Saturday, December 31, 2011

Bearing in mind its own involvement, why was the BBC one of the media organisations not to mention the recent pandagate furore? Look on BBC web pages and you'll find nothing about the widespread anger.

Meanwhile hacks have lined up to make light of the whole issue. Richard Littlejohn, for example, simply couldn't resist a dig at women, especially if there's an opportunity to add in a bit of homophobia at the same time.

Women's groups recently provided evidence to the Leveson Inquiry about the harm done by the media. If you saw the BBC News channel reporting of the Royal Family's arrival at church at Christmas you would have noticed the emphasis on fashion and clothes worn by female members of the entourage.

Jeremy Paxman, Andrew Marr and others haven't always been too kind about blogs and bloggers. But, in reality, we frequently do a good job in holding big media organisations to account.

Without proper scrutiny, to give another instance, the BBC Press Office tweet about pandagate (see previous blog) might, at first sight, have seemed reasonable. There was, they said "Benson the carp on the 2009 male list." But the Corporation only needs read its own Magazine to know that the male "face" of August 2009 was, in fact, female.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The BBC's sexist credentials were on show, once again, when the Corporation published Faces of the Year 2011. There's been considerable anger over the choice of a panda to represent the woman's face of December. The Guardian's Zoe Williams made her views known, last night, on Sky News' preview of today's papers.

The BBC's press office tried to play down the furore with this comment on Twitter:-

Sweetie isn't the first non-human on Faces of the year list, Peppa Pig last year and Benson the carp on the 2009 male list #pandagate

Sweetie (or Tian Tian) is the female giant panda which arrived at Edinburgh Zoo earlier this month, along with a male panda called Sunshine (Yang Guang)

So, reading the BBC's press comment, you could be forgiven for thinking the BBC wasn't sexist or misogynistic after all. If they chose a male carp in 2009 that proves the point, doesn't it?

No, actually.

Let's take a closer look at the evidence, to see why.

Newsround Blog has been able to trace BBC Magazine 'Faces of the Year' back to 2007. In that year and the following year the list was split into two, one for men and one for women. The were no non-human faces in either 2007 or 2008 -

Men 2007
Women 2007

Men 2008
Women 2008

However when we reach 2009, you will see that the lists are no longer titled "Faces of the year - the men" and "Faces of the year - the women" The titles are changed to "Faces of the year - part one" and "Faces of the year - part two" respectively

And if you check the two parts you will observe the wording of part 1 states: "Some of the males who have made the headlines in 2009 ... " whereas part 2 states: "Some of the women who have made the headlines in 2009 ... "

Take particular notice of the term "males" rather than "men" in part 1.

But now look what happens in 2010:-

Although the female list includes a pig, albeit a fictional pig, the BBC had no qualms about using the title "Faces of the year 2010 - the women"

Men 2010
Women 2010

And then in 2011 - when no women were shortlisted for BBC Sports Personality of the Year - a panda was chosen by the BBC as the "woman" best representing December 2011.

Men 2011
Women 2011

BBC misogyny?

Guilty as charged.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Newsround Blog's review of 2011 - In a nutshell there were signs of progress, but prejudice has yet to be overcome.

The first series of Sadie J began in January and, although gender traditional roles were challenged, the comedy stopped short at portrayal of even a single lesbian, gay or bisexual character. I suspect the second series will be no better.

Ballet Boys was a documentary about three brothers from Liverpool. The boys didn't identify as gay, but this documentary stood out for acknowledging and affirming children who are LGB. The programme was an exception, as no other CBBC programme of 2011 dealt with the issue.

If Ballet Boys was a high point of the year, in May we had one its lowest points - the CBBC drama Leonardo. The BBC has now confirmed that it is signed up to all four sections of the Creative Diversity Pledge (blog 11 December 2011) and Kindle Entertainment has confirmed it is signed up to two of the sections of the CDN Pledge, including "Encouraging diversity in output." So exactly why Leonardo da Vinci's sexual orientation was misrepresented is something of a mystery. Unless, of course, it was simply down to prejudice.

It seems that promises BBC children's TV would improve in terms of diversity have come to nothing. But what about programmes which, though not specifically targeted for children, are nevertheless popular with young audiences?

After years of doubt and occasional misdirection it is now known that Ben Mitchell from Eastenders identifies as gay. In September we saw him having to come to terms with it. On 29 September 2011 a greatly distressed Ben broke down in tears. Almost invariably, when the BBC screens a powerful story on Eastenders, there's a message during the closing credits with a BBC Action Helpline number to call for viewers "affected by any of the issues." But on that occasion there was nothing.

Despite the absence of young lesbian and gay role models on TV the BBC has no qualms in portraying Ben as an obnoxious, evil teenager. Perhaps it's because BBC producers accept the Vatican's teaching that "homosexual persons" have a tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil.

BBC bosses ought to read the recently published Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (A/HRC/19/41) which makes clear that the media have a role to play by eliminating negative stereotyping of LGBT people in television programmes popular among young people.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

BBC Sports Personality and Young Sports Personality (Part 2)

Generally speaking the BBC is not noted as being a politically correct organisation - in fact the current Director-General, Mark Thompson, has sometimes been forthright in his support for anti-politically correct voices such as Jeremy Clarkson. And perhaps Clarkson, with his unashamed male chauvinistic message, has served to encourage the Corporation's disdain for women.

In September 2006 I blogged about misogyny on children's TV. Things have been slow to change, with boys dressing up as girls still good for a laugh, but never the other way round. Mark told Sam to "run like the girl that you are."

Three years later, on 8th October 2009 (3.55pm) CBBC continuity presenter Iain Stirling was similarly addressed by a CBBC colleague: "Iain you run like a girl, scream like a girl, are you a girl?" And a few minutes later: "Iain, I still can't get over the fact that you run like a girl. What's with you man? Sort it out."

Iain has frequently been a target at the BBC, and was referred to as a "pansy" during a continuity break on 23rd September 2010.

It's only been a year since solicitors for the Corporation were doing their best - with licence payers' money - to defeat Miriam O'Reilly in an Employment Tribunal after she'd been brave enough to stand up to the discrimination. Since then Miriam has been offered a few morsels of work at the BBC, but hardly enough to demonstrate any real degree of contriteness for what happened.

The BBC needs to improve its diversity credentials.

Surprising as it may seem, from the 1960's onwards the proportion of female winners of Sports Personality of the Year declined over each decade of the 20th century. And boys have outnumbered girls by more than two to one in the Young Sports Personality category, since its inception in 2001.

This year the shortlist for the Young Sports Personality was decided on 21st November. The panel reconvened on 6th December, and narrowed the shortlist to the top three - Lucy Garner, Lauren Taylor & Eleanor Simmonds. Maybe the panel thought this would help paper over the controversy about the main award. But only a complete culture change at the BBC, especially amongst its sports commentators, will subvert long-standing sexism and homophobia.

Following today's announcement that John Terry is to be charged over alleged racial abuse, Lord Ouseley from Kick It Out told BBC News at 4.09pm : ".. It's a very sad day for football, but it's also a day where hopefully the authorities are making it clear that racism, homophobia, sexism and other forms of unacceptable behaviour will not be tolerated. People will not be allowed to get away with it, however difficult it is to establish the facts ..."

Friday, December 16, 2011

BBC Sports Personality and Young Sports Personality (Part 1)

It's 2011. Not that you'd guess that from a quick look at the names on the shortlist for BBC Sports Personality of the Year. Many, including the British Olympic Association, are furious about the fact that there isn't a single woman on the list.

So how did this unfortunate situation come about?

