Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Blue Peter cat apology

Anyone who saw Zoe and Konnie apologise for the Blue Peter cat-naming competition irregularities could be wondering if the apology was sincere.

Smugness, rather than contrition, was the order of the day. Blue Peter viewers weren't given any explanation for what happened, and instead the programme imagined it could clear the air by introducing another kitten - this time called Cookie. They weren't even prepared to let kids choose a name this time round. 'Socks' still bears the name not chosen by the majority who took part in the poll last year.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Tim Levell is the new editor of Blue Peter, and good luck to him. Of course, there was no excuse for mistakes already made, but I think the BBC has been quite harsh on Richard Marson, the programme's former editor.

Richard Deverell - so it's been reported - was told to sack him after it emerged that a poll of Blue Peter viewers was ignored. But doesn't Mr Deverell himself share the same condescending attitude to kids which led to the Blue Peter errors? And doesn't he back up the current de facto CBBC discrimination policy against lgbt and older kids. After all, their views are still being ignored on feedback and messageboards.

Why was the 'Your Life' section (Everything you need to know about growing up) removed from CBBC's website? (blog 28 August 2007) Jana Bennett said "We help children understand themselves and their relationships in all their rich complexity..." but could it be that she was the person ultimately responsible for removing the help?

Richard Deverell asked kids to trust CBBC (blog 21 September 2007), but first he should show that CBBC has earned that trust.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

On Friday new bullying guidance was published by the Government. This is how Newsround reported it at 5.25pm on BBC1 -

Sonali: Beating the cyberbullies - Schools are urged to do more to protect you. ... First to a big problem for many of you - cyberbullying. Lots of children are having their lives made a misery by hi-tech bullies, and today the Government said schools should do more to tackle the problem. Teachers are going to be given advice on how to stop it. Here's Adam with more.

Adam: Thank you Sonali. So what is cyberbullying? Well it's anything nasty that's sent to you on your mobile. It could be cruel comments while you're on Instant Messenger. Or it could be vicious videos of you that are posted on websites. The Government also says that if you log on and check out people being bullied online, then you're making the problem even worse....

Adam: Well the Government has released a special video that's going to be sent to your school. And they're going to be telling teachers to do more and have a school policy to sort out problems with cyberbullying. Now earlier on today I got the Government to email me over some tips about what you should do if you're a victim of cyberbullying.

1} Don't reply to any nasty messages.
2} Keep all the messages so that someone can help you out.
3} Tell someone - let a parent or teacher know as soon as possible.
4} Keep all passwords secret.
5} Don't give out any personal information (like birthday, phone number or address)

Then, later in the programme we saw a clip from the DCSF video which is being sent to schools along with guidelines for teachers. We saw Ed Balls ("the top politician who's in charge of looking out for kids") say:-

Every child should be able to go to school and travel home free from bullying of any kind. And we have new challenges with the internet and mobile phones which we also need to address. Our guidance will help parents and schools, and young people themselves, face up to this problem and stamp it out once and for all.

On the DCSF Government website Ed Balls points out that teachers often feel ill-equipped to address homophobic bullying, and that bullied pupils are uncomfortable about reporting the problem. "Homophobic insults," he says, "should be viewed as seriously as racism. We must uphold every child’s basic right to learn in a safe and secure environment, free from bullying."

I understood that they might possibly feature a presspacker from an lgbt family covering a suitable newsworthy story, but Newsround failed to report the guidance dealing with homophobic bullying for primary and secondary school teachers. It wasn't reported on Newsround's website either, so I will write to them tomorrow to find out why it wasn't covered.

There is also Stand up for us which was announced during Anti-bullying week 2004.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Richard Deverell, Head of CBBC, interviewed by Lizo on 20 September 2007

Yesterday Newsround reported the Blue Peter story mentioned in my previous blog. Sonali explained the events which led to the deception. (Thursday BBC1 5.25pm) In her report Sonali said that "The name that won the vote was, in fact, 'Cookie' but for reasons that are still unclear, your votes were ignored ..."

Following Sonali's report, Lizo interviewed Richard Deverell about the incident -

Lizo: Well this is the man in charge of CBBC. Richard, what do you have to say about the situation?

Richard Deverell: The most important thing to say is I'm very sorry. It shouldn't have happened. It was a bad mistake and I'm very sorry it did happen. And we're clearly taking a number of steps across the whole of CBBC to make sure this sort of thing never happens again.

Lizo: Now this isn't the first time that CBBC has been accused of misleading children. What do you say to kids who think they just can't trust CBBC any more?

Richard Deverell: Well I hope they don't feel that, and I would ask them to trust CBBC. We've looked back over three years of programmes - we do a lot of programmes - we found three mistakes in that period, of which this is one. Now clearly that's three too many, but the vast majority of the programmes we make are absolutely trustworthy, and I hope going forward they'll all be trustworthy.

Lizo: Well thanks for joining us today, Richard.

Richard Deverell: Thank you.

More about this soon.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

More CBBC shenanigans

The MediaGuardian reports that former Blue Peter editor, Richard Marson, is understood to have been suspended by order of senior management after another instance of viewer deception on the programme during his stewardship. Staff at the BBC were said to be in shock following the decision.

A competition to name the Blue Peter cat resulted in a name which was deemed inappropriate for kids. The name eventually given to him was Socks

Maybe this will be reported on Newsround or its website.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Newsround has been making the blogosphere recently, but it's not about the programme's discrimination against lgbt and older kids - it's all about Newsround's web coverage of the events surrounding 11 September 2001.

