Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Is CBBC breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?

Towards the end of 2008 most kids' message boards were closed down as part of what the BBC described as 'improvements' to the website. There were other more subtle changes which largely went without notice. For example the Sport message board was renamed to the Sportsround message board.

So what's going on?

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child requires the mass media to make information available to children, and to encourage the exchange and dissemination of such information. (Article 17)

In 2007 BBC Director of Vision, Jana Bennett, made a speech to a children's media conference called Showcomotion in which she claimed that:

We help children understand themselves and their relationships in all their rich complexity and in particular, understand their world – begin to fathom their navigation of relationships, their situation, through the experience of others whom they can relate to.

Within weeks of Jana's fine words, the BBC closed down the 'Your Life' section (see blog 25 September 2007.) And a year later saw closure of the few boards which allowed young people a degree of self-expression (blog 8 January 2009)

One of the seemingly innocuous changes was the renaming of the Sport message board to the Sportsround message board. And whereas previously Newsround's In the News message board told kids they could "Talk about the News here" (slow archive link) current wording says "you can talk about stories from the Newsround programme and website." The Sportsround site says "the place to discuss the Sportsround stories which have got you jumping out of your chair with excitement!" The Sport message board used to say (slow archive link) "Are you mad about sports? Talk about all your favourite teams, players and their upcoming matches, as well as the sports you enjoy doing too!"

Not only is Newsround withholding information about the John Terry affair, but as a result of very unpopular changes to the message boards, kids are unable to discuss John Terry's captaincy online. This is surely at odds with the intentions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

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