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.