Saturday, April 29, 2006

I don't usually have a good word to say about The Sun, but I think their exposé of Luiz Felipe Scolari in yesterday's edition was excellent. Readers were informed not only about his reliance on astrology and witchcraft but also about his homophobic views which led to protests by the gay community in Brazil.

Today on Sportsround Jake Humphrey reported: Until teatime yesterday it looked certain that Luiz Felipe Scolari would be the next England football coach. This is the man who took Brazil to the last world cup and of course got Portugal to the final of Euro 2004. He would have taken over from Sven after the summer, and as far as I'm concerned I think that would have been a fantastic appointment.

Well yes Jake, if you don't mind a bigot in charge then Scolari would be a fine choice. But these days decent people are against prejudice and homophobia, so when they found out that Scolari had once ruled out having gays in his football team, it was enough to rule him out of the job. The FA is doing its best to fight against prejudice in sport, and they're well rid of the likes of Luiz Felipe Scolari.

On Thursday, the day before The Sun report, Newsround had made his appointment their main news item. The programme included a short interview with Gary Lineker who said he was surprised at the news. He said Yes Scolari won the World Cup, but it was with Brazil and his granny could probably do the same with the Brazil team.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

I admit it again - I was wrong. There is one message thread about a gay issue on a Newsround message board. But I think that's about it. In December civil partnerships were an important news item. Eventually the board moderators realised they couldn't reasonably prevent posts on the topic, so they decided they would allow one thread through and no more.

At least that's my theory. Anyone under 16 years old can test my theory now by posting feedback on a different thread. Here's an idea. Go to the Newsround feedback forum and attempt to start a thread called "Why no gay issues on Newsround?"

Here's another idea. Why not join in this discussion about racism in football with a reply also mentioning homophobia in the sport.

When you're successful report back, and everyone will know that CBBC is not quite as bad as I thought.

Football Association video on reporting homophobia.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

BBC Royal Charter

Today the Queen visited BBC Broadcasting House in London to commemorate the 80th anniversary of its Royal Charter. It's a good day to remember Lord Reith, the BBC's founder and first director general.

John Reith's prudish values had a lasting effect on the BBC as his ethos is still in evidence in the 21st century. In private Reith, although married, had a crush on a younger man named Charlie Bowser.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I just looked at the Newsround What's In The News forum. Looks like I've been wrong in some of the things I've said previously about the Newsround message boards because I noticed a message thread called "gay marriges" and I thought everything "gay" had been censored. The thread dates back to January 2006, a few weeks after civil partnerships were introduced in Britain.

So that's good news. But some problems remain. Newsround itself did not report civil partnerships and hasn't reported any other gay related news or news about fighting homophobia. And we also know that a message asking for help about being gay was removed recently (see blog for 7 April). I'm still waiting to see what Cyril Husbands from the BBC Diversity Centre has to say about that.

{Note - the thread link will become broken over time}

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Newsround feedback

Newsround often asks viewers to email their comments on issues. A few kids get their emails read out on the programme, along with their age, and after a while it is clear that the majority of emails read out are from kids aged 12 and over. Similar results can be seen on Newsround's website feedback.

Age chart - based on 160 replies

A study of the ages of 160 people replying to three different issues indicates that most are from 13 year olds - ie older than than the "target audience." The chart shows the percentage of replies at the ages on the horizontal axis. The data were taken from pages about the Muslim dress ban, the Grand National and JK Rowling's comments.

Feedback is not necessarily representative of the age breakdown of Newsround's viewers, but it does confirm that younger children are much less likely to contact the programme. This calls into question the idea of reliance on feedback from viewers as a means of setting editorial policy. Also the CBBC Newsround feedback forum, as with all CBBC forums, is censored and this prevents kids from reading what others have to say about certain issues relevant to them.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Newsround's claim to be child-led, in-touch and relevant is doubtful. The programme does sometimes seek expert advice, but only to questions about their own reporting agenda - whether it be Iraq war coverage or concerns about the spread of bird flu. Furthermore, the claim that Newsround empowers children is false.

The reality of 21st century Britain, including an understanding of diversity, equality and inclusiveness has eluded Newsround's editor, who still seems stuck some time in the last century. Newsround does not empower kids - it patronises them and accedes to the wishes of a small number of prudish or prejudiced parents.

