Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Gay or lesbian swan

Lizo was presenting Newsround on Friday 10 November. The fifth story that day asked what people look for in a girlfriend, before talking about a swan called Peter who seems to have fallen for a large swan shaped pedalo boat.

Now have a look at the web report of the story. Someone responsible for the webpage must have decided that the much larger "swan" looks rather masculine so must be a boy swan. And that means Peter must obviously be a girl swan. After all, gay swans are no more welcome on Newsround than any stories about gay animals or gay humans. Newsround does, however, like to report stories about animals falling head over heels in love with inanimate objects such as petrol pumps.

Newsround stories

Newsround has covered around 540 stories on the weekday CBBC1 programmes between Wednesday 14 June - Friday 13 October 2006. The stories are broken down into eight categories:

Main news 15.8%
Kids/school news 15.4%
Sports news 19.1%
Celeb,music,films arts 20.8%
Environmental,climate 13.8%
Animals 6.6%
Sci/tech 5.7%
Other 2.8%

Stories about, or touching on 'bullying'- 30 June, 25 July (cyberbullying)
29 August (ChildLine), 14 September (animal bullying behaviour)

None of the programmes mentioned lgbt issues. As a result the ChildLine story was misreported.

Newsround-bias blog hopes that Michael Grade will ensure that ITV remains forward-looking and inclusive.

Monday, November 27, 2006

The British Academy Children's Film and Television Awards have been announced.

Here a some of the winners:



DRAMA: The Giblet Boys - CiTV

PRESENTER: Holly Willoughby - CiTV

All the winners are highlighted in bold on BAFTA's website

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Nipping prejudice in the bud

Anti-Bullying Week has finished, but that doesn't mean we can just forget about bullying for another year. And it's not just kids who get bullied. The National Union of Teachers believe that a fifth of primary and two thirds of secondary school teachers experience sexist bullying. Sexist jokes and put-downs make female pupils feel degraded too, the NUT said.

Look no further than TMi, the Saturday morning CBBC programme for kids. On 28 October 2006 we heard Caroline and Sam thinking out loud. Caroline wanted to please Sam and wondered how to impress him. "I know, I'll get my bongos out" she thought, before putting a pair of bongos on her lap. Sam looked round at her and thought "nice bongos." Yes, Caroline did get a real pair of bongos out, but the sexism involved was obvious and deliberate.

Last Wednesday I wrote about a teacher forced from his job because of prejudice. Tony Green believed that only visibility would help reduce the problems of homophobia. He can be seen in the video School Matters: Challenging Homophobia.

The government has launched plans to tackle prejudice-based bullying in schools, but CBBC isn't helping by allowing programmes to make sexist jokes, and by Newsround invisibilising lgbt people. Today on TMi a question from a young viewer asking Lil Chris if he was single was followed up by Caroline asking what kind of ladies Chris liked. Teachers are told not to make assumptions about a person's sexual orientation, and nor should CBBC.

CBBC and Newsround could do much more to nip prejudice in the bud.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Bullying: "being left out"

Last Monday was the start of Anti-Bullying Week. What has bullying got to do with Newsround, you might ask. A clue to understanding the answer can be seen in this teachers' video from 6mins 30secs into the recording until 7mins 10secs.

The boy in the white T-shirt says "Being left out is probably a more common type of bullying because like bullying isn't always so huge like some people put it out as." In other words "being left out" or excluded is a form of bullying.

Newsround won't have anything to do with reporting about gay people, families or relationships. But they're happy giving ample time to reports about heterosexual people and families. Take, for instance, the wedding of Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise last weekend:
Katie and Tom
Tom and Katie set for wedding
Tom and Katie's guests arrive
Tom and Katie celebrate wedding
Katie and Tom's wedding
Tom and Katie go on honeymoon

Tony Green, a gay teacher forced from his teaching job in London because of homophobia said: We've got to get through this "You're gay, and that tells me all I need to know about you." And only visibility can do that.

But far from helping, BBC kids' programmes are silent on lgbt issues, thereby making gay people invisible to children. From the comfort and safety of their Television Centre offices the programme makers plan children's programmes with deliberate unconcern for those kids and teachers who have to deal with homophobia and homophobic bullying every day of their lives. The Children's Commissioner has at last reiterated what others have been saying - that bullying must be picked up at an early stage.

