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.