There is a problem at the BBC. On the face of it, the Corporation is modern and forward-thinking. But look a little deeper and you soon see the old-fashioned male-dominated macho culture which led to women being sidelined in this year's list.

The BBC says that a range of sports experts from newspapers and magazines across the UK were asked to send in their top 10 selections. But, really, what on earth are magazines like Nuts and Zoo doing there?!

Now, it is true that women occupy senior positions at the BBC, with nearly half the current BBC Executive Board being women, and even a female Head of Sport. Nevertheless the old macho culture prevails.

Newsround is quite good on gender equality issues, and reported the SPOTY controversy on 29th November. Their 5pm bulletin that day included an interview with Peter Spencer of the Manchester Evening News, and a sofa chat with BBC sports reporter Matt Slater. But perhaps they could have asked some women on too. Clare Balding, for example, has been outspoken about the issue.

Hayley read out a short comment by Rebecca Adlington: "I think there have been some great women in sport this year, including my best friend Keri-Anne Payne. I'm sad they haven't been recognised."

On Thursday 8th December Ore told Newsround viewers that the final three nominees for BBC Young Sports Personality of the Year had been announced. He said it's an all-girls shortlist, and that "the decision will be made by sporting experts, including me."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Cerrie Burnell is a presenter for CBeebies, so it was a surprise to see her answering questions on Sunday's CBBC Newsround, in what Leah called "a festive" When I Was 10, as questions put to Cerrie were mainly about Christmas. Cerrie has most of her right arm missing and, perhaps coincidentally, it is currently UK Disability History Month (22nd November - 22nd December)

When Cerrie first appeared on CBeebies some parents complained that their kids were frightened by her. In fact, young children are usually more curious than frightened, and responsible parents would have taken the opportunity to carefully explain that not all people are the same, but that we are all entitled to equal respect.

Considering the theme of this year's UKDHM is Celebrating Our Struggle for Equality, it was a pity that Cerrie wasn't asked what it was like for her at school with a disability, and how she was treated by other kids.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Creative Diversity Network, or Cultural Diversity Network as it was known until September 2011, held its award ceremony last Tuesday.

When I contacted CDN in 2010 I was told by the Secretariat's Nick Sammons that the CDN dealt with issues around ethnic diversity, not sexual orientation. However, since then, the CDN claims "a broader remit than previously, to include all aspects of diversity." I have asked the BBC which aspects of the Diversity Pledge it has signed up to, and am awaiting a reply.

Tony Marchant's new drama Postcode is about the interaction between a number of teenagers living in the same part of town, but from very different backgrounds and cultures. The first episode was broadcast on the same day as the CDN Awards.

Jamal, a refugee from Somalia, and Zac, who is white and attends a posh school, first meet whilst browsing through an Arsenal FC magazine in a shop owned by Sheela's dad.

Jamal is about to steal the magazine, but Zac warns him about the CCTV camera. Zac gets hassled by gang leader Anthony outside the shop, but Jamal speaks up for Zac. We see the ups and downs of a developing friendship between the two, and how that ultimately helps to secure Jamal and his family's refugee status in the UK.

Postcode portrayed characters from diverse backgrounds, but as I feared it was one further demonstration that BBC children's TV is still failing to address the portrayal of LGB people. In fact the short series took us no further along that route than did the Sadie J comedy series broadcast earlier this year.

A Newsround Special: Welcome to My World was about two boys from Lewisham, Sachen and Patric, who agreed to live with each other's families for a few days. It was first broadcast immediately after Postcode.

This week there'll be a new documentary series about the working lives of kids from other countries: Show Me What You're Made Of. Also this week Ricky will present a special series of reports from the USA. He's been on a road trip, to find out what Americans think about Barack Obama three years after he became President. I'd say it's a pretty safe bet we'll hear absolutely nothing about LGBT rights, even though that's been a major area of political interest in the States.

At least two BBC employees have recently used the term 'pansy' in a pejorative sense on a social networking site, contrary to this part of BBC Editorial Guidelines. Will the Corporation treat these incidents seriously, as it undoubtedly would had racist terms been used instead?

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The theme of Anti-Bullying Week 2011 was "Stop and think – words can hurt." But condemning hurtful words alone isn't always enough. Some words such as "gay" need to be used - and used in a positive way. Black History Month, LGBT History Month and UK Disability History Month are helpful reminders, but they're not an excuse to ignore diversity at other times. Inclusive children's TV all year, with affirmative portrayal of minorities, has the potential to get the message across a lot more effectively.

In December 2010 I was told by Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children's that, in 2011, I could expect to see more programmes on CBBC that "portray encouraging role models" as well as a diverse range of families and programming that tackles issues.

So how has BBC children's TV measured up to the claim?

As far as I'm aware only one kids' programme in 2011 said anything positive about being gay. That was the Bafta-nominated Ballet Boys documentary. I've blogged several times already about CBBC's Leonardo, which could have been a perfect opportunity to counter homophobia. And there were literally dozens of other kids' programmes toeing the heteronormative line.

School for Stars, for example, has just finished its run on CBBC. It's a reality series about the lives of pupils attending the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts. In episode 1 the narrator, Reggie Yates, said "Like any school, who's going out with who matters." The words "boyfriend" and "girlfriend" were heard a total of 29 times throughout the series, but never once in the context of a same-sex friendship.

A new children's drama series, Postcode, will be screened over the next three evenings on the CBBC Channel at 5.45pm. According to this press release, Postcode is "a contemporary, urban drama reflecting the realities of life for young people in Britain today. ... [it] will follow the friendships and frustrations among a group of young people – from backgrounds as diverse as Somalian, Polish, Pakistani and Irish – who share a postcode but very little else."

I don't know much else about this production, but I'd be very surprised, in a pleasant way, if this drama actually included even one LGBT character. Not holding my breath though.

Friday, December 02, 2011

My previous blog on Wednesday ended with the hope that Newsround would take human rights more seriously. And to be fair, it has recently been doing quite a lot to enlighten viewers about women's equality. Tuesday's Newsround led with a report on the controversy surrounding the BBC Sports Personality of the Year nominations - all of which were for men, for the first time in 5 years. The BBC has since said it will review the procedures by which nominees are chosen.

Thursday's Newsround at 5pm began with another women's equality story - this time a report by Nel Hedayat, who used to live in Afghanistan.

Ore: First to Afghanistan. Improving women's rights there was a key target of British and American troops after they overthrew the Taliban 10 years ago.

Hayley: The Taliban had been ruling the country, and under their strict regime women weren't allowed to do basic things like go to school.

Ore: But international troops are now getting ready to leave Afghanistan, and women there are really worried that things will go back to how they used to be. Here's Nel with more.

Nel's video report.

Hayley: Well Nel has come to speak to us now. Is it right that you used to live in Afghanistan?

Nel: Yes, yep.

Hayley: And you've recently gone over there to make a documentary about what it's like.

Nel: Yes.

Hayley: How do you feel girls and women - how is their life over there?

Nel: Well under the Taliban it was really, really strict. And women suffered immensely. My auntie, for example, she used to be a teacher. And under the Taliban she was forced to do it secretly. And my cousin had to attend a secret school just to be able to learn to read. With the troops there it was safe for her.

Ore: So would you say that it's fair to say when the troops were there it changed young girls' lives hugely?

Nel: Absolutely. Absolutely, it just meant that girls were able to go outside and play. They were able to go to school. That they were able to eventually get a job. And the worry is now that the girls that were able to do this - you know they're not going to be able to do it once the troops leave.

Hayley: So it's quite risky. What's the biggest risk they've got?

Nel: The biggest risk they've got is that they could be punished for doing the very things that they enjoy doing. Otherwise they'll be forced to stay at home and just completely be ignored.

