Thursday, December 30, 2010

Both Newsround and Newsnight are enjoying a long Christmas break. But news doesn't stop for Christmas, so BBC reporters are still working assiduously to get angles on current affairs.

Lizo Mzimba spent ten years working for CBBC Newsround, securing many scoops on Harry Potter and Doctor Who, which were amongst his passions. All this showbiz knowledge must have come in useful when applying for the BBC's Entertainment Correspondent. Lizo was a popular Newsround presenter, although he had some difficulty particularly with live outside broadcasts. That continued to be the case when he interviewed David Furnish at the funeral of Stephen Gately last year. Lizo had asked Furnish about newspaper reporting of Gately's death, but when Furnish specifically mentioned Jan Moir's controversial article in the Daily Mail, Lizo visibly panicked, stopped the interview and transferred back to the studio.

On Tuesday this week Lizo reported the birth of a son in California to Elton John and David Furnish. Included in Lizo's report was an interview with Stephen Green from an organisation called Christian Voice.

Despite its name, Christian Voice has some extreme views, and Stephen Green is on record as calling on the public to support Uganda's desire to clamp down on homosexuality. Uganda had been considering the death penalty for gay people. Last December, the BBC was criticised for asking the public whether gay people should face execution. The BBC has never issued a proper unequivocal apology for putting the question up for public debate.

The inclusion of Stephen Green's comments in Lizo's report on Tuesday was a big mistake - though it wasn't quite in the same league as last year's 'execute gay people' Have Your Say question.

Currently every time the BBC reports an LGBT-related news item, the Corporation seems to believe that it needs to be 'balanced' with an anti-LGBT point of view. Lizo's report was just the latest example. Mistakes like these will continue unless and until the BBC fully understands and accepts generally held principles of diversity and inclusiveness.

Lizo deserves only part of the blame. After all, years of working for an organisation with a non-inclusive ethos are bound to influence the people employed there.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Seven weeks. That's how long it took for the BBC to correct Newsround's misreported Government Comprehensive Spending Review. If only they'd sort out all the discrimination on CBBC in seven weeks.

Joe McElderry is still being depicted on TMi's Hedz as the person Cheryl most wants to avoid. And other X Factor stars such as Olly Murs, Alexandra Burke and JLS are getting a lot more media attention than Joe, although he did appear on on 3 December singing his new single, which subsequently debuted at number 68 in the charts.

Whilst lesbian and gay characters are non-existent on CBBC dramas, the channel sometimes touches on same-sex affections - but you can be pretty sure that such references will be in a mocking or facetious manner. For example (2 December 2010) Hacker Dog has a huge crush on Ore from Newsround:

Hacker in love with Ore
Iain Stirling: Hacker, what's the matter with you man?

(romantic music begins)

Hacker: What d'you mean "what's the matter?" (Hacker kisses the picture of Ore)

Iain: It's not good. There's something different about you

Hacker: Oh Iain - it's Ore. I just LOVE him. He's such a wonderful man. He's a hero to me. (Hacker kisses Ore's portrait twice more, loudly)

Eventually we discover exactly why Hacker is so enamoured of Ore. It's because of Ore's penchant for sandwiches.

It would be wrong to imply that CBBC doesn't mock opposite-sex romantic relationships as well. But there is a significant difference in that it acknowledges opposite sex romance as a phenomenon of real life ...

Ricky puts a question to X Factor finalists
Ricky puts a question to X Factor finalists (9/12/2010)

(studio chat following Ricky's report on Thurs 9 Dec 2010)

Ricky: And d'you know what else I found out?

Ore: What?

Ricky: Harry from One Direction fancies Frankie from The Saturdays ...

Ore: Really?

Ricky: .. He really really yeah properly fancies her.

Ore: Get in line Harry, alright. I think I'm next up.

Bet CBBC Newsround wouldn't have been so forthcoming if Harry had said he fancied someone from a boyband. So I'm trying to find out exactly what is CBBC's policy on inclusiveness, because so far there's no level playing field and the channel is completely failing to tackle the causes of homophobia and homophobic bullying.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Asked to name a top BBC journalist, many people might suggest Jeremy Paxman or Andrew Marr. But apart from just being well known journalists Jeremy and Andrew have something else in common - they're both not entirely happy with blogs. In 2007 Jeremy said that the problem with blogs is the same as their strength: they don’t operate by conventional journalistic rules about checking facts. And this year the BBC's Andrew Marr was just downright rude to bloggers.

If Jeremy is worried that blogs don't operate by conventional journalistic rules such as checking facts, then what does he make of some of the mistakes on CBBC? For instance, last April CBBC misled children into thinking that Election: Your Vote was the first time they'd given kids a say in election politics.

And also on the topic of mistakes, the BBC has now admitted that Newsround misreported the total of cuts in the Government's spending review.

On Thursday afternoon Newsround's three webpages which had quoted £130 billion were all amended to £81 billion. There really was no excuse for a seven week delay before correcting such a major mistake. However the 'Last Updated' info on each of the pages is the same as before, and therefore incorrect.

Evan Davis didn't spot the major mistake, but then he didn't foresee the current economic mess we've been landed in either. The impending collapse in our economy was obvious to some people. Better BBC journalism, more critically-minded of politicians and their policies, could have helped avoid it.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Previously Newsround Blog has hinted that there's an undercurrent of (internalised) homophobia in the showbiz world and in the media. Remember last year Simon Cowell's mock indignation at a spot-on comment by Dannii Minogue?

A recurring feature of The X Factor is banter amongst the judges, usually instigated by Simon Cowell, sometimes unfortunately taking the form of innuendo and stereotyping. Last night, for example, Mary began with a song closely associated with gay icon Gloria Gaynor, Never Can Say Goodbye:-

Cheryl: It's such a club classic. I love to see you out of your comfort zone and not singing a ballad cos it's just nice to see the difference. And I thought Brian [Friedman] did a great job with the visuals. So well done.

Simon: I don't think Brian was responsible for that. I think this was a scene out of Louis' bedroom. (To Louis) Literally, it's exactly how I see you going home every night ...

Louis: And what about Mary's singing?

Simon: ... putting on Gloria Gaynor. Lots of people singing and dancing to the song ..

Louis: Simon, you're supposed to review Mary

Mary: I like Gloria Gaynor

Simon: So does Louis

Louis: (To Simon) So do you - you like Gloria Gaynor, too

Anyone watching X Factor last night could not have failed to notice that the singers and judges were wearing red ribbons to mark World AIDS Day, which falls every year on 1st December. AIDS was discovered about thirty years ago, originally in members of the LGBT community, and it took on a certain stigma. So raising awareness to tackle HIV prejudice and help stop the spread of HIV is welcome.

Friday, December 03, 2010

The BBC's decision to broadcast Panorama on Monday, and expose corruption at the heart of FIFA, was entirely correct. The English bid to host the 2018 World Cup should have been withdrawn immediately, and the likes of David Beckham, the Prime Minister and Prince William should not have demeaned themselves by going to Switzerland and talking to the dishonourable and despicable FIFA organisation.

Well done to Newsround. Earlier this week it picked up a Children's Bafta for a special programme called Living with Alcohol. Personally I think Sonali's reports from Haiti and Afghanistan were more deserving of the gong. Also it was good to see Newsround on Monday including a report from the Shetland Isles about the efforts of Tam Baillie, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People. Tam has toured Scotland, to find out concerns of kids in all parts of the country.

The Bafta award ceremonies celebrate the achievements of broadcasters and TV channels. But what about brickbat ceremonies for getting things badly wrong or misleading viewers? CBBC ought to get a brickbat for the channel that's done least to promote LGBT equality.

