Saturday, January 29, 2011

With the London Olympics just around the corner you'd think CBBC would want to make its output cover a more diverse range of a sports. But, contrary to common sense, someone decided to do away with Sportsround and concentrate on footy. I like football but I'd be disappointed if we don't see changes before too long, and certainly in good time for the Olympics.

For its first three weeks MOTD Kickabout was fronted by Ore Oduba, but Sonali was in charge today. The first item looked back at the recent sexist remarks by Sky commentators Richard Keys and Andy Gray. MOTD Kickabout guests Dan Walker and John Farnworth both felt that the Sky presenters were wrong and had outdated views. Walker said that he'd been taught years ago that you're never alone with a microphone.

After the full-time whistle Sonali asked Dan Walker how MOTD Kickabout compares with Football Focus -

Dan: Much better soft toys. And you're far more attractive than Lawro as well, so ..

Now why does all this remind me of a controversial Yorkie advert.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Whatever happened to the 'Outwit Ore' quiz on Saturday's MOTD Kickabout? And did Ore actually complete his forfeit of doing Iain Stirling's makeup for a week? I'm guessing that, after losing on the first two shows, Ore simply decided to ditch that section and not bother with the forfeit. Anyway, Sonali will be presenting Kickabout next Saturday.

Football was the top story on Newsround at 5pm yesterday. It was about the row over what will happen to the Olympic stadium after the 2012 games. If Spurs purchase the stadium they plan to bulldoze it and build a new one in its place. But that would contravene a promise made when London originally applied to host the Olympics. Lord Coe said we ought to be very careful about potentially trashing our international reputation.

The second Newsround story was also about a football controversy -

Sonali: Now to the footie comments that have got loads of people's blood boiling.

Ricky: Richard Keys and Andy Gray, here they are, are two of the best known Sky Sports presenters

Sonali: But over the weekend they were overheard saying someone needed to teach this assistant referee, Sian Massey, the offside rule because she's a girl. Listen carefully to this.

(recording of Sky presenters) Richard Keys: Somebody better get down there and explain offside to her. Andy Gray: Yeah, I know. Can you believe that, female linesman! That's exactly what I said. Women don't know the offside rule. Richard Keys: Course they don't.

Sexist remarks are unfortunately nothing new in football. A few years ago Newsround reported that Luton Town boss Mike Newell was in trouble for saying that female referees and linesmen shouldn't be involved in matches. At the time Newsround quoted Newell: "It is bad enough with the incapable referees and linesmen we have, but if you start bringing in women you have big problems." Then Newsround had the effrontery to ask "But is he right?"

They really should have known better than to ask such foolish questions, and this time round they didn't. Perhaps CBBC is learning a thing or two from Newsround Blog - like this entry on 14 November 2006.

However, with LGBT History Month only a week away, unfortunately it's looking less and less likely that Newsround or MOTD Kickabout will have anything to say about homophobic prejudice which has blighted footie for so long.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

A few days ago Jonathan Ross, speaking by phone to Gaydar Radio, mentioned that his elder daughter is gay. Needless to say there was quite a lot of media interest in Jonathan's comment, not least because Mr Ross is regarded by some, including Newsround Blog, as a bully. This is based on numerous remarks by Jonathan himself, although widespread accusations that Ross once suggested gay children should be put up for adoption are unfair.

One example of the aforementioned unfairness, which came about as a result of a widely reported incorrect quotation, occurred in Wednesday's edition of the Daily Mail: "Jonathan Ross has proudly revealed that his daughter Betty Kitten is a lesbian - despite once joking that gay children should be adopted."

Newsround Blog has nothing but contempt for both the Daily Mail and for Jonathan Ross, but we do try to be accurate. In this case Ross meant to suggest that a gay child would need to be registered with an adoption agency in order to be able to start a family when they later settle down with a partner.

Recording of Radio 2 comment (9th May 2009) on YouTube.

The timing of the Jonathan Ross interview on Gaydar Radio might not just be down to chance. Ross is to host the British Comedy Awards this evening - his first really high profile TV appearance since leaving the BBC. Maybe Ross wanted to garner publicity for the event and get better viewing figures, or maybe he wanted to spoil any newspaper 'exclusives' about his daughter which might follow. Actually his daughter Betty Kitten had not kept her sexuality secret on her Twitter feed, but few people knew until the Gaydar Radio interview.

It remains to be seen if Jonathan will make any references to his family on tonight's show - my guess is he won't. He told Gaydar Radio that his children's sexuality was "none of my business" and "certainly none of my concern."

So what has happened to the old Jonathan Ross - Jonathan Ross the casual homophobe, who apparently saw nothing else in gay people other than their supposed sex lives, and who demonstrated that attitude week after week on his Friday night BBC TV show. Has he changed? Time will tell.