Hayley: Thank you Nel.

Ore: Right, cheers for that.

Today's Newsround included a short Q & A section with the Archbishop of York answering questions put to him by pupils from York Minster School. The Archbishop was keen to promote it on Twitter - here and here.

Ore: ... This is the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu - the second most important man in the Church of England. Over the years he's chopped up his dog collar on TV and lived for a week in a tent to protest against human rights abuse around the world. And he's hiked 280 miles for charity ...

Unfortunately the Archbishop of York has a poor record on some human rights issues. Here is a case where Sentamu, quite disgracefully, invokes the name of William Wilberforce to support discrimination against gay people.

So Newsround does cover human rights, and as we've seen, it's particularly good on gender equality. But, like the Archbishop, the programme still hasn't demonstrated any interest in lesbian rights and equality.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Newsround frequently includes stories about Lady Gaga, though her estimable efforts to end bullying have never been acknowledged on their TV bulletins.

Lady Gaga has been very supportive of lesbian, gay, bi and trans kids, but regular readers of this blog will know that children's TV badly fails this group. So when news came out that Lady Gaga had sent a video message to a school pupil in Canada, I was reasonably sure Newsround wouldn't report the story. And, indeed, it hasn't been mentioned on air. However - and to my surprise - the story did at least appear on their website yesterday.

Lady Gaga's message of support for Jacques St Pierre's anti-bullying campaign work was screened at a school assembly. Jacques, now 17, had been bullied with homophobic taunts at primary school.

The term 'gay' is often used as an insult at school, and the fact that the word is almost never heard in an affirmative context on BBC children's TV only adds to the widely-held but mistaken belief that being gay is something to be ashamed of. The BBC could help change things by treating all people fairly, by making inclusive kids' dramas.

Newsround has always been happy to report on animal rights issues. It's time they took human rights seriously as well.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Kindle Entertainment has been receiving plaudits for, once again, winning the Independent Production Company Of The Year BAFTA. Kindle was the company behind Leonardo, shown on BBC children's TV this year.

Although Leonardo itself won nothing, any company prepared to censor LGBT people from history should not be rewarded in the way Kindle was last night. If a company were to treat racial groups in a similar way it would not be tolerated.

BAFTA should stand for the very best of British film and television, and in that respect the award to Kindle Entertainment was a serious mistake.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

CBBC Newsround receives a Children's BAFTA award later today. It's to celebrate the programme turning 40 in April next year.

Newsround was originally broadcast twice a week but, says BAFTA, "over the past 40 years it has grown and grown and now over 800,000 of you watch it." That claim is somewhat misleading because audience figures peaked years ago, and the number of people watching has been declining since then.

Celebs and others have been sending or tweeting their good wishes to Newsround, but not everyone has been quite so generous. Andrew Brown, writing for The Telegraph, called it "the programme all children want to switch off." Mr Brown suggests that the only award Newsround deserves is one for surviving such a long time.

There's no doubting that Newsround is, on occasion, outstanding children's TV - especially the investigative reports such as school funding cutbacks. And then there are the excellent Newsround Specials, the most recent of which helps nurture a spirit of understanding and acceptance for people with autism.

However in one particular respect Newsround has failed to move with the times and is still stuck in the 1970's when it was presented by John Craven. I wrote to John in January 2005 via the BBC Countryfile email address, to let him know that Newsround had not been inclusive, and that it failed to tackle homophobia and homophobic bullying. Unfortunately John did not reply, and since then there's been no improvement.

Showbiz is too insensitive to care about such details. In fact the industry prefers to hide these issues out of the way.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I hope that anyone who's never heard of Alan Turing had a chance to see last night's Channel 4 docudrama: Britain's Greatest Codebreaker. The programme highlighted Turing's codebreaking skills which helped win WW2. It also covered his post-war work on computing carried out at Manchester University, and his persecution as a result of being gay.

The person in charge of BBC children's TV, Joe Godwin, has an honours degree in History from the same University. I contacted Mr Godwin in January 2011 to suggest that the BBC might be interested in a children's drama about Alan Turing:

Excerpt from email to Mr Godwin dated 5th Jan 2011:
.. Might I suggest a drama on the life and work of Alan Turing would be a good idea? It could be done in time for the Turing centenary next year, and I hope would be a sensitive and nuanced portrayal, including Alan's affection for schoolfriend Christopher Morcom. ..

As far as I'm aware the idea has not been taken up. And regrettably, BBC children's TV chose to misrepresent another LGBT genius and hero.

I fleshed out my idea in an email to Joe Godwin on 10th Jan 2011 (excerpt):
.. I was thinking of a dramatisation of Turing's life for children's TV. I watched the remake of Just William over the holiday period, and noticed that romance and relationships were quite prominent. We see William's brother and sister dating, and William's teacher saying that "our society is founded on a man and a woman wanting to be together." By the fourth episode William's antipathy towards girls has gone, and he wants to be friends with Dorinda.

Of course kids have crushes at the age of 11, or sometimes at an earlier age. CBBC recognised that fact with programmes like Eliot Kid and Little Howard's Big Question, but I doubt that those stories turned any gay children straight. Using the same reasoning, a children's drama about an LGB person is not going to alter the sexual orientation of straight kids. However making children's TV inclusive is likely to encourage tolerance, as was recognised in past storylines in CBBC programmes such as Byker Grove and Grange Hill.

Alan Turing is an apposite subject for a British children's drama for 2012, which is the centenary of his birth and the year of the London Olympics. Alan was a top class runner as well as mathematician, codebreaker, gay rights pioneer and a senior figure in the development of the computer. He succumbed to the prejudices of a bygone age.

Turing's teenage crush on Christopher Morcom was no different to, say, six-year-old Eliot Kid's crush on Loretta or Little Howard's feelings towards Little Susan. And if the BBC is to represent everyone, with no group underserved, it needs to deliver for LGBT children and teenagers. What better luminary could there be for the CBBC to celebrate in 2012? ...

Monday, November 21, 2011

Highfurlong School update

Looks like I need to eat my words.

My blog dated 6 October 2010 effectively accused Newsround of putting the government's side and ignoring the plight of schools like Highfurlong which hadn't received the cash they really need for improvements.

But this morning Newsround did follow up Hayley's original report with this one by Leah. And it seems Michael Gove was indeed disingenuous when, in July 2010, he told Sonali every school that needs the funding will get it.

The BBC can be trusted, after all - well sometimes, at any rate.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

When asked whether the BBC has a duty to promote an ethical message, newsreader Jane Hill replied that the duty is not to promote a message but to reflect society. Our duty, says Jane, is to represent the UK in all its forms. Class religion, colour, disability and so on.

So I wonder how Jane's view squares with what appears very much to be a "help children in need" message that the BBC has been putting out recently.

Oddly enough the BBC children's TV news programme Newsround didn't mention Anti-Bullying Week on any of its bulletins, although there is something about it on this web page.

How does the Corporation decide which children are the ones in need? Because I still get the impression that gay kids are the ones losing out. Challenging gender stereotypes alone is not a substitute for directly challenging homophobic prejudice.

When David Bond interviewed Sepp Blatter yesterday, he didn't ask Blatter a single question about homophobia.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Surely the main purpose of a news programme ought to be to keep the audience up to date with current events. And Newsround often does that very well, for example with Leah's report on the financial problems in Greece. Her report was intended for kids, but I'm sure Leah also helped a lot of adults understand what's been going on.

Sometimes, though, Newsround is far too slow to respond. The occupation at St Paul's wasn't mentioned until five days after it began. And there's been nothing today about the escalating protests in New York.

