Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sending the right messages

A month ago Ofsted published the results of a large study of children in England. Newsround reported on 28 October. Sonali said that 150,000 ten to fifteen year-old children were questioned, and that most feel happy, healthy and safe, but that the thing which stressed them out the most was exams. There was a more extensive report about the survey on Newsround's 5pm programme. Maddy said that almost 6 out of 10 kids dread exams, and many are also worried about what happens when they leave school. Maddy went on to say that body image was the next biggest concern, and that bullying is also a concern with only 1 out of 3 kids reckoning their school is doing the right things to help stop it.

Children's minister Beverley Hughes then answered kids' questions. The last question was from Carla who was worried that magazines depict skinny people. She asked if they could put some "bigger people" in them. In reply Ms Hughes said We don't edit those magazines, so actually we can't control the content of them very finely like that. But what we can do is send the right messages and I think that you're absolutely right - we need magazines, television, all kinds of media to represent how we all are. And we're not all skinny, so I support what you're saying.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The BBC's editorial judgement has been in question recently.

Last week was Anti-bullying week. Here are the items covered between Tuesday and Friday on the main 5pm edition (for Monday's programme see blog on 18 November 2008)


1} Oil tanker hijacked by 'pirates' [1'56"]
2} Locust swarms in New South Wales Australia [0'11"]
3} Didier Drogba banned for three games [0'16"]
4} Welcome in Colchester for returning troops [0'10"]
5} Use of respect barriers on football grounds [2'14"]
6} Maradona in Scotland [1'53"]


1} John Sergeant quits Strictly Come Dancing [2'39"]
2} Home countries football news [0'13"]
3} Astronaut's toolkit floated off into space [0'11"]
4} Barack Obama plans for becoming President [1'57"]
5} Sisters with a rare heart condition (press pack report) [1'56"]


1} Christmas shopping [1'53]
2} Theo Walcott has had surgery on shoulder [0'13"]
3} Charities unite for Congo appeal [0'16"]
4} Belgium - display of ice sculptures [0'15"]
5} School in Liverpool using text keypad gadgets [1'30"]
6} Top of the Pops Christmas specials [1'55"]
7} Archive details of plans for Dr Who [0'30"]

Lastly Ore read out emails about John Sergeant


1} Warning on safe use of deodorant sprays after boy dies [1'30"]
2} Arsenal captain criticises his team [0'12"]
3} Kids in N Ireland take 11+ for last time [0'12"]
4} Harry Potter - official trailer out now [0'15"]
5} Report on acting schools with answers to viewers' questions [2'40"]
6} Party to mark opening of hotel in Dubai [1'01"]

Those are just the 5pm Newsround programmes - but during the week Newsround is broadcast for more than 2 hours in total. The theme of anti-bullying week this year was Being Different, Belonging Together. But there wasn't so much as a 10 second report on any one of Newsround's 30 programmes from Monday to Friday. So this is another case where I would like to understand the reasons for the BBC's editorial judgement.

Friday, November 21, 2008

I have written to Sir Michael Lyons today:-

Safeguarding Trust

I was perplexed to hear your apparent dismay today regarding management failings at the BBC over the Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand incident. The fact is that Jonathan Ross wasn't sacked for gross misconduct, and you yourself seemed against the notion in your recent evidence to a Parliamentary committee. Surely people at all levels should be prepared to take responsibility, and until this is the case we can expect little real improvement?

Unfortunately the Trust is guilty, to an extent, of hypocrisy. When I pointed out to the Director-General, in March this year with copies to yourself and to the Trust, that a very senior BBC children's TV manager had knowingly deceived the public, the Trust went on to praise BBC management in glowing terms. On 9 May 2008 it reported inter alia that:-

* BBC management and staff have been energetic about putting right the wrongs of the past

* The Trust's independent evaluation shows significant progress by the BBC in putting its house in order

and the Trust reached a conclusion that "Overall, and on behalf of licence fee payers whose interest and investment in the BBC we have a duty to represent – we are satisfied that the public can be justified in maintaining its confidence in its BBC."

As far as I am aware the person concerned is still in post and has not been censured for the deception, which occurred after the BBC Safeguarding Trust training course.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Newsround at 5pm yesterday covered the following stories:

1} Fires in California [1'53"]
2} Steven Gerrard [0'14"]
3} Whale shark has been filmed doing a poo [0'15"]
4} What should happen to kids who break the law? [2'26"]
5} 4,345,027 dominoes world record [1'10"]

Finally Ore asked viewers for their experiences of acting agencies.