And Newsround deserves criticism for its misleading reports and misinformation. I've still not heard from the BBC about the Government spending cuts of 20th October 2010. Will the cuts amount to £81 billion over four years as it says on this webpage, or instead do they add up to £130 billion as Ricky told Newsround viewers and as it currently states in the text of this webpage and on this one and on the link below:-

staggering 130 billion pounds
I've been asked about Newsround's reporting of World AIDS Day. In fact none of Wednesday's bulletins mentioned it, and AIDS is rarely talked about on Newsround these days. A quick search of Newsround's website shows that AIDS was discussed and reported a lot more during the first half of the decade.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Homophobia in showbiz and in the media

Kirsten O'Brien once suggested that lots of the people working for CBBC are gay. It's actually quite a common stereotype. In a sketch from Little Britain, Daffyd tells his mum there's loads of jobs he'd like to do - hairdresser, airline steward, children's TV presenter - but he'll never get a job because, as he puts it, they simply don't employ the gays.

But if there really are so many 'gays' working for CBBC, why doesn't the channel have a good diversity record? Instead it avoids LGB characters in kids' dramas, and is unable to cope with the sexuality of stars like Joe McElderry.

In contrast, heterosexual representation is no problem for CBBC. Leah, for example, is unable to keep her sexuality to herself in this clip. You'll see Leah make no secret of her attraction to Zac Efron. Does anyone seriously believe that, if she had lesbian proclivities, Newsround would be happy to broadcast a similar show of affection for a female celebrity?

Apparently Leah also quite likes teenage superstar Justin Bieber. So much so that the programme she presented on 8th November captioned Justin as a "mega hunk" when he was featured following his success at the MTV Music Awards:-

Justin Bieber, mega hunk
Leah: ... the mega hunk did well last night, beating Kanye West to win Best Male.

You'd think a famous writer would have insight into the world around him and into humanity. But when Anthony Horowitz answered questions in Newsround's When I Was 10 spot he simply demonstrated rather narrow-minded thinking. In answer to:-

Did you fancy anyone at school?
Anthony Horowitz: Erm .. it was an all-boys school.

Even though there are thousands of LGBT people in showbiz, the industry as a whole has a history of discrimination.

Eight years ago, at a time when CBBC was inclusive, Newsround reported Declan Donnelly's concerns that show bosses were treating Pop Idol winner Will Young, who had recently come out as gay, worse than runner-up Gareth Gates.

It looks like a similar cause for concern exists now, with winner Joe McElderry attracting less media attention than the X Factor runner-up, Olly Murs. The difference, these days, is that no-one now seems willing to speak out against prejudice. It is also the case that some of the X Factor and Strictly Come Dancing outcomes are likely to have been the result of racism rather than intrinsic artistic merit.

Take a look at this sketch from Hedz in TMi Friday. It seems that Cheryl Cole isn't very pleased to have Joe McElderry as a replacement date. Cheryl ends the sketch with "Just my luck." Although I can think of an innocent explanation, given that CBBC has form in regard to anti-LGBT discrimination many young viewers will assume that Cheryl's reaction is a result of Joe's sexual orientation.

Similar Joe McElderry/Cheryl Cole sketches culminating with the "Just my luck" exclamation have been screened in more recent episodes of TMi.

Cheryl is landed with Joe - again

Why would CBBC, with many LGBT people working for them, make homophobic jokes and resolutely refuse to deal with homophobic bullying? Any suggestions?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

No one could justifiably claim that Newsround has overlooked the BBC's duty to bring the UK to the world and the world to the UK. The year began with Ore, in South Africa, reporting on the country's recent history and its preparations for the World Cup.

Sonali gave Newsround viewers an insight into how people in Haiti were coping in the aftermath of the earthquake. And more recently Sonali flew out to Afghanistan to see what it's like for young people in that country.

But whilst Newsround has done excellent work with its reports from around the world, its reporting of local news has been less than satisfactory. Yes, there's been plenty of showbiz news - especially X Factor - but what about news specially relevant to young people? In the summer we heard about the lack of spending on schools, but the programme didn't follow up on the story. Lots of young people are unhappy about the hike in university tuition fees, but again that's an issue given little coverage by Newsround. And then there's Michael Gove's new education plans - why no details on that issue?

For a period during the summer Newsround took some account of the BBC Trust's remarks not to underserve particular groups. We saw the views of older children as well as those in primary schools. But it didn't last long. Come on CBBC, kids in Britain deserve much better.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Sometimes things move rather slowly at the BBC. For instance, remember my doubts about the accuracy of Newsround's report on the Government Spending Review? Well, I'm still waiting to hear back on that matter.

Newsround hasn't yet said anything about David Cameron's message of support to young people. Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister also recorded a video for Anti-Bullying Week. He points out that it's when people are young that prejudice such as homophobia can take root.
YouTube video removed 11 Dec 2010
The Deputy Prime Minister: Right now there are simply too many children growing up thinking that 'gay' is an insult.

Newsround became news itself when the press picked up on something Mark Sedwill told Sonali about the safety of kids in Afghanistan. Newsround dealt with it yesterday at 5pm:-

Sonali: .. we're going to talk about what it's like growing up in a war zone. Over the years here on Newsround we've told you how British troops are fighting in Afghanistan trying to make the country a safer place.

Ore: But what's it like being a child there, trying to get on with life with the violence around you?

Sonali: A few weeks ago I travelled to Afghanistan to find out. While I was there I met loads of kids. Here's what some of them told me about what it's like growing up in the capital city, Kabul.

[film of Afghani kids speaking to Sonali]

Ore: Forty-eight different forces from around the world are involved in trying to bring about peace in Afghanistan, but it is going to take a really long time.

Sonali: While I was out there I went to the foreign forces HQ in Kabul, ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) to find out why the country is still such a dangerous place to live in

[film with Sonali & Mark Sedwill] - Sonali: Kids I've spoken to say they do sometimes feel unsafe. Their parents won't let them out in case a bomb goes off here.

Mark Sedwill: Here in Kabul, and in the other big cities, actually there are very few of those bombs. The children are probably safer here than they would be in London or New York or Glasgow or many other cities. Most children can go about their lives in safety. It's a very family-oriented society. So its a little bit like a city of villages. Now winning doesn't mean a big victory parade in a place like this. What it means is, that we bring peace and security to the people here .. [film ends]

Ore: Well today Mark Sedwill said he meant that security has improved in Kabul, and that it's safer than many other parts of Afghanistan. And now with us on the sofa is Hannah Reichardt from Save the Children. [turns to Hannah]: Hannah, can you compare London and Glasgow with Kabul?

Hannah Reichardt: We don't think the comparison's particularly helpful. But what we know is that Afghanistan is the worst place in the world for a child to grow up. One in four children who are born in Afghanistan won't live to see their fifth birthday. And they're dying from preventable diseases like diarrhoea and lack of food.

Sonali: So kids don't only have to worry about security, but there are so many other things because Afghanistan is so poor.

Hannah: Exactly. Seven million children are out of school, which is a horrific number. All of these children who are suffering in Afghanistan live in families that don't have enough money. That don't have jobs and the means to support themselves. Lots of children don't have enough to eat, which leads to long-term stunting. Which means they'll never reach their full potential in life.

Ore: But the troops have been there for quite a long time. Have things improved for kids in Afghanistan?

Hannah: In parts of Afghanistan things have improved. But in other ways life has got a lot tougher. For some children access to school is actually harder now than it was. And access to healthcare, just basic things like being able to see a doctor when you're sick.

Ore: Hannah thank you very much for coming in.

Sonali: Thank you. And don't forget you can watch our special film from Afghanistan tonight. It's called 'Growing Up in a War Zone' and starts at 6.15 over on the CBBC Channel.

*Edit note (11 December 2010): The YouTube video of Nick Clegg has been removed because Nick broke a pledge to his constituents by not voting against an increase to university tuition fees. Also see this news item.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

CBBC's Kids and Conflict season starts tomorrow. The season is made up of the three-part drama Combat Kids, two Newsround Specials from Afghanistan presented by Sonali and a documentary, Toy Soldiers, looking at the lives of kids with a parent in the army.

It's been more than a week since Takeover Day, and I'm pleased to say that Newsround did get involved this year. CBBC should remember that it's supposed to be a day-long event, so kids should have been presenting the 7am bulletin onwards. But instead it seemed that there was an embargo until 5pm. Maybe we'll see more participation in future, but at least it was a start.