Newsround has, for a while now, played down the issue of racism in sport, and has completely failed to acknowledge the existence of homophobia.

The John Terry/Anton Ferdinand racism controversy wasn't mentioned by Newsround until 2nd November - some ten days after the incident. And it took them over a month, until today, for any mention of the Luis Suarez/Patrice Evra controversy.

At 8.15am on CBBC we had:-

Joe: Hi guys. Joe here with all the stories you'll be talking about with your mates at school today. First up - there's been an angry reaction to Sepp Blatter's claim that football doesn't have a problem with racism. During a TV interview, the international footie chief also said he thought racist incidents could be solved between players with a simple handshake. Well Rio Ferdinand says his comments were laughable, but Blatter says he's been misunderstood. Several former players have called for Blatter to resign, but current Premier League striker Jason Roberts wants more done.

Jason Roberts: He can resign - certainly. But if the relevant authorities don't act differently with the issues that are prevalent in football, then I think we will be in danger of telling society that it's not an issue we care about.

And at 5pm:-

Ricky: First tonight. A massive row over .. a handshake. According to the most powerful man in the footballing world, it's the best way to sort out racist abuse on the pitch. But lots of the game's biggest stars are furious with FIFA boss Sepp Blatter. They say they want him to quit, saying his comments send out totally the wrong message.

(video) Ricky: Racism in football is big news right now. England captain John Terry is being investigated for apparently making a racist comment towards QPR's Anton Ferdinand during a match - he denies it. And just last night the FA charged Liverpool star Luis Suarez with racially abusing Manchester United's Patrice Evra. But Suarez says he's innocent. Now famous footballers have been queuing up to slam Sepp Blatter's idea to just shake hands over racist abuse. Rio Ferdinand tweeted the man himself. He said "I am astonished. I feel stupid for thinking that football was taking a leading role against racism." Blackburn's striker Jason Roberts said "I am absolutely disgusted - lost for words. I am absolutely fuming." Strictly Come Dancing star and ex-player Robbie Savage called for his head: "What planet is this guy on. That's a shocking statement from the leader of world football. For me Blatter should go. Blatter out."

Ricky: Strong stuff. And with me on the sofa is former Premier League star Mark Bright. Now Mark, he's saying he's been misquoted. But what do you think about this?

Mark: Well he hasn't been misquoted. I think we all saw the interview and we've heard it as well. He said that during 90 minutes players can say what they want to each other as long as at the end they shake hands and everything's good. That's not the case - you can't racially abuse someone on the football field.

Ricky: So you think he's sending out the wrong message - not just to us but to children too?

Mark: Absolutely. It starts at the top. He's at the top of the pyramid, the head of FIFA, the world governing body. And what he's saying to kids on a Saturday and Sunday morning: You can go out and you can say what you want to the other child while the games going on. But at the end of the game just shake hands. That's not right - no. In this country it's an offence to racially abuse someone on the pitch.

Ricky: And have you ever had any abuse on the pitch?

Mark: Everyone of my era who played had abuse. We had it every other week when we played away from home , from the fans from opponents. And I'm glad to say that all that has nearly been eradicated. We rarely get it from players. The fans are so much better now. And we've all embraced the Kick Racism Out of Football campaign. That's why it's so much better.

Ricky: Alright Mark. Thanks so much for joining us on the sofa today. Thank you for coming in.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The latest Newsround Special is called My Autism and Me. It was presented by Rosie King, who wanted to show viewers what it means to be autistic. Rosie said that although it can be a problem she wouldn't swap her autism for anything: "It makes me who I am. I just wouldn't be the same without it."

My Autism and Me featured a number of different kids besides Rosie.

Rosie: Because it's not always obvious that people have autism, some people think we're just mad or being naughty. This lack of understanding is one of the worst things about being autistic.

Ben: ... I was bullied at school because people didn't understand the fact that I had autism. ....... People figured I had an anger problem. They continuously taunted me, going at me. Most called me a bear. I was feared, I was hated. It wasn't fun. It wasn't fun at all. ...

Rosie's introduction to autism was easy to understand and very informative - another example of Newsround at its best. Lady Gaga's iconic Born This Way accompanied the closing title sequence.

Paparazzi is another song by Lady Gaga, and was chosen for the X Factor's Craig Colton on Saturday. Although it's been widely reported that Craig is gay and proud, it seems programme bosses wanted the words of the Lady Gaga song altered so that he was singing about fancying a girl. Many viewers expressed their dismay about this on Twitter.

In 2009 Dannii Minogue quite rightly drew attention to the X Factor's unnecessary changing of song lyrics. But unfortunately anti-gay prejudice is still frequently encountered in the showbiz industry, as well as in society at large.

Today is the start of Anti-Bullying Week, and the theme this year is Stop and think – words can hurt

The Anti-Bullying Alliance website says that derogatory language – words and expressions that are homophobic, racist, sexist or disabilist, that seek to demean particular groups and individuals - are far too common in our schools, colleges and communities." The website suggests some aims for the week:-

  • challenge the casual use of derogatory language in our schools, colleges and communities

  • raise awareness of the consequences of using demeaning and harassing language through technology

  • encourage schools, colleges and other settings to create language charters that makes it clear what is and isn't acceptable

  • give children and young people the tools to challenge others when they use derogatory language, to find new ways of expressing how they feel if they are angry or upset, and to make a conscious effort to speak positively and to compliment others

  • encourage adults to consider how they model the use of language with children and young people (this includes all practitioners working with children and young people but also celebrities and people in positions of power)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Anti-Bullying Week 2011 begins in three days, on 14th November. The theme this year is Stop and think – words can hurt

A major exhibition of Leonardo da Vinci's paintings opened this week at the National Gallery in London. The exhibition runs until early February which, in the UK, is LGBT History Month.

Perhaps the London exhibition is one of the reasons why the BBC decided to repeat its fantasy adventure series about the life of the young da Vinci. The first episode will be broadcast on the CBBC Channel this afternoon at 1.40pm - though exactly why BBC is still using licence payers' money to broadcast children's programmes during the day in school term-time escapes me. How many are actually watching, I wonder.

The BBC Mission is to enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain. There's no denying that CBBC's Leonardo is entertainment - and to be fair it is often quite enjoyable entertainment. But as for the mission aim to inform and educate, I'm afraid the Corporation fails badly. The drama is packed with misinformation about the painter, inventor and all-round genius.

Here is an example. Leonardo is set in 1467 when the eponymous hero would have been 15 years old. But in one episode he's seen in competition with Michelangelo. The fact that Michelangelo wasn't even born until 1475 doesn't seem to bother the writers of this drama series. Incidentally Michelangelo, unlike Leonardo himself, is portrayed as somewhat effeminate. And this brings me to the last point - BBC Values.

One of the BBC's Values is to "respect each other and celebrate our diversity." But if that really is a BBC Value, I think we need to know why the BBC decided to have Leonardo fancying the opposite sex. This distortion of the truth doesn't sound much like a celebration of diversity to me. In fact it seems to be a very good example of disrespect. See blog on 28 July 2011.

If I worked at the BBC I'd ask for an apology.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Newsround wants to know whose face should be on banknotes.

A clue to my own preferred person can be seen on the right hand side of this blog. But my guess is that if any kids suggest Alan Turing they will not get their messages put up on this feedback page.

Next year being Turing's centenary makes him a particularly apt choice.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

It was very foolish of Newsround to try and pretend that prejudice doesn't exist. But presumably that's the reason why they've only now decided to cover the John Terry / Anton Ferdinand racism controversy.

