Saturday, February 27, 2010

Jinx on CBBC - Episode 3 - Cookie Chips
Sydney in Australia is presently celebrating the city's LGBT Mardi Gras. But only a few days ago we saw a rather less positive image of Australia. The Senate there rejected a bid to legalise gay marriage by a large margin of 45 to 5.

In reality, despite its famous Sydney Mardi Gras, Australia is still quite a backward-looking country when it comes to equality and inclusiveness. Although lesbian and gay characters are occasionally seen on Australian dramas and soaps, their appearance is more often than not short-lived and arouses prejudice.

ITV's The Bill, which is also televised in Australia, used to have several lesbigay characters and storylines. Lance Powell and Mark Rollins' wedding (YouTube) was a landmark of British TV. However, from an economic point of view and in order to recoup costs, it makes sense that programmes can be marketed worldwide, and diversity can be a casualty.

The British Broadcasting Corporation's purpose is to make programmes for a British audience - the entire audience in all its diversity. Making money from overseas sales should be of secondary importance.

Jinx is currently being shown on CBBC. Jinx is made for the BBC by Kindle Entertainment which is signed up to the CDN Diversity Pledge. But, as we've seen, the reality is that diversity and international marketing are never easy to reconcile.

The screenshots above show a wall project about Australia. Visible on the board is a kangaroo, a koala bear, Uluru, a map of Australia, their flag, Sydney Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge. The wall board formed a backdrop to several scenes from episode 3, which is available here until 2 March 2010.

The BBC diversity strategy, adopted in 2005, is clear that leaders across the Organisation should be held accountable for making diversity happen in their part of the business. Diversity should be embedded into the key processes of programme making, creativity, service delivery and creating an inclusive workforce. So far there's been little sign of meaningful change to children's services, including Newsround and Sportsround.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

More footie news - Newsround style

On 7 Feb 2010 I summarised how Newsround had covered the week's news about John Terry.

This was from today's programme at 3.55pm -

Ore: Sport now, and a blow for England's World Cup squad. Footballer Wayne Bridge has said he doesn't want to play for England at the tournament in South Africa. The Manchester City player has hinted that he's worried he would cause trouble for the team spirit of the squad, after reportedly falling out with former England captain John Terry.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Causing confusion - one year on

Exactly one year ago I showed how Newsround was a bit mixed up when it comes to film awards.

They reported two major Oscar-winning films - Slumdog Millionaire and The Reader - which had Certificate 15. But CBBC had a policy of not allowing mention of such films on the message boards or feedback pages.

Newsround's reports of this year's Baftas centred on Avatar (Cert 12A) not winning many awards. This is yesterday's report at 7am:-

Joe: First, Avatar missed out on the big awards at last night's Baftas. The 3D blockbuster lost out on Best Film and Best Director, but did take home two awards - the Best Production Design and Best Visual Effects. The Disney flick 'Up' also came away with two prizes - the Best Animated Film and Best Music.

However there was no mention of the important Best Actor and Best Actress awards - both of which went to Cert 12A films - i.e. films Newsround is "allowed" to mention. Neither was there mention of the main winner which was The Hurt Locker (Cert 15)

So, what exactly is Newsround's policy on these issues, and who decides which films are promoted by Newsround and which ones are not?

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Newsround on Friday morning (8.25am) reported about some kids who visited the White House -

Ore: Ten kids have been on the half-term trip of a lifetime visiting the White House in the capital of America, Washington DC. The group were winners of an essay competition during Black History Month. They were shown around the building and even met the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

Although the trip was reported on the three later Newsround editions that day, it seems they decided there should be no further mention of 'Black History Month.'

Here's how Leah put it in the 5pm edition -

Leah: What prizes have you won recently at school. Gold stars? Maybe even books? Well ten kids from London entered an essay, and they headed all the way to Washington to meet the First Lady at the White House.

Wonder why they cut the reference to Black History Month. Though, to be fair, it is on the webpage text.

Incidentally, Black History Month is October in the UK and February in the USA; and LGBT History Month is October in the USA and February in the UK.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

The BBC, as everyone knows, is supposed to be impartial. In fact the Corporation itself claims that it is founded on trust, and is independent impartial and honest. But readers of this blog are aware of editorial integrity and discrimination issues which cast doubt on BBC impartiality. The forthcoming visit of the Pope to the UK will further test their claim of impartiality.

The BBC has a TV channel specially devoted to news. However a Valentine's Day demonstration (photo) against the Pope went completely unreported by the channel, and I couldn't find any mention on the BBC news website. Was that chance, or was it perhaps because of an ethos at the BBC emanating from Mark Thompson's own beliefs?

