Future

Kids & Teens

All children's output including radio, online and learning will eventually be consolidated under the CBeebies and CBBC brands which will be given tighter audiences targets – up to 6 and 7 to 11 years respectively.

Create a broadband based teen brand aimed at 12 to 16 years, including a high volume drama, comedy, music and factual content.

So believes Mark Thompson, as part of his Creative Future initiative. But the technology available to most people at present simply isn't up to it, and experts say TV quality pictures from the internet will need at least 8Mbit/s. However the BBC has already started to implement the age limitation policy on CBBC - leaving teens without programmes. Newsround received lots of complaints when it was announced that Byker Grove would be axed (see blog 13 May 2006).

Creative Future has narrowed the target age of CBBC so that it now aims at 7-11 age group. But why narrow this age range? Was the reason to avoid dealing with the full range of diversity issues? I think that is part of what Creative Future has become. With two children's tv channels it's strange that there isn't enough time to broadcast programmes for teens as well. Two channels for ages 0 to 11?? Not every family has the internet by a long way.

The BBC teens website is only for girls at the moment, and also it's full of old-fashioned gender stereotyping.

It was always about the digital age and the internet - but it was also a catchall policy. What easier excuse to avoid making the transition to an inclusive childrens tv? It would be a great pity to lose Newsround. Rather better to bite the bullet and make Newsround an inclusive and diverse friendly programme, and the flagship children's programme of a new 21st century BBC.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Newsround - soon to be a victim of Creative Future?

Byker Grove was an early victim of Creative Future (see blog 10 June 2006). But will the BBC's catchall policy also be responsible for the demise of Newsround?

Rather than see Newsround become an inclusive and diverse-friendly programme some at the BBC would prefer to bin it.

The BBC is a homophobic organisation in its management ethos, and probably has been since John Reith founded it in the last century. Reith was known for his strict Presbyterian values - although his diaries indicate he was something of a hypocrite.

Today also, people at the helm make no secret of their religious beliefs. Both the director-general Mark Thompson and his deputy Mark Byford are known for their Catholicism. David Cox says, in a New Statesman article, Mark Thompson is a deeply religious man who attends a traditionalist church every Sunday.

More soon about Creative Future.

Friday, August 11, 2006


Newsround's website reports that Justin Timerlake's song SexyBack has taken top download spot in this week's chart.

Here's the video. But why not sing along too? This is how it starts:

[Verse 1]
I'm bringing sexy back
Them other boys don't know how to act
I think you're special what's behind your back
So turn around and I'll pick up the slack.

Take em' to the bridge

Dirty babe
You see these shackles
Baby I'm your slave
I'll let you whip me if I misbehave
It's just that no one makes me feel this way

As for the other verses, well .....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Gay kids in school have a difficult enough time as it is. To have their thoughts invisibilised is a tough thing to have to go through. If you are straight you identify with David and Victoria Beckham or Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz etc, and read all the celebrity gossip on Newsround's website. And if you are gay and watch Newsround, then what?

As reported earlier in this blog, Newsround's former editor believes that homophobic bullying isn't a topic that should be covered for the "target audience." It could better be left to later. But academic research has established that this kind of homophobia occurs at all ages, including Key Stage 1 where it often starts.

An example of bullying in primary school is what happened to Damilola Taylor who was 10 when he was murdered.

Damilola's father last chatted to his son on the internet. "He was telling me he was being bullied in the class. He was being harassed. He was being called names. ...I was shocked when my wife told me on the phone that the headmaster just brushed her off with a statement that it is a usual thing in the school and that the situation will normalise after some time."

Damilola's mother, Gloria Taylor, spoke of how bullies had been threatening Damilola. "The bullies told him that he was gay. He came home and asked me what gay meant. ..I told his teachers but they wouldn't listen."

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Tim Levell returns

Tim Levell has returned to the BBC as editor of Newsround. He was largely responsible for launching Newsround's website in 2001, and had previously worked on the programme as a reporter, producer and director. Tim is keen on blogs and Newsround has just started a presenters' blog page.

Tim seems quite a bit younger than his predecessor, so hopefully he'll be a bit more in tune with the times and try to do more to make Newsround diverse friendly and inclusive.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Superman Returns

What is this review doing on Newsround's website?