Ian Prince says that the programme prefers to take less account of adults, and that it's more likely to respond to emails from an eight year old - the target audience being aged 8-12.

But a study of responses to the programme and its website indicates that eight year olds are much less likely to contact the programme than older kids. In fact the chances of a distressed eight year old being brave enough to email Newsround about homophobic language at school, or anything else, will be small. Bullying surveys show that "gay" is very commonly used as an insult in primary schools, and Mr Prince is foolish to say that it's best to wait before this kind of bullying is combatted. His attitude indicates a disregard of the evidence and expert opinion.

If Newsround is to truly empower kids it must commit itself to fair reporting, and that means it must deal with all kinds of discrimination.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Yesterday's press packer web page report was about the fun to be had in the army cadets. So Newsround thinks it's okay to learn about weapons, shooting and warfare.

In connection with Newsround's reporting of the Iraq War, Ian Prince wrote about the programme's objectives and values which, he claimed, they aim to incorporate in all their broadcasting:

We aim to find and deliver news that matters to children in a way that is interesting, engaging and easy to understand.

We aim to equip children to handle their lives better by giving them the information they need about the world around them, in the way that they want.

Newsround values: child-led first-class journalism, in-touch, reliable, creative, approachable, relevant, clear, entertaining, empowers children and furthers understanding.

Friday, April 07, 2006

That CBBC message which I wrote about on 27 March 2006 - "Help I'm gay" - that message (and its 16 replies) which had been removed, was renamed to "Help" and the message was replaced with "[SEE HOST MESSAGE BELOW]". None of the replies was allowed through.

You can see what's left of the thread here. {Note this link will eventually expire}

I emailed Cyril Husbands about this on 28 March and requested that he look into it in detail from the point of view of diversity and inclusiveness.

The CBBC host reply:

You sound like you need to talk to someone about what you are going through at the moment. You could talk to a family member, a friend, a teacher. If there is no one you feel you can speak to it may help to talk to the -

Samaritans on their Helpline: 08457 90 90 90 which is local rates,

You may want to check out the helpline Childline -

You can also check out our ‘Your Life’ webpage for advice -

Try to speak to someone as soon as possible. It might surprise you how much better it feels when you share a problem.


I don't know why they put a link to the "Your Life" webpage because there isn't any advice about being gay, or anything else about sexuality on those pages.

The Samaritans contact info might be helpful as a last resort. The organisation was started by Chad Varah after the suicide of a girl who was worried that her periods were a sexual disease and did not have proper advice, nor feel able to talk to her parents about it.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Facts of life

I think it's time to stop shielding parents from some important facts of life:

1} Children sometimes have crushes at the age of five or six, others don't get these feelings until a few years later. (On Valentines Day Newsround's website asked at what age should kids start dating, with age 7 as a possibility)

2} Belief in Santa and the tooth fairy will not prevent young people experiencing crushes.

3} Some children will have crushes on members of the same sex.

4} Hearing lgbt news will not alter the sexual orientation of a single child.

5} Overprotective parents risk alienating children when they get older, and children could be psychologically harmed by homophobic parents

If Newsround can talk about things getting "pretty steamy" between Harry Potter and his girlfriend (see blog - 31 December 2005), then it can report lgbt news as well.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Newsround is supposed to be a factual programme which reflects the diversity of news and current affairs for young people. How much longer can the editor of Newsround pretend that there aren't people with same sex attractions, and that homophobia is irrelevant?

Ian Prince has asserted that there is no policy barring lgbt-relevant news, but there is now overwhelming evidence that his claim is meaningless.

A recent study in Australia found that the most important contribution to the health and well-being of lgbt people is likely to be increased acceptance of their lives, their relationships and of the positive contribution they make to society. The study suggests that public education should address the problems of heterosexism, homophobia and homophobic abuse. Another study, in Northern Ireland, found that the mental health of gay and bisexual men was adversely affected by difficulties in accepting their sexuality, the shortage of people who understood what they were going through, and homophobia in society. The level of depression was manifest as self-harm and a high number of suicide attempts.

On 13 March 2006 Newsround Extra dealt with depression without discussing the special problems for lgbt young people, and the Newsround programme continues to discriminate.