It's interesting to note a change in the guidelines to programme makers which, amongst other things, removed all reference to fair treatment of lesbian, gay and bisexual people (see blog on 9 December 2009.) This happened in 2005, and was presumably part of the new diversity strategy in which diversity was to be seen as a "creative opportunity" for the BBC to engage the totality of the UK audience.

The Pope's stance on diversity is well known. An example - he's described homosexuality as a tendency towards an "intrinsic moral evil."

Kids' message boards which allowed discussion of relationships and growing-up issues were peremptorily pruned in December 2008 (see previous blog) although religious self-expression is still found on the boards, for example in this thread. BBC children's TV now, in effect has its own Section 28 in place, and it's a reasonably safe bet that LGB equality issues will not make an appearance on the forthcoming Newsround election programme.

Unfortunately there was no mention of The Justin Campaign and Football v Homophobia on yesterday's editions of Newsround, Sportsround and Sportsday. Football Against Racism in Europe (FARE), the FA and the PFA (Professional Footballers' Association) have endorsed the Justin Campaign. For the first time there will be an international day against homophobia in football to raise awareness on the problem of homophobia in amateur and professional football. Obviously this will need media support to catch on, and I wonder whether the events last night will be mentioned on Football Focus or next week's Sportsround?

Recent reports are that Mark Damazer, the controller of Radio 4, would like the Pope to give a talk on Thought for the Day. It seems that Mark Thompson raised the matter with the Pope during a visit to the Vatican earlier in the month.

Some people might be forgiven for thinking that Mr Thompson, for one, isn't impartial. But the problem arises if he allows this bias to influence his role. Unfortunately, given the circumstantial evidence, it appears that happened right from the start.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Caught in the web - part 2 - Valentine's Day

In the past kids could use the BBC's message boards to chat about their lives and their relationships. As Jana Bennett put it in 2007: 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.

An example from CBBC's message boards was this thread about a cheating boyfriend, posted on 19 December 2008. But kids hoping to chat about romance and relationships these days will be disappointed. Because shortly after the Original Post (OP) something unfortunate happened - most of CBBC's best-liked message boards were closed without concern for those using the boards.

Kids were furious at the change, but BBC bosses refused to relent, and the BBC Trust declined to intervene. Since then things have continued to ebb, with the deliberate use of vague or deceptive language about relationships on CBBC's flagship news programme, Newsround. Look at how the Iris Robinson and John Terry affairs were belatedly reported to see what I mean (blogs on 12 Jan 2010 and 7 Feb 2010)

Jana Bennett's claim now looks profoundly hollow, as is the gesture of putting hearts in the CBBC logo: CBBC Valentine's Day hearts logoIf the BBC really wants to help kids to be safe they should put back all the message boards which were removed without consultation, so that kids can once again chat and help each other safely on the CBBC website.

Happy Valentine's Day

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Caught in the web - part 1

Newsround marked Safer Internet Day with another special, Caught in the Web, which gave a lot of sensible advice to kids.

David Tennant: Did you know there's a fantastical world where you can be whoever you want and do whatever your heart desires. It may sound like a far-away place, but it's closer than you think. This place is the internet. And for one lonely princess it was everything she needed.

David went on to talk about Lost Princess, her "friend" White Knight, and the dangerous things which happen to kids when Evil Arrow comes along.

Lost Princess designs her avatar and joins WonderWebWorld where she can meet so many people and quickly makes friends with White Knight, who shares her enthusiasm for a band called Poison Apple. Evil Arrow then points us to some stories about how kids can be in danger when they get caught in the web.

Additional stories and advice are available on Newsround's website.

In part 2 - how CBBC could help improve web safety.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

There are 36 editions of Newsround every week, and last week (31 Jan to 6 Feb) over 80 percent of them included at least one item of footie news. But almost a whole week went by with not a word about John Terry's predicament and the dilemma facing England manager Fabio Capello. Then suddenly on Friday afternoon's programme (3.55pm on CBBC)
Sonali: Can footie star John Terry keep his job as captain of England? The one man that has the power to make that decision is manager Fabio Capello. The two men are at a meeting at Wembley right now to discuss Terry's future, and the impact on England's World Cup chances. ....
A filmed report by Ore didn't help clear any confusion for those unfortunate few who are forced by their parents to rely on Newsround to understand what's happening in the world. Ore told viewers ... recently Terry has made the news for other reasons. He's had some family problems away from football and difficulties with other players in the England team ...
Sonali: Well we're gonna have all the very latest on whether JT is still going to be England captain, live at five - that's over on CBBC on BBC One. On to the day's other news now ...
Sky News had already reported Fabio Capello's decision to sack John Terry before Friday's 3.55pm edition of Newsround.

