Monday, December 29, 2008

The disquiet over the closure of CBBC and Newsround message boards continues:

Message 409 - from timelordjedi

The thing I can't understand is that there was no reason to change the boards.

They were perfectly fine as they were, and as far as I'm aware CBBC is making no money out of doing this. 99% of feedback has been negative (not an exaggeration either) and member numbers have crashed since the sound off, tv/film, music, book and animal boards have disappeared.

So, CBBC, what was your motive for doing this?

Message 413 - from [PhamtonFreja]*He Doesn't Know Why*

What is the point of this thread anyway? Your not exactly taking in our thoughts, are you? Just sitting there, defending yourself. You are not listening. Is it hard to see? We don't actualy like these boards.
Your closing down every single MB on CBBC.
The whole of NR, CBBC's Books, Your Life, Bullying. Just close the whole boards down, like Fantasic Brad suggested, replace them with your favouites. Don't bother with us. We are just the kids who use this board. You didn't even ask us last time. There were 2 days warning. 2 days.
Some children have problems. Trouble making friends, bullies, disabilatys. But on CBBC and NR, everyone repected them, everyone had friends, Nobody cared if they were ugly, or had difficulties, nobody minded, because they were friends. But not anymore.
I'm going to write to Ask Aarron. He answers your questions, doesn't he? I'll tell him how much I don't like these new boards. That I'm losing friends. Because, offline, I get bullied, I get hurt, but I could go to the boards and have fun. Not anymore. Now CBBC are the bullies.
Anyone with me?

Yes I am. I think the BBC has lost the plot. It's supposed to be a public service broadcaster, but it seems to be abandoning any pretence of being a national force for good.

In its Statements of Programme Policy the BBC says that it's an open and transparent organisation which is trusted by the public it serves, seeks to engage its audiences in dialogue, to learn from them and to respond honestly to what they have to say.

So I'll be contacting Newsround in a few days to ask if they would investigate why the message boards have closed. Maybe they could ask Richard Deverell to explain his reasons for the changes. And he could be asked if, in view of all the complaints, the decision might be reversed.


Happy New Year

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Shortly after my blog yesterday I noticed that the Your Life board is also to close on Monday 'as part of improvements' to the CBBC site and message boards.

The Your Life board is more well used than the Bullying board, and the announcement of its closure is not going down well, as can be seen from these three example posts:

Message 5 from Toast ~ *Hold your colour* ~

Im sick of these so called "improvements". You are pracitically just closing the whole message boards down

Message 9 from [°*Lioness*°] .. ThePhantomHunter | SilenceUnderFoot..

You can't close the Your Life board!
I've looked at the Ask Aaron board and its like the watch board, you can't post your own threads!
With just this thread to start with : not everybodys questions can be awnsered! :[

We need somewere to say exactly what we have to say and get exactly what we had to say awnsered!
Even though I haven't ever started a thread on here, (not that I recall anyway) I've seen how much this board helps some people!

Right, thats my side of it anyway, feel free to say whats on your mind as well!

First Newsround now this...

Message 15 from *Öpál~[M梨hïëf MªÑägêð]*

OMG wth! *fumes* Sarah's got it right! A bet in a few weeks time there will be no more boards left! They're all dropping like flies!


These messageboards should get a new name. Something like, the children's messageboards controlled by adults who think they know best but really don't have a clue and btw don't bother coming on here because all your threads will be closed and favourite boards be deleted so yeah kthxbaii. x

It seems the BBC is making things worse for kids because of these changes. Certainly that's what their feedback is saying loud and clear.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

CBBC Bullying message board closure

I notice that CBBC announced last night that their Bullying message board, mentioned in my blog on 12 December 2008, is to close on Monday 'as part of improvements' to the site (screen image). The reasoning is opaque at present, especially in the light of the BBC Director of Vision, Jana Bennett's words last year, shortly before a substantial amount of growing up advice was removed from the website (see blog on 28 August 2007). Some other message boards closed down a few days ago and caused dismay. For example, this message from sockscat (message 23):

I really don't like it to be honest. All the boards me and my pal Ultracutecat used to always go on are away, in fact the only one that is the same is In the news which we never went on! I am speaking for two because it was cutie (which is Ultracutecat's nickname by the way) that mentioned it too me in the first place. The reason I joined the boards when I became a member was because there was so many boards and now there is only five! Plz mods or Cbbc change it plz im begging! The biggest loss to me is the Creative writing board,animal and the sound off!

is just one message out of about 350 so far, most of which are unhappy with the changes.