Newsround at 7.41am today

Nel: First - the England captain, John Terry's been investigated by the police after he was accused of calling another footballer a racist name. It's believed a fan complained about a word the Chelsea defender used in an argument with QPR's Anton Ferdinand during a Premier League game last month. Terry says he did not use racist language, and has welcomed an FA investigation. That's now been put on hold while the police look into it. But if he's found guilty, he could be stripped of the England arm band for a second time. ...

The Newsround report went on to give details of last night's Champions League match in Genk, but there was no mention of the chants from some Chelsea supporters.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

BBC editorial judgement is often questionable, and last night children's TV seemed to lose any sense of proportion. Blue Peter centred on a Hallowe'en quiz hosted by Ore Oduba. The contestants were Blue Peter presenters Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood. The scoremaster was Richard Quincey from the London Dungeon. Before the quiz began we found out about Helen's worst fear:

Helen: Oh everybody knows that I hate rats.

Barney: You don't like rats?!

Helen: It's not that I don't like them - I know some people have them as pets and think they're cute. But I genuinely feel a little bit sick whenever I even see them.

Barney: Well then, you're gonna hate this. This is what's known as the rat coffin! Yes it's an ordinary coffin that we're going to lie in - well one of us is - and then they're gonna fill it with rats.

We never did get to find out what Barney feared most, although he said he didn't mind rats at all.

It turned out that Helen picked up fewer points in the quiz, and then got carried off over Quincey's shoulder to undergo her ordeal.

Helen Skelton in a coffin with rats - Blue Peter 31st October 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Newsround at 8.55am this morning -

Leah: First to the St Paul's Cathedral demonstration. We've heard this morning that the Bishop of London will meet with the protesters to ask them to leave. The protests have nothing to do with St Paul's itself; protesters are there because it's near the London Stock Exchange, where banks and money organisations are based. Protesters are angry about how banks and governments around the world are using money.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It seems I'm not alone in criticising of the BBC's poor coverage of minority sports. In January Newsround Blog questioned why they took the decision to do away with Sportsround, and replace it with MOTD Kickabout.

To add insult to injury, MOTD Kickabout lingered on through the summer, filling its time with pointless nonsense such as spoof holiday postcards from famous footy players. MOTD Kickabout is dire, and should make way for a return of Sportsround, or a similar programme responsibly dealing with a variety of sports.

Football is a favourite topic for Newsround. This morning, for example, there was the news about Carlos Tevez's intention to sue boss Mancini. But Newsround is, once again, late with controversial news involving John Terry - so far there has been no mention of the racism row involving the England captain and Anton Ferdinand. And the other footy racism row between Suarez and Evra has also been given a miss.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Eagle-eyed viewers of CBBC's Sarah Jane Adventures who watched The Curse of Clyde Langer story might have noticed a name above the counter where food was served to homeless people. The charity was called Steven's Point.

Sarah Jane Adventures - The Curse of Clyde Langer
Steven's Point

Unlike Centrepoint, Steven's Point appeared to promote the Christian religion. First we saw a crucifix on the wall from a distance:-

Sarah Jane Adventures

and then, twenty seconds later, it was shown in a much closer shot:-

The Curse of Clyde Langer
I wonder whether homeless people with different beliefs might have felt unwelcome, or at least a little uncomfortable, going to Steven's Point for food. Also, what about all those gay daughters and sons who are thrown out by parents on account of old-fashioned religious attitudes. That's the reason why organisations such as Samaritans do not allow their volunteers to wear religious jewellery when talking to people who've come to them for help.

Unfortunately CBBC's Homelessness season avoided mentioning any LGBT-related issues, but compare this with my blog on 15 October 2011.

Friday, October 21, 2011

By the time kids start primary school many have picked up signals that 'gay' is a bad thing to be, and use the word as a term of abuse. Lack of gay characters on kids TV only serves to condone prejudice, and thus make the homophobic bullying worse.

Earlier this year the BBC's Director of Children's visited a group called Families Together London which represents families with LGBT children. The purpose of his visit was to talk about making children's TV inclusive, in order that all youngsters grow up being accepted and valued.

So what, if anything, is the BBC doing to challenge homophobia?

On 20th December 2010 the Director of Children's wrote in an email to me: "The pace of change is undoubtedly slower than you would like, but I would ask again that you accept my genuine and heartfelt intention is to improve things." And the message of 'It Gets Better' is that kids being bullied at school should be aware that things will be better when they get older.

FTL say they were told that nothing is going to happen 'tomorrow' - but as I mentioned in June for some kids ‘tomorrow’ is already too late.

Five months ago Jamey Rodemeyer made his own YouTube video with that very message - that it gets better. Tragically Jamey killed himself last month. And then just last week another boy, Jamie Hubley, killed himself. He was homophobically bullied at school and, with reference to the 'It Gets Better' campaign, had blogged "I don’t want to wait three more years, this hurts too much. How do you even know it will get better? It’s not."

This year Anti-Bullying Week begins on 14th November 2011, and hopefully CBBC's Newsround will not shy away from addressing the specific problem of homophobic bullying. In previous years they have failed.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Over the last week Newsround looked at the issue of Homelessness. Hayley began her series of reports by trying to experience for herself what it's like to be homeless on the streets of London. Hayley pointed out at the start, as part of a live report from Piccadilly Circus, that the reality would be much more difficult top cope with:-

Hayley: ... what I will always be aware of throughout this is that, while it might be tricky for me - I mean I might get a little bit cold and a little bit scared at some points - it's nothing compared to what actually homeless people are going through. Because I know that tomorrow night it's all going to be over, and I'm going to get to go to my nice warm bed. But for them, they don't know when it's going to end. And that must be really scary. ....

A summary of Hayley's homeless experience was broadcast on Tuesday at 5pm.

Newsround timed their coverage of homelessness to coincide with a story in the 'Sarah Jane Adventures' series on the CBBC Channel: The Curse of Clyde Langer.

In the story Clyde receives the curse from a totem pole whilst on a museum visit. His friends and family all turn against him, and Clyde finds himself forced onto the streets where he meets another homeless teen called Ellie Faber.

Ellie: I've been through bad stuff in my life. Maybe it doesn't matter now.

Clyde: I don't understand.

Ellie: Two years I've been telling myself I'll get off the street - I'll get on some sort of scheme. Get a job. Get a flat. Get my life back. Meet a nice boy. That was my dream. Now it's starting to come true.

The Curse of Clyde Langer
The Curse of Clyde Langer
Two scenes from The Curse of Clyde Langer

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Very sad to learn of the news about Harry Moseley, who died of brain cancer last night. Harry's work on behalf of others was inspirational.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The first item on Newsround at 5pm last night was about the Rugby World Cup. They began with a brief summary of the weekend matches. And then this:-

Sonali: .. When it comes to England, what's been going on off the pitch has been creating more of a stir than what they've been doing on it.

Sonali: Ever since the England team touched down in New Zealand they've been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. Within hours of playing their first game vice-captain Mike Tindall got into trouble for having a big night out in a bar. Then two coaches were suspended for illegally trying to switch balls during the game, before a Jonny Wilkinson kick. And now James Haskell, Dylan Hartley and Chris Ashton have been told off for being rude to hotel staff. It's something that's got the England manager very angry. He wants his players to be better role models. ...

Towards the end of her report, Sonali commented: "Playing for your country is such an honour, you'd think teams wouldn't dare do anything wrong."

Sunday, October 02, 2011

The Royal Charter details six BBC public purposes. One of those purposes is "Representing the UK, its nations, regions and communities." Amongst other things, the BBC is supposed to cater for the different nations, regions and communities of the UK, and to represent each of them to the rest of the UK.