Newsround marked the start of Anti-Bullying Week with celebrities talking about school bullying. On Tuesday Lauren, from the Anti-Bullying Alliance answered questions on the Newsround website. On Wednesday CBBC transmitted a repeat of "Whose side are you on?" which was mentioned in my previous blog.

Despite a promise six months ago to tackle homophobic bullying, the Coalition Government failed to announce any new initiative during Anti-Bullying Week. However the Prime Minister, David Cameron, did send a message to young people:-

The Prime Minister's words are unlikely to have any significant effect on reducing homophobic bullying unless or until there is a broad-based change in attitude, especially in schools and on BBC children's TV. Whereas Newsround reported yesterday (noon bulletin) on David Cameron's concerns for the safety of the trapped miners in New Zealand, the programme has yet to report anything about his message to UK schoolkids.

The BBC's recent record on diversity is poor. In July 2008 I discovered evidence that a BBC children's message board devoted to bullying problems had been systematically filtering out messages related to help with homophobic bullying. Although that message board has now been closed, similar discrimination continues on BBC children's TV, and on the website.

LGBT History Month is just around the corner - a belated chance for the Government to announce some concrete proposals for tackling homophobic bullying, and in the intervening period an opportunity for CBBC to change for the better.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A few years ago Newsround promised to participate in Takeover Day, but it all fell through and they haven't even mentioned the annual event since then. Well there's another chance tomorrow because it will be Takeover Day 2010. So CBBC ought, by rights, help empower kids by letting them take control of Newsround, deciding what news stories are covered and fronting the programme itself.

Next Monday 15 November is the start of Anti-Bullying Week and Newsround Blog hopes that CBBC includes something to help prevent homophobic bullying. So far it's a form of bullying which Newsround has avoided talking about. But experts believe that it won't be reduced unless and until the problem of homophobia is tackled head-on (see blog on 20 October 2010, and the YouTube video mentioned in that blog)

Over the last few weeks Newsround has asked celebrities to look back at their lives as 10-year-olds and reveal, amongst other things, if they fancied anyone at school. But gay celebrities are treated in a very different way. Suddenly CBBC doesn't want to know anything about who they fancied at school or even who they fancy as grown-ups. When LGBT people are treated as outsiders on BBC children's TV it's no wonder they're seen as a target for school bullies.

Remember last year Newsround made a film about bullying - it was called Whose side are you on? - and centred around the concept that if you just stand and watch as your friend gets bullied rather than doing something to help her or him, then you're on the same side as the bullies themselves.

So let's see if anything changes this year. Will Newsround mention homophobic bullying or will it once again show that it is, in effect, on the side of the bullies?

One BBC drama is worth mentioning. It faces up to issues which CBBC fails to do. Jamie attends a faith school and gets bullied daily. He doesn't tell his family about the bullying, which has become so bad that one day Jamie tries to commit suicide. Moving On - Losing My Religion is available on the BBC iPlayer till the end of Anti-Bullying Week.

Monday, November 08, 2010

Whether or not Miriam O'Reilly wins her claim against the BBC will probably be more down to which side has the better legal team than anything else. Miriam claims to have suffered age and sex discrimination, and believes the Corporation took revenge because she was thought to be behind stories criticising the BBC for dropping older women presenters.

Liberal Democrat equalities spokesperson, now Minister for Equalities, Lynne Featherstone, expressed her own concerns about age and sex discrimination at the BBC last year, when she blogged about Arlene Phillips losing her job as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. Lynne later told her Party Conference that she was unable to to describe her feelings about the BBC decision "in parliamentary language".

Stephen Fry is often quick to proffer an opinion on almost anything that takes his fancy. Recently he commented on female sexuality. Last year Fry took umbrage at a homophobic article by Jan Moir in the Daily Mail. But when, a short while later, the BBC asked audiences if homosexuals should face execution, what did Stephen do then? Nothing - not a single tweet of criticism.

CBBC presenter Andrew Hayden Smith came out as gay a few years ago. Andrew gave an interview to Attitude in May 2006 and commented about not being able to include a gay kiss in Dr Who because "they couldn't push it that far." Andrew ceased to be a CBBC presenter in July that year.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Is Gavin Henson most famous as a Strictly Come Dancing contestant or as a rugby player? On Tuesday, Newsround reported that he might soon be back playing rugby again.

Ricky: Good news now for Strictly Star Gavin Henson, who's waltzed his way into a new rugby team. Charlotte Church's ex has been doing more rumba than rugby recently. Er but by the end of the week the Welsh centre should be completing a move to London side Saracens.

Ore: Thing is, though, Ricky, he hasn't played rugby for more that 18 months. So he might need some time to toughen up again. He ain't gonna score any tries if he tries dancing down the wing - d'you know what I'm saying?

Newsround confirmed the move early on Thursday morning -

Leah: Now we might be used to seeing him in sparkly dance outfits, but get used to seeing Gavin Henson like this, in rugby kits. He's signed up to play for English team Saracens and will be straight into action once Strictly Come Dancing has finished.

Now we know that when a leading Welsh rugby player, Gareth Thomas, came out as gay last year, the story was ignored by Newsround. He's due to appear in a few days on 2nd November at the pre-launch event (pdf) for LGBT History Month 2011. Would Newsround ignore Gareth Thomas if he were a contestant on Strictly Come Dancing? Come to think of it, though, would Gareth or any other gay activist ever get invited to take part? On present form the BBC will certainly resist any move towards an LGBT-inclusive Strictly.

I've previously blogged about the reluctance of Newsround to cover youth democracy. More of the same reluctance yesterday when the UK Youth Parliament convened for a series of debates in the House of Commons. The first subject debated was Should sex and relationships education be compulsory from primary school onwards? Towards the end of the debate, Rosie Corrigan from North Yorkshire stressed the need for SRE to cover same-sex relationships in order to effectively tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying.

The second debate considered Lord Browne's proposals on university tuition fees. Detail of the whole session and results of all the debates are in the UK Youth Parliament Live Blog.

Debates are also available on the BBC iPlayer for the next few days.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

There has been a spate of suicides in the United States recently. Many of the young people who died had been suffering months or years of homophobic bullying. So far President Obama has done little or nothing to help LGB & T equality, but a few days ago he did issue a sympathetic message on YouTube as part of a campaign telling bullied kids that life gets better.

Obama admits he doesn't "know what it's like to be picked on for being gay." The video below, on the other hand, is from someone who knows what it's like. On 12th October Joel Burns spoke at a Fort Worth City Council meeting -

The "It Gets Better" campaign is obviously well-intentioned, but is premised upon homophobic bullying being an inevitable fact of life for some kids. That's precisely NOT how it should be. Today's Guardian includes an article showing how effective school lessons on gay history can be in promoting tolerance and reducing bullying.

Television also has a crucial role to play in championing a cohesive society, where all people are treated as of equal standing.

What, then, needs to be done?

During the last decade children's TV has steadily become less inclusive, and homophobic bullying and attacks have increased. So it's over to those responsible, the bosses at BBC Children's, to reverse that trend.

Anti-Bullying Week isn't far off. Two or three programmes combatting homophobic bullying would be a long-overdue start, but a complete change of ethos is needed as well. Instead of news programmes and children's dramas shying away from lesbigay portrayal and issues, programme makers need to go out of their way to treat all people fairly.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This year CBBC's TMi has moved from Saturday mornings to Friday evenings at 5.30pm. Guests in episode 1 of the new series on 10th September were boy band The Wanted, who will, incidentally, also be guests on next Friday's show. Amongst viewers' questions put to the lads were "Which member of The Saturdays would you most like to snog?" and "Who do you have a crush on?" The Saturdays, in case you don't know, is an all-girl band.

Joe McElderry was a guest last Friday. I'd be astonished if CBBC didn't get any similar viewers' questions to put to Joe, but given the channel's misogynistic, heterosexist and homophobic ethos, it came as no surprise that Sam & Mark steered well clear of anything related to romance, crushes or Joe's sexuality.