On the positive side the BBC has begun a new Ask Aaron message board. As the BBC puts it: there is a brand new Ask Aaron board for the time being. (my italics) This Ask Aaron board says it's 'the place to Ask Aaron about anything and everything that's happening in your life!'

As I've said, there is strong statistical evidence that the Bullying message board, which is now closing down, discriminated against LGBT kids. So I'll continue to keep my eye on the BBC - not just on the new message board - to see whether folks are being treated fairly by the Corporation. Three years ago, on 21 December 2005, Newsround's failure to report the introduction of civil partnerships proved to be the last straw, as far as I was concerned, and led to the start of Newsround Blog.

Friday, December 19, 2008

The first series of Election ended yesterday with Quincy as the worthy winner. Both speakers in the final debate were self-assured, but I suspect that a lot of the voters weren't best pleased at being asked by Hazel to stand up as an attempt to draw them into her campaign. And if Hazel wants to stand as a real Member of Parliament she might try to avoid putting down different groups in society; I don't think older people will be happy to hear her idea to change the image of smoking: Put it into children's heads that it's totally uncool to smoke. And it's like an old person's habit, so it's totally uncool and like repulsive. And if that image is everywhere then hopefully it will stop children [smoking]

Like I said when this series began, it is rather like The Apprentice for kids, and I think it is a step in the right direction. But those taking part really need to be given more freedom to express themselves. This first series was not very empowering, with most aspects kept under tight control by adults.
Closing item on last Friday's Newsround at 5pm:

Sonali: Finally try and make sure that you look out of your bedroom window this evening because things could look a bit brighter than usual. If it's not too cloudy we should be able to see the biggest and brightest full moon for 15 years. You might already know that the moon goes right round the earth every month, but not in a perfect circle. So tonight it's going to be closer to us than it has been in years. Look at the difference. Scientists say it's going to look like the one on the right - 14% bigger and 30% brighter. It's called the old devil moon.

Moon apogee & perigee (2004)
I've been unable to find references to this phenomenon being called the 'old devil moon' as Sonali called it, although terms used are the 'moon before Yule' and the 'long night moon.' I came across 'Old Devil Moon' as a song title, but does anyone have a citation for its use in the above context?

Friday, December 12, 2008

I've heard back from Newsround about why the programme didn't cover Anti-bullying week (see blogs on 6 December & 23 November 2008):-

Newsround reports on bullying issues and related news stories when they arise and when they merit it. Bullying is important to Newsround's audience, but as with many other topics programme makers don't always feel obliged to cover a subject just because it has a special week attached to it. After due consideration the Newsround team decided not to focus on anti-bullying week this year. But the programme will always report on how bullying affects viewers when the right stories come up.

Another bullying related issue which I've raised with the BBC's Director of Vision is that of CBBC's Bullying message board (see blog 29 July 2008 & 16 September 2008). The problem discussed in those blogs continues.

After an outage last week several other BBC children's message boards were closed down this week.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Human Rights Day

Today is a special day for human rights, as it's the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. An example of how much things have improved for minorities could be seen from watching Blue Peter yesterday.

Helen Skelton said how much she enjoyed dancing as a child, and how she used to take part in all the shows in her local area. But one type she hadn't done before was wheelchair dancing. We saw Helen and 16 year old James Ireland practicing dance moves in England, before taking part and winning first prize at a top competition in Malta. The Malta Independent Online reported that the event, filmed by a BBC television crew, would give wheelchair dancing and Malta worldwide publicity.

Unfortunately Malta as well as many other countries have been less positive when it comes to recognition of LGBT rights.

A watershed for gay rights

Saturday, December 06, 2008

BBC children's TV has become quite predictable, especially in the area of diversity and inclusiveness. So I wasn't surprised when Newsround failed to cover this year's Anti-bullying week (see blog 23 November 2008). I'm hoping Newsround will get back to me and explain their reasoning, although to be honest it's looking very like BBC children's TV producers instinctively know they mustn't allow kids to be made aware of LGBT people.

This was also apparent on Thursday's edition of Election with Peter Tatchell as the guest mentor. Why the cynicism? Let's take a closer look at last Thursday's programme.

Shortly after the start we saw Angellica and the four surviving contestants, Hazel, Izzie, Jac and Quincy chatting in a London cafe. Someone dressed in a full body chicken outfit came along the street and held up a notice to the cafe window. It read "Chickens have rights too!!!" Next we saw the 'chicken' come in the cafe and hand out leaflets whilst calling out "chickens have rights."

So, no problem with covering issues to do with animal rights - and a good thing too. Angellica told the kids that their next task would be about the art of publicity stunts. Could they get strangers on the street to change their habits?