Lastly, it should be said that there are those in the LGBT community who, despite his record of homophobia, hold Ross in high esteem.

Gaydar Radio interview (MP3 download)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A recent survey of boys' role models found that most boys look to their dad as their principal role model. David Beckham was in first place after fathers, and second-placed was politically incorrect Jeremy Clarkson. Newsround did its own straw poll last week, asking both boys and girls who they would choose as role models.

One of Newsround's stories yesterday was about 13-year-old Sarah who was has been shortlisted in the Miss Teen Great Britain competition, which according to its director is aiming to find a realistic role model for all teenagers.

Since she was about 9 years old Sarah was bullied by kids at school. They called her 'big' 'fat' and 'ugly' which made her lose heart. Sarah feels that personality is more important than outward appearance, and hopes that taking part in the competition will help her regain her confidence.

Challenging gender stereotypes was, no doubt, one of the aims of Sadie J - the subject of my previous blog. Sadie presumably picked up a lot of her car maintenance knowledge from her garage mechanic dad, Steve. She wanted to be perceived as a bit more 'girly' partly in an attempt to appeal to boys. Her friend Kit, on the other hand, has typically 'girlish' interests such as manicuring his nails and sewing sequins on his jeggings. In fact the actor playing Kit is so convincing in the role that the subtitlers thought Kit was actually a girl (see screenshot below)

Kit snorts, as subtitled
So far, so good. Sadie J shows us that not all girls are 'girly' and not all boys are going to be the next Jeremy Clarkson. But what does it say about the less thorny topic of sexual orientation, which was portrayed years ago on BBC children's TV?

All the romance we saw in the first episode of Sadie J was boy-girl stuff. And when the perfect opportunity came to make the story LGB inclusive this is what happened -

Joe: I don't care what you look like Sass. Or you Chloe. I'm sorry but none of you are really my type.

Chloe: Fine. Your loss. FYI you may be hot, but you're still a nerdy-birdy!

Sadie: But, but what is your type?

Well obviously at this point we could have discovered that Joe had a crush on another boy - perhaps Keith the apprentice mechanic - who'd just crashed the party on Joe's motorbike. But the writers wimped out with -

Joe: Call me a geek, but I prefer somebody who likes what I like: the Sci-Fi Channel, quantum cosmology, inter-stellar combustion fusion ...

Dede: ... though technically they cover the same ground.

Joe turns to admire Dede, and we hear the romantic strains of #Flying Without Wings# as Joe imagines Dede slowly walking towards him.

Of course, that was just the first programme of a new series, but the question remains: Will CBBC ever be prepared to combat all prejudice by fully embracing diversity?

Challenging stereotypes alone is simply not enough.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Sadie J

A new comedy series called Sadie Jstarted its run on CBBC last Friday. In episode 1 Crushamondo, Sadie played by Georgia Lock is trying to ditch her past tomboyish ways and hoping to go on her first date.

Sadie has two best friends, Dede and Kit. Dede is a girl with an interest in science who used to run a 'geeky' society with Joe Taylor a few years previously, before he'd lost a lot of weight. Her other friend, Kit, is like a 14-year-old version of Boy George with interests in drama, the arts and fashion.

Sadie catches sight of the new slimline Joe in the 'Y' youth club, and instantly develops a crush on him, which isn't reciprocated. Her clumsy attempts to woo Joe only make things worse, till eventually she decides to seek advice from Dede and Kit.

Sadie tells her two friends that Joe prefers her rival 'Trog-Face' Chloe. Dede responds that all the boys at the 'Y' club fancy Chloe, though Kit disagrees. Kit offers Sadie his expertise, giving her a makeover in the belief that Joe would then be smitten and want to date Sadie J.

Meanwhile we see Sadie's younger brother Danny, and his friend Jake who apparently has a huge crush on Sadie. Danny and Jake are singing together as a karaoke band, and Jake wants to impress Sadie with his musical 'talent'

In the other main subplot, myopic mechanic Keith is trying to do without his glasses in order to impress postgirl Clare whom he rather fancies. Mayhem abounds at the MOT garage whilst Keith awaits Friday's delivery of new contact lenses.

After initial disappointment Sadie surprises herself when Joe actually accepts her offer of a date at the 'Y' Club karaoke night party. But later, at the party itself, he confesses that neither Sadie nor Chloe are really his 'type'

The episode concludes with Jake tunelessly serenading Sadie with a karaoke version of rock band Foreigner's "Waiting For A Girl Like You," to which Sadie responds to camera: 'Oh pur-leeze(!)' as the closing credits start to roll.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Does the BBC treat some groups worse than others? I think that question was answered decisively when Miriam O'Reilly won her case of age discrimination, and BBC Creative Director Alan Yentob graciously went on to acknowledge that the BBC hadn't got it right. Mr Yentob was also, I believe, amongst those few in BBC senior management to recognise that the weekly deliberate homophobic jibes on Friday Night with Jonathan Ross were indefensible, and had to cease.