We saw exactly the same thing when Joe was perfunctorily interviewed by Leah for Newsround.

A comparison between CBBC these days and events years ago is very revealing. In both TMi Friday and the interviews of Andrew Hayden Smith and Alex Parks, we can see that, according to CBBC's ethos (see above) it's OK to talk about crushes and who you'd like to snog if you're perceived as straight, but never if you identify as lesbian or gay.

Former BBC Director-General Greg Dyke got a lot of flak for saying that the BBC is hideously white. But I don't think it would be untrue or unfair to say that CBBC is hideously heteronormative.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Mystery of the Missing Millions

Yesterday's Newsround at 5pm began with an attempt to explain the coalition government's comprehensive spending review.

Sonali: None of us like being told we're gonna have less cash to spend. It's not exactly fun having to be careful about how many texts you're sending out, or how many magazines you buy.

Ricky: But today everyone in the UK was told the Government's going to cut the whole country's spending money by a lot - over 130 billion pounds in the next four years.

Sonali: It is a very big deal because they spend that cash on things like hospitals, the police, the army, our roads, your schools ... the list goes on. Now many of those everyday things will have to run on far less money.

Ricky: So, why is the country suddenly so short of cash in the first place? Well here's money boffin, Evan Davis - you might recognise him from Dragons' Den - with the 'Mystery of the Missing Millions' to explain.

We then saw Evan's explanation - the clip on this webpage. If the Last Updated info on the page is "Wednesday October 20 2010 15:49 GMT" then just beneath the clip it may say "The government has announced big plans to cut the whole country's spending money by a staggering £130 BILLION over the next four years."

Apparently Evan was delighted with the production job on his video.

What is interesting here is that almost everyone believes that the spending cuts will amount to £81 billion over four years, but Newsround claims that it's £130 billion. So who's right? This seems suitable for Newsround Blog to investigate, and I emailed the BBC about it this morning.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Anti-Bullying Week begins on 15 November, which is less than a month away. This year the theme of Anti-Bullying week is Taking Action Together. The idea is for people to work together to build a society where everyone feels safe from bullying.

Last year Newsround broadcast a short docudrama for Anti-Bullying Week about the consequences of doing nothing when you see someone else getting bullied. The programme showed that if you don't actually try to prevent the bullying then, in effect, you're on the same side as the bullies.

Why didn't Newsround cover Anti-Bullying Week in 2008? This blogger believes CBBC was just a bit too uncomfortable with the theme for Anti-Bullying Week 2008 - Being Different, Belonging Together.

Now, why, you may ask, would CBBC be uncomfortable with that theme. The answer, if you haven't guessed already, is that some people at the BBC were worried that 'Being Different, Belonging Together' could readily be taken as supportive of diversity, and therefore of kids who identify as LGBT. So they simply decided to ignore Anti-Bullying Week altogether for that year (blog on 23 Nov 2008)

Some conservative groups in the United States have a very similar ethos. They want to prevent schools from directly addressing homophobic bullying, arguing that to do so promotes homosexuality. This YouTube video is a recent US discussion on the issue.

Bullying experts are clear that homophobic bullying cannot be effectively tackled unless it is tackled head-on. And as psychologist Emma Kenny said "when things are hidden they can't get dealt with."

Today is Spirit Day raising awareness of LGBT bullying and suicide. In London at the weekend there will be a vigil against hate crime.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Joe McElderry's been given the cold shoulder on CBBC since he came out in July - just one short interview on Newsround, where Leah put to Joe "the questions YOU want answered." As a result we know that if Joe were to be reincarnated as an animal, he would choose to be a dolphin.

Fortunately Newsround Blog has been onto Joe's case, and the way he's been treated by CBBC. Now he's been invited to appear on the next edition of Sam & Mark's TMi Friday.

Last Friday Joe was a guest on ITV's Paul O'Grady Live. During the 7 minute interview Joe said that he'd had the best year ever. Towards the end of the interview Paul asked Joe about what happened when he came out -

Paul O'Grady: .... they're [X Factor contestants] all over the papers. Talking of which - All that bit when you came out - first of all well done - because I have to say (audience cheers) Seriously, it's hard enough for any young kid to come out, but when you're in the public eye it's really unbearable, it's really tough. How did all that come about? Because I know one of the papers was gonna do a big exposé and all this.

Joe McElderry: Well, no and all...

Paul O'Grady: Get over yourselves papers will ya? Cos there's gay people in the world. There's gay people in telly - in fact if you got rid of all the gay people there'd be no telly! I can't bear it. Y'know what I mean - this is 2010 for God's sake. This is not 1961 - the Wolfenden Report breathing down our necks.

Joe McElderry: I was quite shocked it made front page news. It was ..

Paul O'Grady: Well done, you were very dignified

Joe McElderry: Thank you

Paul O'Grady: .. and I thought you handled it beautifully.

Joe McElderry: Thank you. Thanks very much.

Paul O'Grady: Who did you tell first?

Joe McElderry: It was my mum, yeah.

Paul O'Grady: Oh don't. What did your mum say?

Joe McElderry: It was on a train. We'd been coming back from visiting family and friends, and I just er - she knew there was something wrong - and I just told her. She asked a question (supportive audience interruption) and she was fine. Everybody was great and I'm so thankful for all the support I received from it. It was fantastic.

Paul O'Grady: Well done you kid.

Joe McElderry on Paul O'Grady Live (ITV1 15/10/2010)
Joe on ITV's Paul O'Grady Live (15/10/2010)

Joe mentioned some of the work he's doing including an appearance at G-A-Y on 23rd October, which he said he was quite excited about as it's his first real gig that isn't also on TV. Joe performed his single 'Ambitions' at the end of the show.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Once again, the BBC is looking for kids to take part in a new children's reality adventure series. This one is called Serious Explorers: Sir Walter Raleigh. As we've seen before with the CBBC Serious Series, participants have to be aged 12-15. Of course, needs must when the devil drives - so CBBC's target age range(6-12 yrs old) goes out the window.

Apparently CBBC are looking for eight young people to take part in an extreme adventure in the South American country of Guyana. As with Walter Raleigh, the expedition will sail across the Caribbean Sea from Trinidad & Tobago to the coast of Guyana. CBBC say they want young people who enjoy a challenge, care about animals and the environment and have the personality to come across well on camera. Applications by midnight tomorrow.

Not sure what they mean by a personality that comes across well on camera, but I think it's a safe bet that if, for example, a young lesbian applied, she would have pretty much zero chance of getting chosen for the expedition.

Basically homophobia is still the order of the day on BBC Children's. So much for the BBC Trust's recent instructions not to ignore or underserve particular audience groups.

Joe McElderry's single "Ambitions" was released at the start of this week, as was Pixie Lott's single "Broken Arrow."

Anyone notice that, since coming out as gay in July, Joe McElderry's been given hardly any coverage on CBBC? Just down to chance? No - there are just too many similar cases of BBC Children's keeping gay people and issues out of sight. Did you know Joe ran in the Great North Run in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust? If you did, it won't have been the result of seeing it on any CBBC Newsround report.

But, in contrast, let's see what Pixie Lott's been up to, courtesy of Newsround today. This is from the 8.30am bulletin -

Hayley: So, Pixie Lott - y'know singer, superstar, X Factor judge and maybe Number 1 this weekend - well Newsround heard that she was going to be giving a special performance at the House of Commons. So we thought it only right to send press packer Tom along. (Tom's press pack report)

And you can find a review of Pixie's single here on Newsround's website. There is, at the time of writing, no review of Joe's new single.

Newsround - Ricky Investigates
Discrimination on CBBC - Definitely a good topic for Ricky Investigates. But it's never going to happen, so Newsround Blog will investigate instead. I've asked the Director of BBC Children's a few questions.