I was looking up Newsround on Google News and came across a Telegraph piece written in time for the start of the new school term. It's about staying safe on the web and I think it has some sensible advice for parents and kids. One surprise, though, was finding some remarks taken from a discussion about the dangers of chatrooms. The surprise wasn't anything the kids said, it was their ages.

According to the Telegraph, Kelly aged 14 from Kent said If you don't give out personal details, then you are safe. And ignore people who are rude and Jackie from Perthshire (also aged 14) commented People have often asked to meet me while I've been in a chatroom, but I just ignore them and log off

Could it be true that Newsround has given a voice to two 14 year old kids? So I checked the website and found that the feedback was from way back in 2003. That explained everything. If they'd posted anything this year, it would be consigned to the digital waste bin.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

"Now it's time to visit the most important man in the country for children, apart from your own dad. He's the Children's Commissioner and it's his job to stick up for us kids."

Those are the words of 15 year old Billy Gould at the start of a video interview with Sir Al Aynsley-Green which can be seen on the Commissioner's website. In August presspacker Jasmine, 10, took part in a three-day event to help find out the best way to help young people in the country. Kids (up to the age of 18) had to decide what issues were of most concern to them and vote how some money will be spent by Sir Albert.

The Children's Commissioner for England has called for more funding for voluntary sector mental health organisations. One in ten children aged 5 to 16 has a mental health problem at any one time. (also see blog 2 September 2007)

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Amy's press pack report

Three weeks ago presspacker Catherine told viewers about being picked on because of her ginger hair (see blog 22 August 2007). Today we heard from presspacker Amy, 10, who used to be picked on because of her size.

Newsround BBC1 - 11 September 2007 @ 5.30 pm


Ellie: Are you worried about the way you look? Well, presspacker Amy wrote to us because she used to get upset about her body shape. But she's not letting it get her down any more. Here's her report.

(Amy, seen in a reflection from a distorting fairground mirror)

Amy: Hi, I'm Amy. I used to be really worried about the way I look. (Amy faces camera) Because I was being bullied about my body size. Some kids in my class called me names because I was bigger than them. (Screen caption: Amy used to get bullied) It made me feel really sad inside. I may not weigh the same as a stick insect but over the last year I've really changed my mind about my shape. When I was in Year 3 and 4 I didn't have any friends, but now I do. (Amy is seen playing with friends) They've really helped me feel more confident about myself.

Amy ( to Kym, 10, on her left): When I was getting bullied you were the one I could turn to. Why did you want to be my friend?

Kym: I didn't like leaving you somewhere and getting picked on and upset.

Amy (to Peggy, 10, on her right): And do you think it would be better if I was thinner?

Peggy: Not really because you're not exactly the same if you were to be thinner would you - it would be weird.

Amy: Lots of people think that if you're a bit bigger you just sit around eating junk food all day. That's not true. (Amy is seen preparing a fruit salad) I love cooking. I always eat lots of fruit and veg and other healthy stuff. (Screen caption: She eats lots of good stuff) I keep really active too. (in karate class) I've been doing karate for a year now. Doing exercise makes me feel really good about myself. If people call me names now it wouldn't bother me because I like the way I look. This is Amy reporting for Newsround in Suffolk.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

CBBC relaunch

After a few rough patches the CBBC relaunch is more or less complete. Some of the best features are the new CBBC continuity studio and presenter Ed Petrie with his sidekick Oucho the cactus. It would have been better for Oucho to be a gay cactus just to prove that CBBC is inclusive. But fairly early on he revealed that he's got a girlfriend.

Some of the new programmes are quite good, including Escape from Scorpion Island which was filmed in Brazil.

The screen logo can be annoying when it moves. Also I preferred the old website which was easier to navigate.

Commercial TV channels are now allowed to advertise gambling so I'm not sure about the arcade machine on CBBC's home page - it might promote the wrong idea. However the most disappointing thing about the website is the loss of permanent growing up advice for kids when the No Problem pages were removed. But fortunately they have kept the Your Life messageboard and questions are still being answered by CBBC's agony uncle. The archive contains his last ten replies to each of seven aspects of growing up.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Mary McAleese, President of Ireland, last week welcomed delegates to a congress on suicide prevention. Amongst the topics discussed was suicide attempts by children. Professor Carol Fitzpatrick, an expert in child psychiatry at University College Dublin, reported her study which had found that, of the more than 400 children and young people referred to hospital because of attempted suicide, about 10% were aged 11 or under, and some were much younger.

Speaking on Friday, Mary McAleese pointed out that bullying sometimes features in the story of suicide. Speaking to the 24th International Congress on Suicide Prevention in Killarney, Ireland, she said gay people in Ireland encounter a hurtful undercurrent of bias and hostility. “For many it [being gay] is a discovery which is made against a backdrop where, within their immediate circle of family and friends as well as the wider society, they have long encountered anti-gay attitudes which will do little to help them deal openly and healthily with their own sexuality.”

On 13 March 2006 there was a Newsround Extra programme dealing with childhood depression (see blog on 2 April 2006). It was a programme which could have been relevant and helpful, but it's the sort of programme which CBBC is seeming to avoid completely now.

For a while this spring and summer it seemed that CBBC might be beginning to address the kind of problem President McAleese was talking about. The Your Life messageboard had started to include a few posts from lgbt kids or about lgbt-relevant issues (blogs on 24 May & 26 June 2007). Two months later there are very few lgbt messages, and I recently put it to the Head of CBBC that they are being filtered out again.

The day before most kids began the new school term a year ago, CBBC's agony uncle was on TV a few times during the day to help sort out worries and problems sent in by viewers. This year there was no such help.