Angellica: And to help them is human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell. He's no chicken when it comes to campaigning, and has stuck his neck on the line in over 3000 demonstrations.

That was Angellica's 11 second introduction to Peter Tatchell, during which we were shown stills from three campaigns in which Peter had participated - a demonstration for women's rights in Iraq, a campaign against Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, and one in favour of making the UK a republic. Not a single mention of the issue on which Peter has been outspoken for more than a quarter of a century - LGBT rights. But it's exactly what I expected. Radio Times and the electronic programme guide referred to him as "Green Party campaigner Peter Tatchell."

The irony of Election's 'chicken' wouldn't be lost on people in California.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Safeguarding Trust (continued)

Sir Michael Lyons was appointed to chair the BBC Trust in spring 2007. Sir Michael explained his understanding of the Trust's role to Andrew Marr: "Its first and foremost responsibility is to speak for the public for those people who pay their licence fee, and not to immediately defend actions taken by the BBC staff." (see blog 29 April 2007)

So Sir Michael didn't think his first duty is to immediately defend BBC staff. But that's not the impression he gave when giving evidence to the Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee on 18 November 2008.

The BBC's Royal Charter makes it clear that the Trust and the Executive are to act independently, but despite this there's been no real difference between their positions on the Ross/Brand incident. During his evidence to the Committee Mark Thompson often seemed lost for words, and on more than one occasion Sir Michael Lyons butted in, including this telling exchange about 20 minutes into the Committee hearing:

Q99 Mr Evans: Don't you think they were both guilty, Mark, of gross misconduct, Ross and Brand?

Mr Thompson: Well I don't think I want to go any further than the public statements we've already made about all of the parties. I made it very clear that I thought that the behaviour of the on-air broadcasters was unacceptable in this case.

Q100 Mr Evans: You wouldn't go as far as gross misconduct, for what they did?

Mr Thompson: (hesitatingly) I've said that I believe that what was broadcast was utterly unacceptable, and I believe that the broadcasters Russell Brand and Jonathan Ross, as we've said already, as I've said and I've made it very clear to Jonathan Ross, who I've spoken to personally about this, this was completely, completely untoward and unacceptable behaviour.

Q101 Mr Evans: If this had happened in any other walk of life they would've been sacked immediately. Why didn't you sack them, Mark? Show real leadership?

Sir Michael Lyons: Mr Evans, can I help you because we do want to be as helpful as possible, but I did say in my preface to this that we were not here to disclose information which had not yet been fully considered by the Trust and which will all be made public later. But let me just help you a little bit on this issue by reflecting one of the issues which the Trust has already received some information on, but has not yet finished its deliberations before you bandy around words like 'gross misconduct'. There can be no doubt at all that you should not expect performers to either use the language or insult people in the way they did on that programme. However, the BBC has a duty of care here in terms of allowing that material to be broadcast. The primary failing, and the failing that the Trust has focused on, primary failing, is not the antics of performers, it's the fact that that was allowed to go out over the airwaves. And we mustn't avoid that responsibility; that's the thing to focus on. Now, it will've been contributed to, and there are a number of things which we are seeking to explore, one of them being whether it is right to leave a young producer implanted in a company owned by one of the performers. That's one of the things the Trust is seeking to explore and we've made that exploration public. But, until we've finished this work I would just be careful about terms like 'gross misconduct' which have contractual implications.

Why was there so much reluctance to answer Nigel Evans's questions ....why were both Sir Michael and Mark Thompson doing everything possible to save Jonathan Ross from the inevitable consequence of his actions? Even going so far as to strain credulity and use the then impending Trust report on the incident as a shield. Saying that the 'primary failing is not the antics of performers' was attempting to lessen Ross's culpability, even though his egregious behaviour had been plain for all to see.

The Chairman and the Director-General acted like Tweedledum and Tweedledee in their interviews on the Ross/Brand incident, as they both attempted to transfer primary blame from Brand and Ross to backroom editorial staff and, in Thompson's case, to Radio 2's Controller. In fact there is significant disquiet about Ross within the BBC, one insider describing him as obnoxious, overpaid and unpleasant.

Earlier, on 31 October 2008, Sir Michael gave an interview to John Humphrys on Radio 4's Today programme. Although the primary focus of Humphrys' questions was on 'taste and decency,' the Trust's prevarication in dealing with Ross and Brand was also highlighted by Humphrys. Ofcom's announcement that they were to investigate the prank, a day in advance of the Trust's announcement, wasn't mentioned.