Regrettably homophobia isn't just confined to BBC Children's. The Corporation, as a whole, isn't the most diverse-friendly of UK institutions. Remember my blog earlier in the year, when I said that BBC bosses were none too pleased with Tomasz Schafernaker? Well now he's been taken off-screen. A similar thing happened when CBBC presenter Andrew Hayden-Smith wrote a piece for a gay mag. Not straight away, of course, that would be a bit too obvious. But, to be fair, gay people can also do quite well for themselves at the BBC.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not surprisingly the lead story on Newsround this morning was all about the rescue of miners in Chile. Viewers were told "while you were sleeping there have been huge celebrations as rescue workers started to successfully free the miners who were trapped."

Hayley: ... This is the moment the first man, Florencio Avalos, was winched to the surface just a few hours ago. As you can hear, there were loads of cheers. Florencio was quickly reunited with his wife Monica and eight-year-old son Byron, who were very pleased to see him. He seemed pretty happy too. He had to wear special sunglasses to protect his eyes from the bright lights and camera flashes because he had been in the dark for so long. ...

All three morning bulletins included that bit about the sunglasses. But - really - were those sunglasses to protect Florencio's eyes, or were they being worn for some other reason? The eye is more than capable of adapting to differing brightness levels within a few seconds. And anyway it's not as if the miners had been in total darkness for the 69 days they'd been down the mine.

Could it be that it was some kind of commercial deal to obscure all the miners' faces, so there can later be premium payments for photographs and interviews? That would account for the strange sight of miners greeting friends and family while still wearing sunglasses.

Newsround, and BBC News in general, shouldn't just blindly repeat what they've heard or been told. Isn't it the job of a journalist to investigate, find out the truth, and then report it? Perhaps Andrew Marr could learn a thing or two from us bloggers.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Andrew Marr has apparently been rude about bloggers. He said: A lot of bloggers seem to be socially inadequate, pimpled, single, slightly seedy, bald, cauliflower-nosed, young men sitting in their mother's basements and ranting. They are very angry people.

I don't know why Andrew thinks my spottiness or otherwise is of any relevance. And I won't lower myself to Mr Marr's level by characterising his own appearance. Instead I will stick to the real issue.

Andrew Marr obviously considers himself to be a good journalist. Presumably the BBC also thinks highly of him, as he was the person chosen to front their impartiality seminar a few years ago, which resulted in From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel, previously discussed by this blogger on several occasions.

Mr Marr said then that "The BBC is a publicly-funded urban organisation with an abnormally large proportion of younger people, of people in ethnic minorities and almost certainly of gay people than the population at large.

"It depends on the state's approval at least for its funding mechanism and all this creates an innate liberal bias inside the BBC ...."
When I asked about the evidence upon which his remarks were based, Andrew simply ignored all correspondence.

Here is the text of my penultimate email to Mr Marr, dated 28 March 2010:

subject Re: BBC Impartiality Summit

I must confess that I'm getting rather concerned about the fact that you have not yet responded in any way to my several emails. On the basis of your integrity as a journalist, I now look forward to a reply. Many thanks.

The BBC has now published its new editorial guidelines. Newsround Blog will comment more in due course.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The new BBC Editorial Guidelines are due out very shortly, and Newsround Blog will be taking a close look at them to see how much the BBC has taken on board remarks made in the consultation, which ended ten months ago. Also the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is expected to publish a major report tomorrow.

As for the BBC's LGB review, this blog is concerned that public opinion was given a decisive say about a diversity issue. This time round, though, most people were either "comfortable" or indifferent to portrayal of gay people on telly. However the BBC is planning another consultation in two years' time.

When the going is difficult and times are bad, minorities tend to be victimised and have to take the brunt of the blame for things going wrong. So it's possible that the next review of LGB portrayal will show greater "discomfort" than at present. If that is the case, what is the BBC going to do? More portrayal or less portrayal?

Ten years ago, BBC Guidelines told programme makers that LGB people should be treated fairly - and surely that's what the BBC really needs to do with all minorities.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Lynne Featherstone wrote, last year, that the BBC can't be trusted. Of course, that's nothing that Newsround Blog devotees don't already know. Here's one more example.

Sonali interviewed Michael Gove in July about funding for essential school renovation projects. Her report looked like quality journalism with the BBC taking a stand in favour of kids' interests. In fact I was quite surprised at the time, having discovered over the previous year that the BBC and the government have an unhealthily close relationship, fostered by officials at the DCMS.

Sonali vs the government was shown on 21 July 2010. Notice what Michael Gove said in Sonali's interview -

The way in which we used to give money to schools meant that there were some schools which were OK, but were getting loads of cash. And then there were other schools, like Highfurlong - which I've visited - which really needed extra cash, which weren't getting it in time.

Sonali warned Michael that Newsround would be checking up on him. At the end of the interview Michael told Sonali that everyone who needs it [cash for school renovations] will get it.

So what's been the result of Sonali's report?

Well on Tuesday 10 August 2010 Newsround reported that Zoe and her friends had secured the cash for their school in South London and that they believed Newsround had helped get it.

Whatever happened to Sonali's promise to check up on Highfurlong? What Newsround failed to mention, even in their web report: "School is given extra cash" was that Highfurlong School had not been successful. It seems that BBC Newsround and the government have, between them, effectively double-crossed Highfurlong School. My enquiries confirm that the school has not, as yet, received the funding.

More proof, if any were needed, that Lynne Featherstone was right; the BBC can't be trusted.

Monday, October 04, 2010

A piece in today's Guardian demonstrates how seriously discrimination can affect people's lives. Last year Arlene Phillips was dismissed as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. Newsround first reported rumours that Arlene might be replaced by Alesha Dixon on Thursday 18 June 2009. Age discrimination is one of the long-standing concerns of Newsround Blog, for example see this blog entry.

The BBC, of course, denied that Arlene's dismissal was anything to do with age, but most people thought otherwise. Lynne Featherstone, who at the time was a member of the House of Commons Equality Bill Committee, was very annoyed at what happened. So annoyed in fact that she felt the BBC should not be exempt from the Equality Duty. In her blog, Lynne wrote: And as the Equality Bill is not yet through its legislative processes – I will be considering bringing an amendment to the Bill which looks at the BBC’s exemption again. They clearly can’t be trusted.

In the event Lynne did not bring forward such an amendment - the reason being that the BBC wasn't granted any exemption - not in the House of Commons at any rate. What did happen, however, is that an amendment was put through this year at a late stage in the House of Lords, without there having been any debate in the elected Chamber of Parliament.

The public sector Equality Duty is being consulted on at present, and is due to come into effect next April. The consultation ends on 10 November 2010.

Lynne Featherstone is now Minister for Equalities at the Government Equalities Office. Despite Lynne's annoyance, it is very possible that the BBC will, in large measure, be exempt from the Equality Duty. This exemption for the BBC seems very unwise because, as Lynne put it, they clearly can't be trusted.

Friday, October 01, 2010

The BBC has published its long-awaited research report: Portrayal of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People on the BBC. (BBC download page)

I did not, as a matter of principle, respond to the online part of the Consultation, as I believe the national broadcaster should promote equality and community cohesion independently of any audience prejudice.

Newsround Blog will have something to say about the Report at some time in the future, but for now this link seems to be a fairly insightful take on it.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Earlier this month Newsround reported on the racist bullying of a boy in Swindon. All types of bullying are unacceptable, but what makes things worse is when the victim is too frightened to say anything about it or seek help. This is why homophobic bullying, especially, can lead to terrible consequences. Its effects can be grave in religious households because of the homophobic attitudes promulgated by some faiths. The Pope, for example, once declared that gay people had a tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.

With such prejudiced attitudes in society it's hardly surprising that kids are worried about being thought of as gay, and why all too often they won't seek help if they're bullied. Some kids see suicide as the only way out. Seth Walsh, 13, from Tehachapi in California was one such boy. Ten days ago, after years of bullying, he hanged himself from a tree and died this week in hospital.