Newsround on Friday evening had quite a lot to say about the Rugby World Cup:

Leah: .. It's a big weekend for rugby fans in England and Scotland. That's because the two sides are taking each other on in the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand tomorrow. Both teams will be going all out for victory, for a place in the quarter finals. And because it's such an important match we got England star, and World Cup winner, Jason Robinson to give us the lowdown. (75 second video, with Jason giving his views on what would be needed to win)

There was no mention of either the Wales v Fiji match or the Ireland v Italy match, both of which took place this morning. Neither were the matches mentioned on Saturday's Newsround bulletins. Today was a different matter. This morning at 8.55am Joe began with the Wales result:

Joe: Hi guys. You are in the right place to find out what's going on in the world today, so stay right there. First up, while most of you have been sleeping Wales have been hard at work in the Rugby World Cup this morning, thrashing Fiji 66 - nil. They scored a whopping nine tries, including this one from Sam Warburton. It means they're now through to the quarter finals. But elsewhere it's bad news for Scotland - they're out of the competition after Argentina overtook them in their group, winning with 25-7 over Georgia. And, right now, Ireland are in action against Italy. If they win they could face Wales in the quarter finals. Right now they're winning 6 -3.

And then at 10.55am this morning:

Joe: Hi guys. Joe here, with loads of fresh stories to tell you about. First up, it's all go in the Rugby World Cup. So far this morning Scotland have been booted out of the competition. Wales have hammered Fiji 66 - nil. And in the past hour Ireland beat Italy 36 - 6. It was a great 24th birthday present for winger Keith Earls, who scored this - his second try - in the closing minutes of the match. Ireland and Wales will now face each other in the quarter finals.

Gareth Thomas - former Wales rugby captain 2nd Oct 2011
Gareth Thomas on ITV RWC2011 commentary team

Friday, September 30, 2011

BBC Statements of Programme Policy 2011/12

If you've been desperately searching for the BBC Statements of Programme Policy 2011/2012 don't worry because the Statements do actually exist. Despite the best efforts of Lord de Mauley to repeal Section 266 of the Communications Act 2003 at the start of 2010, Section 266 is still in place.

For the years between 2005 and 2010 inclusive, SoPPs can be found at URL with the xx replaced by the year in question (05 to 10)

However the current BBC's Statements are no longer at that URL, but are instead buried away in another document called "BBC Executive priorities and summary workplan for 2011/12"

One interesting thing to note about the Statements of Programme Policy 2011/2012 is that the 'Accountability' section, which appeared in all but the very first (2003/2004) SoPP, has now been taken out. The removed wording:-

The BBC, as an open and transparent organisation which is trusted by the public it serves, seeks to engage its audiences in dialogue, to learn from them and to respond honestly to what they have to say.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

EastEnders has won yet more awards. The BBC soap scooped five gongs at this year's Inside Soap Awards in London

One long-standing theme on EastEnders has been about the sexuality of Ben Mitchell. Is he gay or straight? Forget bi - this is a soap, after all.

In the latest episodes it seems that Ben does have feelings for another boy called Duncan whom he met in the gym whilst attempting to man-up and keep his dad happy.

Patrick saw Ben kissing Duncan, and afterwards Ben glimpsed Patrick speaking to his dad. Without having heard the conversation, Ben wrongly assumed Patrick had told Phil about himself and Duncan kissing. Later Ben threw a rock through Patrick's window.

Ben is a truly unlikeable character, but as there are no LGB characters in BBC children's dramas, he's the only gay role model many kids will see on TV. This soap will not make things easier for kids struggling with their sexuality - and although Phil may possibly accept Ben in the future, it's what's happening now that's important. And toying with the issues of sexuality and homophobia for entertainment is distasteful.

Here - as an example - is what happened right near the start of yesterday's EastEnders:-

Phil approached his son in Albert Square and asked him what happened there - referring to the broken window in Patrick's house which is being replaced.

Ben: Dunno - kids probably

Phil: You was out early this morning. What - you off to the gym?

Ben: Yeah, thought I'd get an hour and a half in before school

Phil: What, with Duncan?

(Ben looks away)

Phil: Listen Ben, er ...

(long pause)

Phil: .... I know

(another long pause)

Phil: ...know about yesterday

(another pause)

Phil: You can't keep skipping school like this

(Ben breathes huge sigh of relief)

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Joe McElderry took part in the Great North Run a few days ago. Like last year it was to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. This year he chatted to Sue Barker before the start of the race, which was broadcast on BBC One.

In a welcome change to last year, this time Newsround reported that Joe had taken part. Sunday 18 Sept 2011 at 1.55pm on CBBC:-

John: ... Elsewhere then today to Newcastle where X Factor star Joe McElderry joined 1000's of people taking part in the Great North Run this morning. Joe was running the race to raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The course is 13 miles in total....

Joe also appeared as a celebrity guest on Sam & Mark's Big Friday Wind Up, where he was introduced as quite possibly the nicest man in the world of entertainment.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The UK Government has just announced an intention to legislate in favour of allowing same-sex couples to marry. News items about LGBT equality never make it to Newsround, but it's quite refreshing to see some teens happy to chat about diversity and equality on YouTube. Here, for example, TheRealJazzBertie gives her views on religion, marriage and civil partnerships:-

TheRealJazzBertie - A future BBC news reporter?

Every year the BBC holds a journalism-fest called School Report. Schools from around the country are invited to participate by asking kids to make their own news report on something of interest. Of course there's one topic to be especially wary of - that is gay rights. So if any schools are thinking of signing up to this venture, that is the one topic to push for. Here are a few of my suggestions -

(1) School children might be able to make use of projects carried out during February - LGBT History Month - as the starting point of a BBC School Report.

(2) The government consultation on marriage equality is supposed to begin in March - the same month as BBC School Report. So that's a subject schools could look at.

(3) Next year, 2012, is Alan Turing Year - the centenary of Turing's birth. Think about the impact of computers in all our lives. What is being done to celebrate Turing's life and achievements?

(4) Kids could talk to sports personalities, such as Ben Cohen and Gareth Thomas, who are trying to stamp out homophobia and homophobic bullying. Their work has never been mentioned on Newsround.

(5) Lastly, what about an interview with the BBC Director-General? The BBC is in need of a bit of scrutiny because it's practically exempt from large swathes of the Equality Act 2010, as well as the the Freedom of Information Act 2000. What better excuse could there be for asking Director-General, Mark Thompson, for a few minutes of his time? The interviewers could perhaps begin by asking Mark - reputedly a devout Roman Catholic - whether or not he accepts the Vatican's teaching on homosexuality, and what he thinks about the prospect of gay people being allowed to marry.

BBC trailer to publicise The School Report

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Haven't seen any recent Newsround gossip about Simon Cowell's engagement (see previous blog)

But today The Mirror - which is owned by the same newspaper group as The People - has more evidence that Mezhgan Hussainy is history. Apparently Simon's been flirting with Paula Abdul, the American Idol judge who felt the need to vilify a contestant who had suggested Simon might be gay.

Newsround Blog has often pointed to homophobia being pretty much endemic in the showbiz/media world. Recall, for example, the way Joe McElderry was treated by Simon Cowell and by CBBC. And then there's also the example of Simon's indignation over Dannii Minogue's LGBT-friendly comment to Danyl Johnson on the X Factor in 2009. Cowell's reaction embodies exactly what is wrong with the industry, and the way it continues to invisibilise bisexual, lesbian and gay people.