For reasons which are not entirely clear, the BBC appears reluctant to reveal figures about LGBT-related complaints. Attempts by Pink News to determine the number of complaints about the Stephen Green interview on BBC News in December were met with a refusal on the grounds that the BBC does not release figures when there is “evidence of a lobby.” Yet evidence of lobbying was clear in the case of Sachsgate and, more recently, the cot death baby swap story on EastEnders, where the BBC did publish complaint figures.

In 2009, my own request for the number of complaints relating to the 'Should homosexuals face execution?' debate was turned down "for several very good reasons, chief amongst them being our desire to maintain our independence and impartiality."

The BBC Trust published its Strategy Review in December 2010, and one of the four Key Objectives is a commitment for the BBC to "set new standards of openness and transparency." The Trust also says that the BBC should "do more to serve all audiences." Newsround Blog welcomes the BBC Trust Strategy Review and will endeavour to hold the Corporation to account, based on the Key Objectives.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

BBC loses discrimination case

Over the years Newsround Blog has drawn attention to discrimination at the BBC, not just against LGB people, but also sexist, ageist and disablist discrimination. Today Miriam O'Reilly won her complaint of age discrimination after being dropped from Countryfile.

Former Controller of BBC One, Jay Hunt, had given evidence in Miriam's case, but on behalf of the BBC. Ms Hunt was, incidentally, one of Jonathan Ross's strongest supporters at the BBC, insisting to me on several occasions that Mr Ross was not being homophobic on his weekly Friday night shows.

Newsround Blog is currently investigating why three particular weather forecasters are being dropped from our screens this month. If the selection process was transparent we should be able to find out the rationale.

Last year Tomasz won a Television and Radio Industries Club award as best TV weather presenter. So why is he one of the people leaving our screens? Perhaps there was a clue last January.

More details when available.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

A little more humility on the part of the BBC would not go amiss. In fact, had the Corporation seen fit to offer a full and unreserved apology for the 'Should homosexuals face execution?' debate, it might well have avoided the recent accusations of homophobia over the much less serious offence of a BBC news report on 28th December 2010. The BBC summarily dismissed concerns in a one sentence statement which was broadcast on Newswatch last night.

It would have been a simple matter for the BBC to have offered a sincere apology at the end of Newsnight on Thursday after a guest, Carmen Callil, referring to the Australian cricket team and responding to Kirsty's interjection, said "No, it’s not a feminine side, it’s sort of a poofter side, isn't it?"

Prejudice related to sexual orientation is a serious issue in sport, and homophobia is a significant reason why there are no openly gay football players in the main leagues. So it's disappointing to see macho and unsportsmanlike attitudes being promoted on BBC children's TV:

From yesterday's Newsround report on England winning The Ashes -

Ore Oduba: Oh yes, victory was ours. Take that, you Aussies. In your crying faces!

And last year the programme portrayed the England football team as donkeys, complete with braying sounds, after they'd been eliminated from the World Cup competition -

England World Cup team portrayed as donkeys
Newsround's portrayal of England team - 28 June 2010

Joe Tidy: (On 18 December 2010) Now if you didn't know yet, CBBC have a whole new football show starting in January next year. It's called Match of the Day Kickabout. It'll focus on all things footie, from your school team way up to the Premier League.

MOTD Kickabout began its run on CBBC this morning at 7.40am

Ore Oduba: ... If you wanna know about footie, Match of the Day Kickabout is the show for you. We've got the news, we've got all the action, we've got the biggest players, because here on MOTD Kickabout we wanna get right under the skin of what it means to be a true footie fan....

Studio guests on the first show were Dion Dublin and Ian Foster.

The show kicked off with discussion of the FA Cup third round. Dion predicted a 2 - nil win for Man U. Dan Walker gave us a preview of Football Focus. Neil Warnock chatted to Ore about his wishes for QPR. A comic 'interlude' introduced the MOTDK mascot, Max T. Monkey. Ore said Max could be going to a pitch near you.

The second half of MOTD Kickabout began with transfer talk, including David Beckham's move to Spurs. After that Jermaine Jenas showed viewers around his millionaire mansion which includes a swimming pool and a gym. Ricky Boleto tested Ore's football knowledge in the 'Outwit Ore' quiz, which ended the programme.