The BBC One edition of Newsround at 5pm reported it like this:
Sonali: This is Newsround. Tonight John Terry is dropped as England football captain ......

Sonali: Hi there, I'm Sonali. In the last hour we've heard that footie star John Terry has been sacked as captain of England. It came down to one man to make the decision, and after a meeting at Wembley today manager Fabio Capello decided JT wasn't the right man to lead England to the World Cup finals. Ore's been looking back at his captaincy.

{filmed report}
Ore: As Chelsea captain, John Terry has enjoyed great success and has lifted lots of trophies for the Club. His bravery and leadership on the pitch means he was handed the biggest job in English football, taking over from David Beckham as the captain of his country back in 2006.

John Terry: I've been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm gonna make the most of that, and as we said up here to do things my way. And, you know, I've learnt from great captains, like David who was a fantastic captain.

Ore: But recently Terry has made the news for other reasons. He's had some family problems away from football and difficulties with other players in the England team. Being captain of your country is a big job. Some people reckon you don't just have to be a great footballer on the pitch, but also a good role model off it. That's why England coach Fabio Capello held this important meeting today, and decided that John Terry is no longer the right man to captain the England football team. {End of Ore's filmed report}

Sonali: Well Ian Foster from Match of the Day magazine is here. Thank you very much for coming in. Are you shocked at all?

Ian Foster: I don't think I'm shocked. I think some people are shocked, but I think anyone who knows Fabio Capello - he demands discipline and he's made his decision.

Sonali: Do you think it's the right decision?

Ian Foster: I think it's a very brave decision. I think it kind of stops all the bad stories for a while, so in that respect I think it's the right decision, yeah.

Sonali: Is it that big a deal - being captain of England - obviously it's a lot of people's dream, but in cricket you actually are making decisions, whereas in football you don't really appear to do that much?

Ian Foster: You are kind of the brains of the manager on the pitch. So John Terry will give a team talk probably before, a small team talk during the match to gee players up and at half time, and maybe afterwards and he'll speak to the media after the game. So it's an important role.

Sonali: We've just heard that Rio Ferdinand has been made captain. Good decision?

Ian Foster: I think so. Rio's been a captain of Manchester United and England before. He knows what he's doing, so if his injury problems are behind him he's a good choice.

Sonali: Who do you think's now going to become his deputy?

Ian Foster: I think Steven Gerrard is third choice, so he'll accept that and yeah be very happy, hopefully.

Sonali: And hopefully they'll all stay out of trouble.

Ian Foster: This is it.

Sonali: Thank you very much for coming in, Ian Foster.

Later, at 6.25pm on Friday, Newsround reported:
Sonali: First to news that footie star John Terry has been sacked as England captain. Fabio Capello made the decision late this afternoon after meeting him at Wembley. This week there have been rumours that JT went out with one of his England teammates' ex-girlfriends. His manager decided he was no longer the right man to lead the squad to the World Cup finals. Ore's been looking back at his captaincy. {Filmed report followed}

Sportsround, immediately after Newsround, was pre-recorded and there was no mention of the England captaincy problems.

This was Newsround's take on the story the next day (CBBC at 12.55pm):
Joe: John Terry says he'll fight back after being dropped as England captain. England coach, Fabio Capello, decided to drop him as captain because of the player's family problems, which some fans are worried will affect his game. He's told a newspaper that he really wants to win back the armband in time for the World Cup.

It was reported in a similar fashion on the later Saturday editions. I'll return to this topic in a future blog.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

CBBC Raven: series 10, episode 7
There's a continuing communications media failure to cater adequately for today's kids.

Simply put, BBC Children's was always technically aimed at pre-teens (blog 8 May 2008.) But over the years that remit was interpreted in a commonsense fashion, so that controversial issues were tackled in popular dramas such as Grange Hill and well-regarded factual programmes such as The Lowdown. It was broadly recognised that a decent service for children needed to cover a multitude of abilities and understanding.

These days, although the BBC is looking for young people to work on Newsround, the reality is that CBBC fails to provide a satisfactory service, even for 6-12 year-olds. I wonder how many kids wanted to post their thoughts to CBBC's message boards about John Terry's captaincy. So far, none apparently. And Newsround itself is needlessly censoring news from its viewers the same way they once reported pervasive censorship takes place in China. Newsround said on 25 January 2006 that children in China won't be getting the full picture for some time to come. (see also my blog on 14 January 2010)

Take a look at this Roman Road challenge from a recent edition of CBBC's Raven. Did you understand it completely at a single viewing? If you did, chances are that you aren't six years old. In fact, I imagine some teens won't have understood it either, though I'm sure some six-year-olds saw that challenge as a doddle.