It looks like Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul are made for each other.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Eighteen months ago Newsround reported that things just keep on getting better for Simon Cowell. The news item was about Simon finding a girlfriend who had agreed to marry him. This was something of a shock to some in the media. For example, Sonali was surprised anyone would agree to marry a man who wears his trousers so high up. Others had different reasons for scepticism, as this clip from a BBC documentary in 2002 demonstrates. But Max is undeterred by it all.

So it looks like Simon's engagement is off. His fiancée will, no doubt, get a huge payout in line with the other big love of his life, whose name escaped him when he appeared on This Is Your Life.

It's very unusual to see BBC news presenters in commercials. But apparently they are allowed to appear providing their promotional activities don't constitute a conflict of interest, or undermine the editorial integrity of the BBC or the programmes they present. The relevant Head of Department has to give permission. So here is the finished commercial for Mizz magazine, with Leah and Ricky - neither of whom actually features in the current (1st-14th Sept) edition.

Leah & Ricky in YouTube commercial for Mizz Mag

Ricky was the presenter of Newsround yesterday. One of the items on the 2.15pm bulletin was rapper Elliot John Gleave aka Example, answering When I Was 10 questions. Apparently he fancied loads of people at school, but "didn't find love till later in life." His favourite subject at school was drama, and his least favourite, oddly enough, was music.

The next story on yesterday's Newsround was also about showbiz. As usual CBBC toed the heteronomative celebrity line.

Ricky: Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez might be an item, but the Biebster doesn't take any fashion tips from his girlfriend. The popstar was talking at a big fashion party in New York where he also revealed that he likes Kanye West's style ....

Now if Ricky had taken a few minutes to read though his copy of Mizz magazine, he'd know that the magazine is sceptical about the sincerity of Justin and Selena's relationship. Ricky called them an item, but Mizz questions whether the PDAs just indicate a fauxmance. Mizz suggests that, after eight months together, the couple ought to be a bit more laid back. The continuing public display of affection "smacks of trying too hard to convince us they're an item"

Mizz Magazine's verdict: Justin & Selena = FAUXMANCE
Mizz verdict on Justin & Selena

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Is former England rugby union international, Ben Cohen, another victim of BBC homophobia? A strange question, you might think - all the more so because Ben is straight and has a wife and young family.

So how could he be a victim of homophobia?

The answer is quite simply that, unlike CBBC bosses, Ben recognises the prejudice against young LGBT people and is prepared to stand up against it. Gareth Thomas is another rugby player who wants to help, but he too was given the Newsround cold shoulder, as this blog has previously documented.

Yesterday Newsround included substantial coverage of the Rugby World Cup. And there was a lot more today. Their website shows photos of the opening ceremony, how to dance the Haka and there's a guide to the rules.

Lawrence Dallaglio on Newsround - 9th September 2011
Lawrence Dallaglio -
"England hard man" on Newsround yesterday

Whose Side Are You On?

The people in charge of CBBC refuse to acknowledge that homophobia is a serious problem for kids in primary and secondary schools. In fact, when it comes to homophobia and homophobic bullying there's hardly a shred of evidence to suggest that CBBC is on the side of the victims.

This morning Ben Cohen was off to Bolton to help Bully Free Zone which is in danger of closing through lack of funding.

Anti-Bullying Week begins on 14th November 2011 - the theme this year is 'Stop and think – words can hurt'

Sunday, September 04, 2011

With his ITV1 programme last night Jonathan Ross proved that it's quite possible for him to make an entertaining show without the need for the weekly homophobic jokes which were unfortunately a permanent fixture on his BBC One Friday night show. His old house band will not be missed by this blogger, or indeed anyone who fully appreciates the principles of diversity and equality. Nevertheless Jonathan's new chat show would benefit from a talented house band akin to the one on David Letterman's show in the United States.

An ironic scene from Friday Night With Jonathan Ross (BBC One - 24/7/2009)

Monday, August 29, 2011

Watching Dragons' Den last night on BBC Two, I wasn't entirely sure why the last, very successful, entrepreneurs wanted the comparatively modest sum of £50,000 they were asking for. Then after a few moments it all seemed to click. Perhaps they were primarily interested in getting valuable free publicity for their, already lucrative, junk mail business. The two businessmen were obviously very experienced at marketing, and no doubt knew exactly what strings to pull to get producers interested in giving them the slot on Dragons' Den.

Every month BBC One broadcasts a charity appeal, and on 21 August 2011 the Lifeline appeal was presented by Olly Murs, whose single Heart Skips A Beat was released the same day (see blog on 25 August)

It's not clear whether the coincidence of the Lifeline appeal date and the release date of Olly's Single is down to chance. The appeal had originally been scheduled to air on 24th July, but was put back a month to 21st August. What is known is that Heart Skips A Beat topped the charts last night, and the publicity the Single received at the start of the appeal would not have hindered Olly's chart success. No money from sales of Heart Skips A Beat was specifically allocated to the charity.

Video clip - Olly Murs speaks about making the Lifeline appeal

Sunday, August 28, 2011

BBC Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Thomson, delivered a speech in 2007 to the Television from the Nations and Regions conference in Salford, Greater Manchester.

Caroline said it's important to remember the move to Salford was the BBC's idea, stemming from the Building Public Value vision of a BBC which was more diverse, less London-centric, better represented the country and clearly embraced its role as a creative catalyst in the nation's economy. It is not something we have to be forced into. It's something we want to do because we think it's the right thing to do to serve audiences better. ...

Towards the end of Friday's Newsround on BBC One, Ricky sent good wishes for the bank holiday weekend, "especially if you're off to the Notting Hill Carnival in London." And yesterday the programme broadcast Ricky's report about preparations for the Carnival.

Two Newsround bulletins today (9.08am and 1.59pm) reported on the London event.

If you'd listened to Caroline Thomson's speech, you might think BBC national TV, including Newsround, would be only too willing to give a nod to Manchester Pride, which is taking place this weekend. Not so.

Some audience groups, whether from London, Manchester, or any other part of the United Kingdom, continue to be underserved despite the BBC's public service broadcaster obligations, as re-stated by the BBC Trust last year (pdf page 27)

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Usually TV companies have to pay to publicise their programmes, either on hoardings or on other TV channels. Not so, it seems, with ITV's The X Factor. The show gets thousands of pounds' worth of free publicity, courtesy of BBC Newsround. Here, for instance.

How the BBC decides who and what to promote or ignore is anyone's guess - it's all part of the BBC's "editorial independence" - and that means the BBC isn't answerable to the public. Don't bother with Freedom of Information requests as the BBC has special exemptions from that law - and anyway, as I've discovered, the BBC's Information Policy and Compliance Department isn't above attempting to deceive the public - and then attempting to cover up the deception.

Mark Thompson, writing for The Guardian, says that The only reliable, durable and perpetual guarantor of independence is not profit, nor who you know. It is integrity - a reference, of course, to the infamous last words in a lecture delivered by James Murdoch at the Edinburgh International Television Festival in 2009. I will be returning to this later.

One of the BBC's favoured celebrities is Olly Murs, who has a new single out this week, heading for Number 1 in the charts. The single, Heart Skips A Beat, was released last Sunday - the same day Olly appeared in a BBC Lifeline appeal for a charity of which Mr Murs is a patron. The Lifeline appeal began with a clip from the video of Olly's new single.

The full BBC Lifeline appeal can be viewed on the iPlayer for a few more days.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Slammer is a BBC children's programme set in a prison. Four variety acts compete for applause at the end of the show, and the act which gets the loudest acclamation from the audience of kids is allowed to go free. The other three acts have to remain in prison and dine on regular meals of sloppy-ploppy porridge.