People should be able to feel proud of who they are - whatever their gender and sexual orientation. As Prime Minister David Cameron said in June, homophobic bullying needs to be addressed by a change in culture. Yet only last Thursday on the CBBC channel (4.25pm) Iain Stirling was referred to on-air as a pansy. Hardly the sort of culture change needed to eliminate homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools. In fact absolutely appalling.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Well it looks like Newsround finally got round to 'covering' the DavEd Miliband story. It was covered for the first time on their 5pm bulletin last night.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ricky Investigates began on Newsround today. Ricky's first 'investigation' was about cinema snack prices, the sort of thing once covered on Short Change.

You'd think the recent news about Ed Miliband and his brother David would be an ideal story for Newsround. After all, loads of viewers must have older or younger siblings. So why didn't Newsround have a word to say about the sibling rivalry, and what happened when younger brother Ed was voted in as leader of the party? Maybe it could have been done it in the jokey way they sometimes use.

Of course, it's not really for me to say what the BBC should or shouldn't do. The BBC's 'editorial independence' is very important to them.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Newsround spent a considerable amount of time in April and May attempting to explain politics before the General Election. So it was odd to see nothing this weekend about Ed Miliband becoming leader of the Labour opposition. Amongst the items which were covered in bulletins we had a boat made of chocolate, the mystery of the pink pussycat, news about the trapped miners in Chile, the Gordon Bennett balloon race, and of course the usual footie news.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Papal visit to Britain - continued

Newsround's enthusiasm over Pope Benedict's visit was less evident by Friday, although the visit still made the lead story at 7am and 8.30am, as well as in the two early afternoon programmes, both of which briefly mentioned the Pope's big assembly in London.

Friday's 5pm flagship bulletin on BBC One was presented by Sonali and Ore. Sonali had prepared a short potted history of the Pope and why Britain split away from Roman Catholicism. Viewers were told that the Pope was not always so welcome in Britain -

Sonali: First, here's how to make school assembly more interesting - invite the Pope along. Thousands of kids from all over the country travelled to London today for a big assembly where the Pope was the chief guest.

Ore: The head of the Catholic Church is on Day 2 of a four day UK tour. In the last hour he met the head of the Church of England, the Archbishop of Canterbury. Millions of people are very excited that he's here but the Pope's not always been so welcome in Britain. And to find out why, we've gotta go way back in time.

Video of Sonali's potted Pope history -

Sonali: So now you know.

Ore: Thank you very much Sonali. History lesson there.

Friday's evening bulletin on CBBC at 6.45pm also included Sonali's 'history lesson.'

Of the five Newsround bulletins on Saturday the only one to report anything about the Pope was at 9.55am -

Joe: It's the third day of the Pope's visit to the UK, and this morning he's met with the Prime Minister David Cameron. He's now arrived at Westminster Cathedral to celebrate Mass. And the day will end with a big prayer vigil in Hyde Park.

On Sunday the Pope's visit was covered at noon, and then finally this at 2pm -

Joe: It's the final day of the Pope's visit to the UK. Today he's in Birmingham, where he celebrated an open-air Mass. And during the service the Pope gave a special honour to a man called Cardinal Newman, who died more than 100 years ago. It was the second-to-last step in the process towards making the cardinal a saint. Now the Pope's meeting men who are training to be priests, before he returns home to Rome.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Papal visit to Britain

Newsround was enthusing about the Pope and his visit to Britain a whole day before he even touched down here (see blog dated 17 Sept 2010) The last bulletin at 6.25pm on Wednesday was the only time Newsround referred directly to children being abused by priests. The programme was introduced by Sonali, then came Hayley's filmed report from Rome, after which -

Sonali: But there are lots of people who don't agree with what the Pope stands for. Recently it's become clear that some kids who were looked after by Catholic priests were abused by them and then told not to say anything about it. The Pope did apologise earlier this year in a letter, but he's been accused of not doing enough to uncover exactly what went on. We asked one expert on religion to explain more. (Robert Pigott's explanation, as shown at 5pm)

Newsround coverage on Thursday began at 7am -

Leah: First up - the Pope arrives in Britain later for the first time in 28 years. He'll be here for a four day trip. After touching down in Edinburgh the Pope will first see the Queen. Tens of thousands of people are expected to turn out to see him, so security will be tight. He'll also be making trips to Birmingham and London.

A similar report followed at 7.25am on BBC Two, and then at 8.30am on the CBBC channel there was a report from Hayley in Scotland -

Hayley: Hi guys, yes I'm in Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, because the Pope is arriving here today. Now this is the first time a pope has been to the UK in 28 years, and he will be parading down this very street behind me. Loads of preparation has gone into today already. They've already put up stages. All the streets have been cleared because thousands of people are expected to gather here. There's also massive amounts of security, including sniffer dogs. And check out this pass that I've got to wear just to be here today. But the Pope has got a jam-packed day ahead of him. First of all he's meeting the Queen. Then he's parading through the streets of Edinburgh. Then he's going over to Glasgow where he's going to give a Mass to thousands of Catholics who've come from all over the country to hear what he's got to say. And I'll be there with him live on Newsround tonight. So tune in to BBC One at 5pm where I'll have everything that the Pope's been up to today.

The two early afternoon CBBC channel bulletins on Thursday began with news about the Pope's visit. Then it was the lead Newsround story at 5pm on BBC One -

Sonali: So the Pope has landed. For the first time in almost 30 years the leader of the Catholic Church is here in Britain.

Ore: There are more than 1 billion Catholics all around the world. So everything he says and does is a big deal. Hayley's been following the Pope's trip all day. Hayles, what's happening right now?

Hayley: Guys, well the Pope has just arrived. In any minute now he's going to be getting up on that stage and giving a Mass to 65,000 people who have come here to Bellahouston Park in Glasgow. As you can see behind me, there's already music and people waving flags. Now this is all part of a big concert, in which Susan Boyle is the star of the show. And all the pictures are going to be beamed out all over the world. Now this is part of a four day event. Because after the Pope's been here he's going on to London where's he's going to meet some school children and also speak to the Prime Minister. Then he's going on to Birmingham. So it's going to be a jam-packed few days, but it all started this morning where I was with him in Edinburgh.

Hayley's video summary of day's events

Sonali: So Hayley we can see there's a lot of excitement about the trip. But some people aren't happy about his visit because, in the past, some children were treated badly by Catholic priests who were supposed to be looking after them. Has the Pope said anything about this today?

Hayley: Yes he has Sonali. Well on his flight to Scotland this morning the Pope said that he felt shocked when he found out what had been happening in secret. Now the Pope has apologised earlier this year, but today he admitted that he thought the Church hadn't done enough to protect children and stop them being put at risk. But for all these people behind me you can tell that they're celebrating, and they're just here to get a glimpse of the Pope himself.

Ore: Alright Hayley. Thank you very much.

The 6.25pm bulletin that day included Hayley's earlier video report, but afterwards there was no mention about children being "treated badly" -

Sonali: First, the Pope is holding a big open air Mass in Glasgow right now. Tens of thousands of people are in Bellahouston Park to see him. It's the first time the leader of the Catholic Church has visited Britain in almost 30 years. Hayley's been following his journey today.

Repeat of Hayley's video summary of day's events

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The BBC is almost certain to receive an exemption from crucial parts of the new Equality Act, but you could be forgiven for thinking they are still remarkably keen to promote religion - at least inasmuch as that means promoting the Roman Catholic religion. It just so happens that Roman Catholicism is the faith of Mark Thompson, the BBCs own Director-General.

It was, in fact, Mark Thompson who, at the prompting of the BBC Trust's Michael Lyons, wrote to then government minister Lord Carter in April last year apparently asking for broadcasters to be exempted from provisions in the Equality Act. The reason advanced by the DCMS for the exemption is that the BBC must be 'editorially independent.'

Recall the first of the BBC's six Values:

Trust is the foundation of the BBC: we are independent, impartial and honest.

Hayley's Wednesday report about the Pope and Vatican City (previous blog) - does that come across to you as impartial?