As mentioned previously (22 October 2008) I was waiting to hear from Mark Thompson about the demographers who say that religious belief is making a comeback. Last Wednesday someone from BBC Complaints replied on his behalf and said that, as the head of an organisation with overall editorial responsibility for hundreds of hours of output across BBC channels every week, Mr Thompson is not always able to personally respond to all correspondence addressed to him. Mr Thompson's speech, I was told, was supported by a range of sources, principally the World Christian Database.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Being Different, Belonging Together

Last week Sonali went to a British school to interview black kids about their reaction to Barack Obama's victory in America. Newsround, however never took up my suggestion (blog 28 October 2008) of Prop-8 Packers, so we didn't get a chance to find out what Californian kids thought about the change to the state's constitution which removes gay people's right to marry.

If I was living there I think I would be pretty annoyed that it's even possible to put people's human rights to the ballot, and to have them removed by a majority vote of the electorate. I imagine that being a gay kid and hearing your parents say they supported Prop 8 would have caused quite a lot of hurt.

Here in Britain newspapers report that some parents have slammed a play that tells 11 year olds it's ok to be gay. No parents are named in the article, but I think that what I said about gay kids in California will still be true. Prejudice is wrong and hurts people.

Anti-bullying week starts on Monday and the theme this year is Being Different, Belonging Together. This year that message takes on a special significance. It's not just skin colour - differences aren't always so obvious, and prejudice is sometimes more than just skin deep.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

On 11 October 2008 BBC Switch's Revealed investigated the spate of suicides in Bridgend. A day later Sunday Life on BBC 1 looked at the suicide of Shaun Dykes and the behaviour of onlookers. The director of Derby City Mission, Alasdair Kay, said in an interview on the programme that we've lost the moral absolutes of right and wrong. The Bible, he said, gives us a moral framework - a way to live.

Suicide is often associated with depression but there is another factor which is rarely considered by the media and this was the case with both Revealed and Sunday Life. The same was also true when Michael Portillo tried to find out why a school friend, Gary Findon, might have taken his own life. Michael's documentary, Death of a School Friend went out on BBC2 on Friday evening, but can be seen until next Friday.

Michael Portillo: When I was 15, a friend of mine killed himself. Coming into school one Monday to find that he was dead - and by his own hand - left us all utterly bewildered. Gary and I had just done our exams together. He was incredibly bright and he knew he'd done well. It was summer 1969, a couple of days before his 16th birthday. His classmates felt both shock and guilt; none of us could understand why he'd done it. Nearly 40 years later we still can't.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Top Gear's Jeremy Clarkson has been in the news recently when he 'joked' about murdering prostitutes.

Look back at my blog on 26 October 2008. I was suggesting that Mark Thompson bears a heavy degree of responsibility for the BBC's yobbish culture. I even quoted an answer he gave in the Daily Telegraph: ".. we have some of the most politically incorrect voices in Britain on the air every week – and I’m glad we do. And Jeremy Clarkson will come round looking for you if you disagree!"

I went on to quote from an article by Mr Thompson for the Mail on Sunday which appeared on 29 October 2006, but it's worth repeating the last part of my extract: I've never met a BBC boss who wants to ban Top Gear. And if I ever do, I'll show them the door. As a viewer, I'm not sure I can face life without it.

So if the controller of BBC 2 wished to ditch Top Gear, Mark Thompson would show them the door as he puts it. Doesn't his comment confirm not only that Mr Thompson is ultimately responsible for the content of BBC channels, but also he knows it perfectly well.

Thompson was therefore doubly disingenuous when, addressing the issue of Lesley Douglas's resignation, he told Channel 4 News: Lesley said in her letter of resignation to me - I've been a channel controller myself - the controller of Radio 2 has got ultimate responsibility for the content of that radio station.

What Lesley Douglas did in fact say was: The events of the last two weeks happened on my watch. I believe it is right that I take responsibility for what has happened. There was no mention of "ultimate responsibility" as you can see from the published exchange of letters.

And again last Sunday Thompson told Andrew Marr ... in a sense any television programme or radio programme is a team effort and the on-air members of the team have some responsibilities but not total responsibilities, the fundamental editorial responsibility lies with the producer, ultimately the with the controller of the station or the channel ...

Regarding Mr Thompson's lecture to Theos (see blog 22 October 2008), I'm still waiting for a reply to my question on the demographics in support of his claims. I sent him a reminder yesterday.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why has Ellie gone?

Ellie was Newsround's main presenter before taking maternity leave.

I've seen her recently on the BBC News channel, but the last time we saw Ellie present Newsround was on 21 February, although she did appear with her new baby on 30 May to send good wishes to Lizo, who was leaving to become the BBC's entertainment correspondent.

But why hasn't Ellie returned to Newsround, as we were told? And what about Lizo, Laura and Jake? It seems that the BBC needs to increase the salaries of Newsround's team otherwise they won't be staying on the programme very long.

See All about Ellie, which includes a video of her first day presenting Newsround, and a video with her and Laura talking to former CBBC presenter Andrew Hayden-Smith.