Educationalist, Professor David Hargreaves believes that pigeonholing children by age is "an extremely crude measure". He says that age banding in broadcasting for young people is arbitrary, since maturity and age among the young are not strongly correlated, and are becoming less so.

It's recently been reported that new ventures are in the pipeline to fill the gap left by the BBC. Simon Goretzki said That was a Children's BBC decision made a few years ago about where the CBBC channel was best aimed at. ... There is no one at the BBC who is pretending it's not an issue.

Of course it's an issue, but it's an agenda-driven issue of BBC management's own making. And the BBC Trust has resolutely stuck by management and refused to sort out the mess (see for example, this email about the December 2008 message board changes)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Chelsea's draw against Hull last night made the second story this morning on the 7.25am edition Newsround. There was no mention of John Terry's performance and hostile reception at Hull's KC Stadium:-

Leah: And in footie it was a disappointing night for League leaders, Chelsea. They drew 1-1 with struggling Hull City after a free-kick from Didier Drogba. They now lead Manchester United by 2 points, while Hull stay in the drop zone.

Later in the programme was this item:-

Leah: Next to New Zealand, and the arrival of a rare baby sea bird that's being raised by two mums. Ore's got the story.

Ore: This is the Otago Peninsula on New Zealand's South Island - one of the few places in the world where they breed this endangered sea bird called an albatross. So the arrival of a newborn is good news for conservation workers trying to protect albatross numbers. But that's not the only reason this little chick, being put in a bag so it can be weighed, is special. It's got not just one, but two mums looking after it. Two female albatrosses have paired up to care for the newborn after its dad left. They're now sharing the duties of parenthood, and for the next six months they'll take turns to guard and feed their baby.

Lyndon Perriman, ranger: The seabirds generally share all of the incubation duties and raising of the chicks, so this one's partner's out at sea. She could be several hundred kilometers away from here looking for food. Now that'll change about every two days now that they've got a young chick to feed.

Ore: It is rare for two female albatrosses to get together to raise a chick like this. But it looks like they make egg-cellent parents.

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.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Football news

There was plenty of football news on Newsround yesterday. Here is the football coverage from the 12.55pm programme on CBBC:-

Joe: Footie news now. And bottom of the League strugglers Portsmouth are up against Man City later, and Man United will be fighting to stay 2nd in the League when they meet 3rd placed Arsenal this afternoon. But yesterday was a big day for footie action. Here's what happened.
(video of footie action)
Chelsea are now 4 points clear at the top of the Premier League. Nicholas Anelka had opened the scoring against Burnley with this. But then the reply came from Steven Fletcher who, with a little bit of fancy footwork, got the equaliser. But it was John Terry who headed in the winning goal, to put the League leaders back on top. The fight for 2nd place carries on later today, but still in 4th is Tottenham who tried their best to break Birmingham City's unbeaten home record with this from Jermain Defoe. But Liam Ridgewell equalised in stoppage time, and the final score was 1 all. Liverpool closed within a point of Spurs after their 2-nil win over Bolton. The Reds are now on a roll with six league games in a row. But Aston Villa are just one point behind, and have played one less game. Two goals from Gabriel Agbonlahor secured their 2-nil win over Fulham. And back down at the bottom of the League, the battle in the relegation zone was drawn, with 2 goals each for Wolves and Hull. So Wolves remain safe for now. (video ends)

And in the SPL Rangers got a 3-nil win over Falkirk, keeping them ten points clear at the top of the table. And second place Celtic beat Hamilton 1-nil. Elsewhere there were wins for Motherwell, Hibernian and St Johnstone.

Egypt take on Ghana in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations later. But as everyone waits for the game, a row is brewing in Togo. Their footie side is upset after being told by people who organised the competition that they can't play in the next two competitions. The decision's been made because Togo had to withdraw from the current competition in Angola after three people died when their team bus was attacked. Togo say they are going to appeal the decision.

There was a blooper in the 2.55pm edition of Newsround yesterday when they reported that: England take on Ghana in the final of the Africa Cup of Nations ..

Newsround hasn't yet reported the John Terry affair, and the wider debate over his captaincy of England in this World Cup year. In 2007 he told Sportsround: At the moment, I spend a lot of time with my kids. I'm normally away quite a bit so every spare moment I get I spend with my family.

It's the first day of LGBT History Month. The event is going to focus on sport in the run-up to the Olympics.