Racism was a widespread problem in UK football during the 1960's, 70's and 80's, but thankfully today it's a lot less common. Homophobia is a different matter though, and footballers are notoriously unwilling to be open about being gay. The Justin Campaign aims to change people's attitudes.

Last year we saw the first International Day against Homophobia in Football. It's held on 19 February each year. This year 19th February is a Saturday, which will mean that MOTD Kickabout will offer CBBC an ideal opportunity to discuss the problem of homophobia in sport. February also happens to be LGBT History Month, which is concentrating on sport in the run-up to the London Olympics 2012.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Newsround's end of year round-up at 5pm on 17 December included reports on natural disasters, the rescue of miners in Chile, and this on UK politics -

Ore: Back at home the race was on to pick Britain's next Prime Minister in May's General Election. None of the parties got enough votes to win, so they had to team up. Eventually the Conservatives agreed with the Liberal Democrats to form a coalition government. That meant that Labour leader Gordon Brown had to leave Downing Street so David Cameron could move in as the new PM. Since then the coalition government's announced plans to cut public spending by £81 billion over four years.

Newsround was back today after its winter break. The first flagship bulletin at 5pm this evening was presented by Sonali & Ore. There were six news stories -

1] Floods in Australia - 1'54"
2] The Ashes - 0'31"
3] Solar eclipse - 0'33"
4] Quadrantid meteor shower - 1'54"
5] Dead birds in Beebe, Arkansas - 1'40"
6] Romeo Beckham on 'best dressed' list - 0'19"

The meteor shower story included a live report from Hayley at Jodrell Bank. Her report might have confused those who don't understand the difference between a radio telescope and an optical telescope -

Hayley: Hi guys. Yes I'm at one of the world's largest telescopes. But I tell you what - we probably won't need that tonight, as the sky is going to be filled with a firework display of shooting stars. And providing those clouds keep away, then we all should be able to see them .....

Hayley was also at Jodrell Bank last month for a report on meteors, broadcast on 10 December 2010 -

Hayley: If you want to go meteor hunting, then this is the place to be. It's Jodrell Bank in Cheshire, where they've got one of the world's biggest telescopes. It's not unusual to see shooting stars on a clear night .....

Even an optical telescope would be useless for observing shooting stars, because they move through the Earth's atmosphere much too quickly. A radio telescope, like the one at Jodrell Bank, is used for detecting radio waves far out in the universe. Nevertheless Jodrell Bank carries out a wide range of research in astrophysics.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Thought for the Year


2010 was in many ways a momentous year - from the death of thousands in Haiti to the rescue of 33 miners in Chile. Religions, too, have had their ups and downs - none more so than Roman Catholicism. The Pope was widely vilified early in 2010 for covering up crimes against children. Later the BBC attempted to salvage some remnants of the Pope's reputation with wall-to-wall coverage of his visit to Britain, substantially ignoring protests against his presence. No wonder the Pope was pleased to accede to Mark Thompson's wishes, and record the Christmas Eve edition of Radio 4's Thought for the Day.

Thought for the Day allows speakers to air their thoughts from a faith perspective. The BBC has resisted demands from atheists and humanists who believe they are equally entitled to promote a secular viewpoint. The Pope's Thought for Christmas Eve is likely to increase calls for the Radio 4 programme to be opened up to a wider pool of thinkers.

The dichotomy between religious and secular outlooks is nothing new: there are example dating back hundreds of years. Religious Christians believe in an afterlife. Othello, convinced of Desdemona's infidelity, says he would not want to kill her soul. So he counsels repentance, and eventually murders Desdemona, not recognising her innocence.

Cassio, on the other hand, bemoaned the loss of 'reputation' as the equivalent to the death of his soul: "I have lost my reputation! I have lost the immortal part of myself, and what remains is bestial." Iago consoles Cassio, suggesting that reputation is of little consequence: "oft got without merit, and lost without deserving." But Iago was duplicitous. In complete contradiction he counsels Othello on the importance of reputation:-

Good name in man and woman, dear my lord,
Is the immediate jewel of their souls:
Who steals my purse steals trash; 'tis something, nothing;
'Twas mine, 'tis his, and has been slave to thousands:
But he that filches from me my good name
Robs me of that which not enriches him
And makes me poor indeed.

Reputations have been falling like ninepins over the last few years. It's not just religion which has gone down in people's estimation. So, too, have the media and politicians. The failure of many Lib Dem MPs to keep to a pre-election pledge was particularly inexcusable, and the Liberal Democrat party will never fully recover its lost reputation.


Transparency has been stressed by both the Government and the BBC Trust. So you can rest assured that Newsround Blog will continue to scrutinise the people who matter, and especially those responsible for CBBC programmes and services.

Happy New Year