Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kirsty Wark presented last night's Newsnight, and one of the items was about homophobia. Referring to the attack on James Parkes, Kirsty asked "Is this an isolated but horrific incident or is homophobia still just below the surface in our society?"

Reporter Jackie Long began her report from Old Compton Street in Soho which, she said, had over the years become synonymous with London's gay community. "But for the people here tonight," said Jackie, "the news of the brutal attack on a young gay man in Liverpool on Sunday is a reminder just how vulnerable they can be."

A studio debate followed. Johann Hari said that school anti-bullying policies which consistently address homophobic abuse were effective in reducing the problem. Kirsty asked about the role of faith schools, to which Johann answered that kids in those schools are 10% more likely to be bullied violently and 25% less likely to tell anyone.

Neither yesterday's Newsnight report nor the Channel 4 report had anything to say about Michael Causer, who was brutally murdered in a homophobic attack last year. The murder, in Liverpool, wasn't reported in most of the national media. And the trial of his murderers in February this year was similarly ignored.

Newsround Blog has consistently echoed the view of the British Psychological Society. I blogged in September 2006 that "the British Psychological Society had made clear that young people should not have to put up with homophobic bullying and that it should be combatted from Key Stage 1. Therefore Newsround should not avoid the topic."

Kids grow up hearing the word 'gay' used in a negative way at school, and nothing positive on kids' TV to counter it. Is it surprising that a generation despises and bullies gay people?

1} Schools, particularly faith schools, must clamp down against homophobia and homophobic bullying.

2} BBC TV must stop condoning, or in some cases colluding with prejudice. CBBC needs to make kids' programmes which affirm LGBT diversity and inclusiveness, as used to be the case.

So far BBC Vision has in no way lived up to its name. Hopefully the appointment of a new diverse-friendly Director of BBC Children's will afford an opportunity for positive change.

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