Have they forgotten what Creative Future is about? Superman Returns is certificate 12A, and that means that it's too grown-up for CBBC's target audience of 7-11 year olds.

Remember, Newsround .... Nothing higher than PG rated films in future.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Sexuality - What sexuality?

Complain to the BBC that Newsround ignores lgbt news and issues and they reply: Sexuality is not within the remit of CBBC.

Fair enough - SEX might not be within CBBC's remit, but lgbt news and issues aren't sex any more than the endless stream of heterosexual gossip is sex.

Here are some of Newsround's daily update gossip stories from the last few days:

Justin Timberlake has said he was infatuated with his ex-girlfriend Britney Spears during their relationship. The couple, who were childhood sweethearts, split up four years ago.

Lilly Allen says that her single Smile is based on getting over a break up. The 21-year-old singer is suffering the pain of a broken heart, after splitting with her boyfriend of two years.

England football star Rio Ferdinand has become a dad! His girlfriend gave birth to a baby boy yesterday and he even missed training to be at the hospital with her. They've called him Lorenz - ah!

Orlando Bloom apparently won't part with a toy figure of his girlfriend, Superman Returns star Kate Bosworth.

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

A model of two-month-old baby Shiloh Nouvel Jolie-Pitt has gone on display at Madame Tussauds in New York. The little girl, born in May to parents Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt, is the first figure there to be made without wax.

She may already know how to act, but singer Beyonce had to be shown how to kiss - actor style - for her upcoming film Dreamgirls. Her very first screen kiss with co-star Jamie Foxx, was made easier with the help of her acting coach, she said.

According to reports, Hollywood couple Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes will tie the knot in late summer or early autumn. A spokesman for the pair also confirmed that the wedding will take place at one of Cruise's properties.

If rumours are to believed, Girls Aloud singer Nadine Coyle's boyfriend, hunky Hollywood actor Jesse Metcalfe, has proposed to her - and she has said yes! Watch this space...

Superman Three actress Kate Bosworth got a ticking-off in pubic from her boyfriend Orlando Bloom - for dropping some litter at a rock festival. Shame!

Robbie Williams has been turned down by the latest lady to catch his eye. He wanted to work with Lily Allen on his new album, but Lily said no because she says Robbie, 32, is too old!

Kerry Katona is rumoured to be getting married to her cab driver boyfriend soon.

Top of the Pops may be over but presenters Fearne Cotton and Reggie Yates are sticking together for a while longer. They've been lined up to present the weekend breakfast show on Radio 1.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

My previous blog entry was about a story on Newsround's celeb gossip daily update page.

Here is another of yesterday's celeb gossip stories:

DJ delight

Radio 1 breakfast host Chris Moyles must be on top of the world. The number of people listening to his show over the past three months has risen to 6.79m - that's 530,000 up on last year.

Must be because of all the publicity Moyles received when BBC governors said he had not breached BBC editorial guidelines by describing a ringtone as 'gay'.

Of course news like that, or any other news about homophobia, would never be reported on Newsround.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Today's gossip on Newsround's celeb gossip:

Love match?

Stars In Their Eyes host Cat Deeley has been dating Titanic actor Leonardo Di Caprio, according to reports. The pair have been spotted hanging out in Hollywood. Apparently, he likes her English accent.

Could this be true? Rumours that Cat Deeley is a lesbian have been around for years. But rumours are just rumours, and aren't necessarily true.

What is true is that if Cat Deeley had been dating a woman the story would not have been reported on CBBC's Newsround website. No way.

It was the same when Billie Piper told a magazine that she fancied women and men. Not reported anywhere on Newsround's website despite them having loads of pages about her and her role in Dr Who.

More soon...

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Newsround's editorial judgment

Newsround had a presspack report about the danger of jumping off piers and cliffs into the sea. They were very silly to report it, and then give it a name, as if knowing it is commonly practiced will discourage kids. Of course it might well have the opposite effect. And the same remarks are applicable to this report in 2004. Hardly surprising mobile phone crime and bullying have caught on so much, is it?

In a kids' news programme you have to make editorial judgments as to whether the stories are suitable for transmission. Newsround made the judgment that broadcasting stories which could spread ideas with harmful consequences is ok to do. But broadcasting stories to alleviate homophobia - widespread in primary and secondary schools - is something Newsround has never been prepared to do.

Surely they've got things 100% wrong.