In a short video specially made for Anti-Bullying Week, Stephen Williams MP says it's more difficult for gay kids at school and explains why action is needed against homophobic bullying.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Harry Potter is featured on Newsround's website again today - and as usual they've mentioned his kissing scene. If Harry had been gay, I doubt Newsround would give any time to the films - kissing or no kissing.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Anti-Bullying Week

"Aggressive and demeaning language, e.g. homophobic or sexist language, can erode the protective ethos of a school and needs to be challenged," says the Children's Commissioner in a report about bullying published today. And he also confirms what I have been trying to get through to Newsround for some time: homophobic abuse starts at an early age. His report says that it is more difficult to change the behaviour of older than younger children, and that engaging with children and young people in understanding and tackling the culture of homophobic and sexist language is crucial.

Jim Knight MP, the schools minister said today that there should be a zero tolerance approach to bullying, and it's clear to sensible people that the BBC governors made a huge mistake when they condoned homophobic language on BBC programmes, especially where those programmes are aimed at a young audience.

Both the Children's Commissioner and CBBC Newsround have drawn attention to the problem of Islamophobic bullying, which has increased greatly since the terrorist attacks in New York and London. But Newsround has done absolutely nothing at all to raise awareness of the problems of bias- or hate-bullying inasmuch as this affects lgbt kids.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Ofcom flexes its muscles to protect kids' health

Commercial broadcasters will lose a big source of revenue when the ban on targeting tv junk food adverts at under 16's comes into effect next year. Ofcom has demonstrated its concern for the health of young people, and these concerns outweigh worries about the possibility of many independent tv companies being forced out of business.

Ofcom has so far only addressed the physical health of kids: fatty foods leading to obesity, salty foods - a cause of high blood pressure and strokes and sugary foods causing dental decay, obesity and diabetes.

But what are Ofcom doing about the emotional well-being of kids? Shouldn't broadcasters also have a duty to ensure that they aren't harming the mental health of children? The BBC has been deliberately discriminating against lgbt kids for years, and discrimination is known to be a cause of health problems (see blog on 18 August 2006.)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the mass media ensure that kids have access to information and material of social and cultural benefit from a diversity of national and international sources in order to help promote social, spiritual and moral well-being, and physical and mental health.

But by broadcasting thousands of kids' programmes portraying exclusively heterosexual relationships, the significant minority of young people who aren't heterosexual are being ignored completely and the BBC is flouting these kids' rights, adding to their social isolation, as well as being a contributory factor in the already severe problem of homophobic bullying in primary and secondary schools.

With Ofcom's advertising ban, children's physical health might improve. Independent tv companies will disappear and the BBC will gain an even bigger share of young audiences. Ofcom should also ensure that broadcasters are mindful of the emotional well-being of kids, and that means requiring broadcasters be fully inclusive.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Lizzie wasn't pleased with the Mike Newell's comments about female football officials. In her blog on Tuesday afternoon she wrote:

Next-up was a piece about Mike Newell for today's CBBC 1 Newsround. He's the Luton Town manager who outrageously said women shouldn't be allowed to referee men's football matches. As you can probably tell I think he's out of order. He has apologised for his comments but I'm not impressed.

But although Luton Town's manager comments were worse than Lizzie says, Newsround still asked kids to vote (see my blog 14 November) on whether he was right.

Lizzie should be just as annoyed with her own colleagues who put the vote on Newsround's webpage.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

BBC answers

I have received a reply to my questions (blog 9 November) about the "Impartiality Summit." It seems that it was advertised beforehand on the BBC Governors' website. Therefore it was not a secret summit as the Mail had suggested. I'm told a report on the summit, with full transcript, will be published next year. So it still remains to be explained why Mark Thompson chose to answer criticisms in the Mail - the source of the initial misinformation. And why did BBC News fail to pick up on it?

We will just have to wait till next year to find out what was said about the BBC bias against lgbt people.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Continuing with the boyband theme in Sunday's blog, Westlife topped the singles chart again this week. Ever wondered about how long it'll be before Mark Feehily gets married? Newsround did in 2003. But I doubt CBBC will be giving us any more news or comment about Mark's romantic life for a little while yet.

It's also time to stop all the misogyny on CBBC. I've mentioned some problems on TMi before, but what about Newsround. Luton Town's manager made some ridiculous sexist remarks about women football officials. He later apologised. But Newsround's webpage quoted the remarks and asked kids to vote on whether he was right about what he said. Of course if the remark had been made not against women, but against another group of people, Newsround wouldn't have asked the question.