In the 5pm flagship bulletin on BBC One the same day, Ore told viewers that lots of people don't agree with what the Pope stands for, and that children in the care of Catholic priests had been "mistreated." Robert Pigott said people are asking why the Pope didn't do more to help, but he failed to mention that Ratzinger was actually one of key players keeping the abuse under wraps.

Other reasons for the Pope being unwelcome here went unreported altogether by Newsround, and many kids will have been left with the clear overall impression that the Pope is a benign person.

BBC bias was most significant last night during the Protest the Pope demonstration in central London. Although there had been some coverage of the Demonstration during the day on the BBC News channel, including a short live broadcast of speeches outside Downing Street, the BBC chose at 4.40pm to cut away from a keynote speech by Geoffrey Robertson QC, and instead show the Pope's motorcade on its way to a care home for elderly people.

Professor Richard Dawkins' speech was not shown live, but is available here.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Pope's visit to Britain has been receiving extensive coverage on Newsround. This was how Newsround set the scene on Wednesday at 8.25am -

Leah: The leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope, arrives in Britain tomorrow for a four day visit. It's a big moment for millions of Catholics in the UK as it's the first time the Pope has visited in more than 25 years. Hayley's been to Vatican City in Italy where the Pope lives, to find out more about him.

Hayley: This is the Vatican City. And the man in charge, the Pope, lives just over there. But why is the Pope so special?

Robert Mickens: Well if you think of it in the sense of every family has a father or a mother or grandparents or the head of the family, in a similar way the Catholic Church has a head of the family - a father figure - and that's the Pope.

Hayley: Well the first Pope is believed to have been St Peter, one of Jesus's disciples who came to Rome 2000 years ago. And since then the Pope has been the man that millions of people look to for how to live their lives. This is the current Pope - he's called Pope Benedict the Sixteenth. He's German, and check this out - he loves cats and classical music. Thousands of people come every day to try and get a peep at the Pope, and hear what he has to say.

Hayley: What do you think of the Pope?

Girl: Oh he's a legend. Yeah, he's such an inspiration to people.

Boy1: I mean to see him today face to face was just absolutely amazing.

Boy2: For a Catholic he is, in the Catholic view, God's representative on Earth.

Hayley: One thing you can be sure of is that wherever the Pope goes big crowds follow. So you can expect to see thousands of people filling up the streets in the UK when the Pope comes to visit us at home. (end of video report)

Leah: And while many people are excited about the Pope's visit, there are others who disagree with what he stands for, and with some of the things he's done. To find out more tune into Newsround at 5 o'clock on BBC One.

Wednesday's 5pm programme included Hayley's earlier report but with slightly different edits, after which there was a short discussion about the controversy surrounding the Pope's visit.

Sonali: First, the leader of the Catholic Church, the Pope arrives in Scotland tomorrow for a four day visit to the UK. It's a big moment for the millions of Catholics in Britain, as it's the first time a Pope has visited in more than 25 years.

Ore: In a minute we'll be looking at why there are mixed feelings about his visit, but first Hayley's been to Vatican City in Italy where the Pope lives, to find out a bit more about him.

Hayley's video report

Ore: So he has got a lot of followers. But there are also lots of people who don't agree with what the Pope stands for. In recent years it's become clear that some children in care of Catholic priests have been mistreated.

Sonali: Now the Pope did apologise earlier this year in a letter but he's been accused of not doing enough to uncover exactly what went on.

Ore: Critics say some groups of priests stopped children speaking about being mistreated because they didn't want to give the Church a bad name. So we asked an expert on the Church to explain more.

Robert Pigott: This has been a huge problem for the Catholic Church, not just in this country but around the world during the last few years. And it's because a few priests have mistreated children who've been placed in their care. And I think what's made people so angry and disappointed and to feel so let down is that the priests were in a position of trust - they were trusted by parents to look after the children. And I think people are also asking why the Pope, who is the leader of all the Catholic priests in the world, didn't do more to stop it happening.

Sonali: So the Pope's visit starts tomorrow when he lands in Edinburgh. And thousands are expected to be there to welcome him.

Ore: Hayley will be following him throughout the day for us, so make sure you're back with us for that.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Pope is due to arrive in Britain tomorrow and, assuming that CBBC decides to report his visit, Newsround Blog will be looking out for journalistic integrity.

Will Newsround explain why loads of people believe that the Pope is a flagitious man who is not welcome here? Or will it instead hide away the controversy, in a similar way that Ratzinger himself tried to cover up cases of child abuse in his church?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Sonali: Meat dress, what d'you think?

Ore: I reckon .. go Gaga, well done.

Sonali: I think ... she's a vegan! It's disgusting!

Ore: She can do what she likes. She is Lady Gaga.

Sonali: Alright, fair enough.

That was part of the banter on Newsround yesterday, after they'd just carried a report about the MTV Video Music Awards.

Not sure Sonali was right about Lady Gaga being a vegan. Perhaps she was thinking of TV chat show host Ellen DeGeneres, who definitely is a vegan. After all Ellen was presenting at the MTV awards, and also interviewed Lady Gaga after the ceremony.

This report, from Channel 4 News, helps explain Gaga's meat dress -

Wonder what Newsround will make of Lady Gaga's new record when it's released. She sang part of Born This Way at the award ceremony -

How beautiful in my way, cos God makes no mistakes.
I'm on the right track. Baby I was born this way.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Perhaps it was because of the BBC Trust requirement that no group be ignored or underserved that Newsround, last week, decided to cover racist bullying from the point of view of a white boy bullied by Asian pupils.

The story resulted from the recommendations in a report (pdf) for Swindon Borough Council, which had looked into the circumstances surrounding a boy who suffered serious injuries when he was hit on the head with a hammer.

Alex Gray, a counsellor from ChildLine was in the studio to answer questions. Ricky asked him whether racist bullying was worse than other types of bullying. Alex responded that racist bullying "really attacks something really really personal to you," and that, Alex said, makes it particularly bad.

Traditionally racist bullying has been treated as more serious than all other types of bullying, but not for the reason given by Alex. Racist bullying is taken so seriously because the bullying, as well as directly affecting the victim, is also seen as an attack on a whole community group, and therefore a threat to community relations and a cohesive society.

Victims of racist bullying can, perhaps more readily than with other types of bullying, obtain help from their friends and family. Kids who, on the other hand, get bullied about issues personal to themselves often feel less able to ask for that help. Hopefully, when Ricky carries out his investigations for Newsround, he'll be a bit more skeptical and won't simply accept what he's told at face value.

Newsround's coverage of the racist bullying story may have given a misleading impression that Swindon's recommendations were applicable throughout the country. This is how it went out on Thursday's Newsround at 5pm -

Sonali: First we're talking about bullying. You can get picked on for all sorts of reasons. For some kids it's because of the colour of their skin.

Ricky: Well today a new report says schools should be doing more to stamp out racist bullying.

Sonali: (video) Three years ago Henry was attacked at his school because he was white. This CCTV film shows him just before he was set upon by a gang. They beat him up and left him with serious head injuries. There'd been lots of trouble between white and Asian pupils at the school, and Henry and his friends had been badly bullied. Henry's school say they couldn't have done anything to stop him being attacked, but Henry disagrees and thinks they could have. There's been a big investigation into what happened and the Report's out. It says schools must find out exactly why someone's been bullied and whether it's because of the colour of their skin. They say schools should keep a record of the race of all bullies and their victims, and the police should be told about any racist pupils.

Sonali: Well watching that on the sofa with us is Alex Gray, a counsellor from ChildLine. Hey there Alex. Now lots of schools are good at stamping out bullying, but is there any evidence that racist bullying is happening more often?

Alex: Yeah, we're hearing a lot from young people at ChildLine who are being bullied because of the colour of their skin, because of their background, their culture, that kind of thing. Bullying has always been our number one type of call that we get. But more and more they're calling us about racist bullying.

Ricky: And is being bullied just for maybe the colour of your skin worse than being teased for maybe being fat, or for being short?