The last act on yesterday's programme (first shown in 2008) was a boyband called 3 Pin Socket. Following their performance of Lost in Misery, one of the prison officers, Mr Burgess, asked kids if they enjoyed it. Here's what happened when Mr Burgess questioned a young girl in the audience. Note: the girl's face was mostly shown in close-up.

CBBC - The Slammer
Mr Burgess: Lost in Misery. I know I was - listening to that. What about you, miss?

Girl: I really liked the drum player, cos he's really cool.

Mr Burgess: Have you got a bit of a crush on him, miss?

Girl smiles, looking embarrassed

Mr Burgess: Did you like him?

Girl giggles

Mr Burgess: Did you think he was a bit nice?

Girl laughs slightly

Mr Burgess: Did you, miss? You can tell me. There's nobody else listening you know.

Girl smiles, embarrassed and lost for words

Mr Burgess: Did you, miss?

Girl: I really liked the music

Mr Burgess: Would you like to release him?

Girl: I'd like to release him

Mr Burgess: Yes, then you could meet him and have a cup of tea.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Government Equalities minister Lynne Featherstone sent a message of support to UK Black Pride, which is taking place in London today.

Lynne said that "Equality sits firmly at the heart of this Government."

Lynne Featherstone: "While we celebrate that real progress has been made towards equality in recent years, we must not be complacent and we are working hard to achieve more. We must celebrate the diverse nature of Britain – our race, our sexual orientation, our gender and we must celebrate that we are all these things and many more."

One way to help "achieve more" would be to cease the ongoing discrimination on BBC children's TV. It would be nice, at least once in a while, to see Newsround report from a Pride event, or perhaps cover LGBT support from celebs like Alexandra Burke, Lady Gaga, Daniel Radcliffe and Miley Cyrus.

Ore Oduba has explained to Newsround viewers what is was like to be black under apartheid in South Africa. In the circumstances it's quite unfortunate that MOTD Kickabout hasn't mentioned the footballing career of Justin Fashanu, and the discrimination he encountered. Even the programme on Saturday 19th February (International Football v Homophobia Day) which, this year, would have been Justin's 50th birthday.

Perhaps Ore could make amends with a report from UK Black Pride.

Because, as Lynne Featherstone says, "We have seen real progress over the last 20 years when it comes to tackling racism in sport and I firmly believe we should work to remove all forms of discrimination from all sport, including homophobia and transphobia."

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

For the record, the webpage referred to in my blog of 20 April 2011 has been altered. Below is the entire page as downloaded from the same web address at 10am this morning.*

Note the previous wording, under the heading "Expenses" - and contrast with the current wording under "Expenses and central bookings"

Previous wording:-

Expenses are costs incurred by BBC staff on behalf of the BBC and claimed through the BBC's expenses system (e-expenses) or booked through the BBC's central booking system.

Expense reports from April 2009 are published quarterly.

Details of expenses for each current Executive Board member are available on the biography pages. To see the biography and expenses of each Board member, click on their names below.

Current wording:-

Expenses are costs incurred by BBC staff on behalf of the BBC and claimed through the BBC's expenses system (e-expenses). Central bookings are costs incurred on behalf of the BBC and booked through the BBC's central bookings system.

Expense reports and central booking reports from April 2009 are published quarterly.

Details of expenses and central bookings for each current Executive Board member are available on the biography pages. To see the biography, expenses and central bookings of each Board member, click on their names below.

Also of note is the fact that the Executive Board list on that particular webpage is somewhat out-of- date. The correct list is, I believe, available here.


* Edit note (20 August 2011): The image referred to has been removed but is available on request.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

There is probably no single cause for the riots in England. But it would be naïve to overlook the role the BBC, with its Creative Future policy, has played in alienating the younger generation.

Creative Future has been, in almost every respect, a failure and waste of resources. At one time the BBC was, indeed, creative. But you only need compare recent live news coverage on the BBC News channel with that of its main competitor, Sky News, to see how the BBC has declined. So much for the BBC Vision of being "the most creative organisation in the world."

Amongst Creative Future's proposals was the narrowing of the target age for CBBC programmes. And even though the BBC knew full-well that teens were already being poorly served, as confirmed at the time by a Newsround interview with Richard Deverell, the BBC continued implementing the ill-judged plan, and thus further disenfranchised young audiences.

Within weeks of Mark Thompson's unveiling of Creative Future, Newsround began a covert policy of discrimination against older children. I drew this discrimination policy to the attention of Ofcom (pdf) and the BBC Trust.

The BBC has continued to alienate older kids by removing gritty realistic drama programmes from the schedules, most notably, axing Grange Hill. Anne Gilchrist said "Part of CBBC's reputation for reflecting contemporary Britain back to UK children has been built upon Phil Redmond's brilliantly realised idea, and of course it's sad to say goodbye to such a much-loved institution."

A claim by Anne Gilchrist that the decision to axe Grange Hill had the support of CBBC's audience was investigated by myself and found to be untrue (pdf). That was far from the only time the public has been misled by the BBC, yet unfortunately the organisation rarely admits its faults.

Other evidence of the BBC's complete betrayal of young people includes removal of the Your Life web section. Nothing better illustrates the BBC's disrespect for children than the way they handled message board closures in December 2008, describing the extremely unpopular move as "improvements."

Ask Aaron, the expert help message board was shut down a month later.

In March last year the director-general, Mark Thompson, said that he wanted to cut teen services, suggesting that teens instead rely on Channel 4 and other broadcasters. His reason? I speculate on Mr Thompson's reluctance to serve all young people fairly (see blog 3 August 2011) Presumably that explains why, years ago, control of Diversity was wrested by BBC management from the specialist BBC Diversity Centre.

However, leaving aside the speculation on Thompson's motivation, there's no getting away from a likelihood that the BBC's cavalier attitude towards children and young people is at least a contributory factor in the present unrest.BBC - the most creative organisation in the world

Monday, August 08, 2011

The second night of trouble on London streets made the lede story on Newsround this morning at 7.38am. Oddly, though, Newsround deceived viewers on the reported ages of some of those involved.

Ricky: One hundred people were arrested last night. It's been reported that children as young as ten years old took part in the violence.

In fact it had been reported some hours earlier by Rhodri Phillips in The Sun that children aged seven had been involved. David Akinsanya, a well-known journalist, was a witness at the scene of the rioting in Tottenham.

Apparently Cher Lloyd topped the music charts last night.

Ricky: Cher Lloyd has proved to the nation that she's still got a bit of Swagger Jagger almost a year after finishing fourth in The X Factor. The 18 year old has scored her first Number 1 with this tune. Yeah - it is Swagger Jagger. It knocked JLS off the top spot. Cher celebrated with fans outside Radio 1's headquarters in London.

So, no mention of her earlier celebrations at G.A.Y then.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

President of the English Chess Federation, Connagh-Joseph de Mooi, was criticised yesterday for wearing a Stonewall 'Some people are gay - Get over it!' T-shirt.

CJ de Mooi, President of the English Chess Federation
CJ de Mooi, President of the English Chess Federation

CJ wrote afterwards about what happened.

Apparently the 'problem' was that he would be presenting prizes for the championships, and some of the awards were for junior players. It was, some people were suggesting, inappropriate for him to wear something mentioning "sexuality" in the vicinity of children.

CJ de Mooi: Personally, I was incensed. No matter how I try to drag chess into the 21st century, I seem to continually face "antediluvian" attitudes.

Made me think - has he, I wonder, ever encountered similar attitudes at the BBC? Has he ever worn one of those 'Some People Are Gay' T-shirts when he appeared on Eggheads?

Seems to me the most sensitive measure of institutional prejudice is evidenced by a desire to prevent children from finding out that it's OK to be gay.

Some people are gay. Get over it!