Next Monday, 20 November 2006, is the start of Anti-Bullying Week. This year's theme is the bystander.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

No one ever made me keep my sexuality a secret, Aaron Buckingham told Attitude magazine this August, and quoted in today's Observer.

But during an interview two years ago for Newsround, and in reply to a question about favourite teachers, he said:

I had a massive crush on my drama teacher, so much so that all my friends used to play tricks on me like give her love notes and stuff. Anything to do with drama I was there constantly - like after-school clubs, every show every year just so I could hang out with her!

So was he fibbing or telling the truth? What is certain is that loads of kids pretend to have crushes on the opposite sex in order to avoid homophobia and bullying. It's equally certain that if Aaron had told Newsround he had a crush on a male drama teacher Newsround's webpage would never have printed his reply.

Newsround is an active participant in discrimination, and in that sense they're no better than school bullies.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Oops! Britney and Kevin split up. Nicely put. Let's see if Newsround reports Britney's marriage number 3 as conscientiously as marriage number 2. But if her next relationship is with Katie Melua then I'm doubtful Newsround's audience would be kept in the loop.

Regular readers know that Newsround's news reporting isn't impartial - it's totally biased against lgbt people. That's why I'm so interested in the BBC's "impartiality summit" which was reported in the press last month (see blogs 24-26 October 2006). I want to know exactly what, if anything, was said about the BBC discrimination against lgbt people, revealed in a Stonewall report and also by this Newsround blog. All we do know is that some senior figures believe there are too many gays in the organisation.

Helen Boaden, Director of BBC News, claims the summit wasn’t secret and her statement was echoed a few days later by Mark Thompson, the BBC's Director-General. In an article for the Mail group of newspapers Mr Thompson wrote that the seminar was open to external participants and far from being secret, it was streamed live on the internet. I wanted to know when and where details of the summit were made available to the public. I'm still awaiting a reply to these questions.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Newsround's celebrity news and gossip

Britney and Kevin are in the news again today. Newsround has a great celeb goss page, updated daily. It's been dutifully keeping us posted with the goss on Britney, Kevin and family over the past few months:

Premiere performance (25/07/2006)
Britney Spear's husband Kevin Federline is set to unveil his own musical talents as he's confirmed he will perform his first single Lose Control on America's Teen Choice Awards next month!

Good advice! (16/08/2006)
Britney Spears is her husband's biggest critic, at least about his music. Apparently she's incredibly honest about Kevin's tunes, telling him off when he gets too excited about a track!

Short of money! (17/08/2006)
Wannabe rapper Kevin Federline, 28, has confessed he's broke but insists he's not the kind of person to just sit back and sponge off his wife Britney's fortune!

Celebs on show! (22/08/2006)
A very pregnant Britney introduced her husband Kevin's first performance of his debut single at last night's Teen Choice Awards. But before he came on she asked the audience to "please be nice to him"!

Baby boy (16/9/2006)
According to reports Britney Spears has named her new baby boy Sutton Pierce. The pop star and her husband, Kevin Federline, wanted to give the baby the same initials as his older brother Sean Preston.

And there are plenty of main pages devoted to Britney, Kevin & family. Here are a few of them:

Wedding is for love says Britney

Britney's not officially married

It's official: Britney is married

Britney angry at honeymoon photos

Britney announces she is pregnant

It's a boy for Britney and Kevin

Britney says she's pregnant again

Has Britney had her second child?

Britney's husband releases album

Monday, November 06, 2006

Just to clear up some confusion. The BBC is aiming CBBC programmes at a 6-12 year old target audience - the same age as before Mark Thompson's Creative Future announcement on 25 April 2006 (see blog 13 September 2005)

BBC hopes to start their teen brand in 2007, aimed at 13-17 year olds.


TMi is showing slight signs of becoming more tolerant of diversity.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Television awards

Most popular serial drama award for EastEnders despite Coronation Street being more popular in terms of viewing figures. EastEnders audiences were at an all-time low during the summer.

The BBC see EastEnders as a flagship programme. They probably got staff texting in votes to make sure it won again. And Charlie Clements won most popular newcomer as Bradley. But whatever happened to newcomer Petra Letang who played Naomi, Sonia's girlfriend? I haven't been watching the programme recently.