Friday, December 28, 2007

Did you know that Boxing Day was named in Victorian times when the rich would box up gifts to give to the poor? It seems a UK survey found that more than a third of people didn't know that fact. I bet some of those people had tried the Newsround website Christmas quiz and were a bit confused because boxing up gifts for the poor wasn't one of the possible answer options.

An interesting thing happened on Boxing Day this year. Newsround asked What did you think of the Doctor Who Christmas special? and they actually allowed a 14 year-old to have a say. And the very next day (yesterday) Newsround asked What has been your highlight of 2007? and again they allowed a 14 year-old have a say.

I've seen this kind of thing before at the BBC - they sometimes wobble a bit. So I wouldn't be surprised if, once again, it doesn't last. But if I'm wrong I'll get in touch with the BBC next year to ask if they have abandoned the discrimination against older kids and LGBT kids.

One other thing I've noticed over about the last month or so is that none of Newsround's feedback pages have suggested using the text option: You can also send us a text - Text NR and your message to 62222. Remember to include your first name, age and town. Charged at operators' standard rates. Please ask permission.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

What a wonderful news item for Newsround I thought as I watched a Sky News report last night about Louis Barnett, a teenager with a love for chocolate, who started his own company, Chokolit, and recently opened a factory making high quality chocolates for some of the major supermarkets. One of Louis's ideas was for a chocolate inside an edible chocolate box.

Louis left school at the age of 11 after he was badly bullied by other kids. From then on he was homeschooled. At the same time he developed an interest in chocolate and started making them at home. This autumn he opened a factory in time to make chocolates for Christmas, but he may soon have to move to larger premises to meet the demand.

It seems that Newsround's website picked up on the story when Louis opened the factory, but it wasn't covered on Newsround itself, which is a pity because it's an awesome story especially for kids who've had difficulties at school.

Happy New Year

Friday, December 21, 2007

Showbiz news

Newsround Blog hasn't covered very much celebrity news since Newsround's website did away with their daily celebrity gossip update page in the spring (see blog 20 May 2007). I had previously noticed that the page reported news about straight couples, but never news about lesbian/gay couples or civil partnerships. It was becoming increasingly obvious that the daily gossip page was discriminating against LGBT people and I think that's why they had to stop updating it. Newsround's former editor denied that that was the reason. He insisted that the true reasons were CBBC budget cuts, showbiz news being of less interest to kids than it used to be, and the lack of certainty involved with 'gossip' - in fact just about everything other than what I had suspected.

On Wednesday Newsround reported stories about Lily Allen and Jamie Lynn Spears. This was the news as reported on the CBBC Channel programme at 3.55pm -

Lizo: Now Lily Allen's got something to smile about - she's expecting a baby. (film of Lily smiling at an awards ceremony). The singer says it's early days yet, but she and her boyfriend Ed Simons are thrilled.

(Screen caption: Jamie Lynn Spears pregnant - films of Jamie and Britney)
And there's more baby news from America where Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney's little sister, has told a U.S. magazine she's going to be a mum too. Her baby is due in the summer.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

To censor or not to censor?

That was the question for Radio 1 yesterday. An old song containing the words 'slut' and 'faggot' was at the centre of a controversy when the radio station initially thought it was time to cut out the offending words.

But after a day of complaints, Radio 1 controller Andy Parfitt (also the BBC's teen tsar) decided he was mistaken to cut out the words, and reversed his earlier decision. Some people believe the song will be number 1 in the Christmas charts. Mr Parfitt said "It is not always easy to get this right, mindful of our responsibility to our young audience. The unedited version will be played from now on.

"While we would never condone prejudice of any kind, we know our audiences are smart enough to distinguish between maliciousness and creative freedom. In the context of this song, I do not feel that there is any negative intent behind the use of the words, hence the reversal of the decision."

The question for Newsround is whether or not to report this Christmas and LGBT-related news story, and I expect the answer will be to keep silent.

So the BBC has decided it can broadcast the lyrics uncut for Radio 1's young audience, but probably won't report the surrounding debate on Newsround because usually - as far as CBBC is concerned - gay is the offensive and unbroadcastable word, not faggot.

Monday, December 17, 2007

As mentioned in my last blog entry 11,000,000 Takeover Day never really took off, but what about young people's organisations like CRAE and the BYC? Newsround doesn't report on their work and events. Why?

And why doesn't Newsround report news from the UK Youth Parliament? After all, in July 2005 Newsround presspacker, Rebecca said that the Youth Parliament helps raise awareness, and bring about positive changes in issues affecting young people. She urged others to get involved.

The answer appears to be the BBC's near abandonment of teenage youth. Although kids aged 11-18 can take part in the Youth Parliament, the BBC is no longer interested in teenagers and has decided that anything relevant to that age group must be kept out of CBBC kids' TV.

On 3 December 2007, some 8 months after Newsround's actual 35th birthday, the programme announced the results from their survey of kids aged 6-12. Here's an extract from the announcement on CBBC channel at 8.25am -

Sonali: It seems that overall most of you are actually feeling pretty good about things. How do we know that? Well today Newsround is releasing the results of a special survey we've done to mark our 35th birthday. It's called 'All About You' and one of the biggest things we found is most of you are happy with your lives and yourselves. We questioned a thousand kids from all over the country and more than 9 out of 10 of you said that you like the way you are, and used positive words like happy, funny and clever to describe yourselves. 7 out of 10 of you also felt that you're having a better time as a child than your parents did. Our survey's findings seem to go against the results of a recent study carried out by the United Nations' children organisation UNICEF. Out of 21 rich countries they ranked Britain the worst place to be a child.

Newsround's main evening programme at 5.25pm on BBC1 didn't mention the UNICEF report (pdf). Some further details of the Newsround survey are given in a BBC press release. The BBC was involved in surveys of young people a year ago. (see blogs on 6 & 9 December 2006)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Whatever happened to 11 Million Takeover Day?

In May, Newsround's website reported the launch of 11 Million Takeover Day and said "It is hoped that kids will be in charge of lots of organisations - and Newsround is taking part." But Newsround's participation was practically doomed from the start.

For Takeover Day to be seen as a legitimate attempt to put children in charge, the BBC would need to allow them editorial control of Newsround for the day. But my previous blog (30 November) showed that CBBC bosses have little trust or confidence in children.

Next we come to the number of children - 11 million. That's the number of children and young people in England aged up to 18. But what about those in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales? Newsround is broadcast throughout the United Kingdom, so it wouldn't be fair to have it run only by English kids, even assuming the BBC had been prepared to allow the editorial takeover to go ahead.

Lastly, organisations taking part were expected to comply with child protection guidelines, including the following -

Always work with children in an open and transparent way. Your actions should be warranted, safe and applied equitably; Respect children at all times, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, disability or sexual orientation. Don’t discriminate or show signs of approval or prejudice

So for a number of reasons there was never any chance of Newsround taking part in the event.

About a week after 11 Million Takeover Day, the Children's Commissioner for England, Sir Al Aynsley-Green, answered viewers' questions on Newsround's website, just as he had done in July 2006 shortly before Newsround's exclusion of 14 and 15 year-olds became apparent.