Alex: Well the thing about racist bullying is it really attacks something really really personal to you. So the effect that that has on your self-esteem, how you feel inside is massive. So it can be really bad. All types of bullying are obviously really terrible for the person suffering it, but this is particularly bad.

Sonali: Is there a risk though, that someone's accused of being racist when they're saying a word that they might not actually understand is so bad, or so wrong?

Alex: Yeah, lots of young people will bully other young people without actually realising that's what they're doing. But the thing to remember is about the effect that you're having on other people. So are you upsetting them, are you really hurting them. And just being aware of what your actions are. It's not always a joke at the end of the day.

Sonali: Yeah, just try and think about what you're saying. Thanks Alex.

Ricky: Thanks Alex. Thanks for joining us. Right, don't forget, if you're worried about bullying we've got plenty of help and advice over on the Newsround website.

Friday, September 10, 2010

I've mentioned BBC age discrimination previously. It seems that, barring exceptional circumstances, CBBC presenters over the age of about 30 are simply surplus to requirements.

Two of CBBC's former presenters were, however, allowed to appear on TV for a short while yesterday afternoon, as part of the 25th anniversary celebrations. But we're unlikely to see older presenters again for quite a while. Ed Petrie (now aged 32) made a comeback last year and continuing into 2010, but that was maybe just as a stopgap measure until younger presenters such as Chris Johnson could be found and trained up.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Apparently today is the 25th anniversary of Children's BBC, or CBBC as it's now known.

Yesterday Single Parent Dad blogged that Newsround is worse these days than it was years ago, when he was a kid and it was presented by John Craven.

Here is how the programme looked in 1982 (on 2nd November) -

Newsround today does seem to have shorter stories, many of which are based around sports and showbiz personalities. Single Parent Dad was concerned, amongst other things, with a Newsround report about the tittle-tattle surrounding Wayne Rooney playing for England. That is not news, and certainly not a priority for children to hear about, said SPD.

Now if Newsround had gone into details about Wayne's extramarital sexual encounters, I would be inclined to agree that the story shouldn't have been mentioned. But look at what Newsround actually reported on Monday 6 September 2010 at 8.30am -

Ricky: .. Wayne Rooney is expected to be with them [the England team] despite newspaper reports about his private life over the weekend. ...

and the next day, Tuesday 7 September 2010 at 5pm -

Sonali: .. Wayne Rooney's told Fabio Capello he can handle tonight's Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland. There were worries he wouldn't be up for the match after those claims that he's been cheating on his wife, Coleen. ..

So, Newsround's coverage referred to claims that Rooney 'cheated' on his wife. What could a 5-year-old understand that to mean? Well, it means different things to kids as they get older. At school 'cheating' often means having a steady boyfriend or girlfriend, but secretly dating someone else.

Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter
Celia Johnson and Trevor Howard in Brief Encounter (1945)

Newsround Blog has often queried Newsround's editorial judgement, but sometimes people's private lives are important, and can have significant impact on their public lives. We saw that happen with former England captain John Terry earlier in the year. We saw it again with David Laws and, more recently, with William Hague. And there will be countless more examples in the future. As with Newsround's attempt to censor the John Terry story, editors can end up with egg on their face.

Single Parent Dad says that there used to be a lot of information about animals, and their plights around the globe. News of struggles in countries far away as well as uplifting news from the globe and, indeed, our own isles. As an avid viewer I can confirm that Newsround is still quite good on those issues, but perhaps the programme has come to rely just a bit too much on celebrity stories and football, to the detriment of other news relevant to children and young people.

Newsround wants to know what Ricky should investigate.

My suggestion is that Ricky could try to find out why most CBBC message boards were closed down at the end of 2008, and why the BBC said that it was an improvement to the website. However, I bet he won't investigate that, or anything else which might embarrass the BBC.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Still no news about the William Hague controversy on Newsround. Yesterday Hague tweeted "Thanks for another day of very supportive comments. What was said about me was a big lie which I hope has been nailed. I am enjoying my work." William seems unhappy with something in the newspapers, but what exactly is the 'big lie' to which he takes such exception? Hague was grateful for a few manly hugs which, he says, were taken in entirely the right way.

Ironically Hague once supported a law which referred to homosexuality as "a pretended family relationship." Yet as far back as 1994 he voted for an equal age of consent for gay and straight people.

Since the John Terry affair earlier in the year, Newsround has sensibly altered its prudish attitude to reporting the private lives of football players. On Monday's Newsround at 5pm -

Sonali: Now England striker Wayne Rooney will play in their Euro 2012 qualifier against Switzerland tomorrow. Fabio Capello confirmed it in the last hour.

Leah: There'd been some doubt over whether Rooney would be on the team after claims he cheated on wife, Coleen. But the player jetted off with the squad earlier today, and Fabio says: He's in.

With Wayne Rooney's triumph in Switzerland earlier this evening, Newsround viewers will now be able to see more of the picture.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Does television harm kids? That was one of the questions on yesterday's Sunday Morning Live. The three studio guests joining presenter Susanna Reid were John Amaechi, Rosie Millard and Aric Sigman. Aric Sigman is primarily known for his outspoken views on kids watching TV. Adam Fleming reported Sigman's ideas about kids watching too much TV for Newsround on 19 February 2007.

The last discussion topic on Sunday Morning Live yesterday was about stoning women in Iran -

Susanna Reid: Are we right to meddle in Iran's decision to stone a woman for adultery? Is it any of our business?

The question was as crass as asking whether or not gay people should be killed. Nevertheless, and despite its appalling reputation on human rights, Iran did pick up some support from one of the programme's guests who had visited the country -

Aric Sigman: One of the kindest cultures, who are terribly kind to children. You never see that on the news. We only see the extreme things. But aside from that, this is really a question about moral imperialism. I think we should obviously protest, but that's very different from expecting them to conform to the way that we do things.

Friday, September 03, 2010

No way was Newsround ever going to report the recent news about William Hague and his friend/advisor, Christopher Myers. But by Wednesday the BBC and the mainstream press could no longer avoid the story. Mr Hague issued a personal statement denying that he'd ever had a relationship with Mr Myers or any man, and informing us that Christopher Myers had wanted to resign because of the pressure on his family.

BBC news reports that day talked in terms of "slurs," "untrue and malicious allegations," and an "improper relationship" between the two men. On hearing the BBC reports many would have taken the suggestion of Hague's homosexuality itself as the slur, and that would especially be true with those unfamiliar with the standards of propriety expected of government ministers.

Unfortunately the total lack of CBBC dramas which involve gay characters and storylines will make kids likely to have picked up on this homophobic aspect of the news.

Perhaps a more diverse-friendly CBBC, with children's dramas having occasional stories along the lines of Sophie and Sian's relationship on Corrie, would help kids (and William Hague) understand that being gay is not unusual, nor anything to be ashamed about.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Regular readers will know that this blogger supports the principles of diversity and inclusiveness. You may also have gleaned that I believe in treating kids with the respect that all human beings deserve. And this is not just a theoretical notion. Take a careful look at my blogs of Saturday April 10th and Tuesday April 13th. You'll appreciate that Newsround should always be careful how it treats kids .....but should have been assiduous having regard to the views of those kids in Liverpool, at a time when it was specifically trying to let kids 'have your say' during the 2010 general election campaign.

It's clear that Newsround's 2010 general election consultation exercise came pretty low down on Hart's Ladder of Participation - perhaps rungs 2 to 3 at most. In general The BBC doesn't treat kids with the appropriate level of respect.

A coalition called 'ROCK' is working towards incorporating the UN Convention on children's rights into UK law. And as I blogged here August 12th 2010 marked the start of the International Year of Youth 2010. Last week the World Youth Conference 2010 was held in Léon Mexico (Twitter). From reports it seems that locals in Mexico treated youth delegates from around the world in a similar condescending way to how Newsround treats kids.

A note on terminology - Children are people under 18. By a common convention 'adolescent' refers to any individual aged between 10-19 years; 'young person' refers to any individual between 10-24 years; and 'youth' to people between the ages of 15 and 24 years.