Thursday, March 31, 2011

The latest Newsround Special, on Tuesday, dealt with cancer. Other specials have included knife crime, divorce, living with alcohol, depression, poverty, Internet safety, coping with death, and growing up in care.

But one issue that CBBC avoids is homophobic bullying.

An inquest into the death of Dominic Crouch heard that he jumped from a six-storey block of flats. Roger Crouch, Dominic's father, said after the verdict of suicide was returned: "Dominic was clearly upset about rumours that he believed were being spread about him."

Mr Crouch is insistent that his son, who attended a Catholic school and played rugby, was not actually gay.

New sections of the Equality Act 2010 come into force next week.

Amongst the provisions of the Act is that for 'positive action' which is explained in part of the guidance -

‘Positive action’ is when something is done specifically to help someone who has a protected characteristic. There are several different reasons why it may be appropriate to take some sort of positive action, for instance if someone is suffering some kind of disadvantage linked to that characteristic ....

Positive action is not a legal requirement, but CBBC ought to help counter homophobia rather than condone it.

Last month Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children's, was at the Kidscreen Summit in New York's Hilton to discuss kids' heroes: Are they reflected in children's media? Can we use attributes that kids respect in building the next generation of media heroes and superheroes?

But back here in the UK, CBBC has been resolutely silent about gay heroes and superheroes. Why is it no surprise that kids get upset about rumours of their sexual orientation and, in extreme cases, contemplate suicide?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The UK children's commissioners are rarely heard on Newsround. But this morning Leah reported that the Children's Commissioner for England [Maggie Atkinson] thinks that "you guys know better than anyone else about what makes a good teacher." Less than 1 in 5 children are consulted when hiring new teachers.

Leah said that some teachers don't like the idea because they say "it gives kids too much power."

Friday, March 25, 2011

Few regular viewers to CBBC would have missed seeing at least one of the trailers for the Channel's "biggest party of the year so far" - Finale Friday. The party, it seems, was to celebrate the season finales of two series: Tracy Beaker and Sadie J.

Perhaps Fag-end Friday would have been a more fitting description for the so-called party, as this evening's last two episodes of Sadie J were particularly dire.

Newsround Blog reviewed Sadie J in January, soon after it began. Despite very good performances from the cast, what started off promisingly soon became repetitious and tiresome. Sadie's life appeared to revolve around having fun and going to parties; we rarely saw anything much deeper in her character. Her two best friends were also one-dimensional, and I was left with the distinct impression that the writer was afraid to develop the stories into anything more serious. Hints that Kit might have been gay remained just that - hints. In contrast, it was clear that, as usual with CBBC, the programme was full to the brim with heteronormative and heterosexual references.

The lack of invention was especially noticeable in the last two episodes this evening. About three quarters of the time we were watching flashbacks to previous episodes in the series. And I mean this literally: it was atrocious. For the last few minutes CBBC resorted to outtakes - a sure sign of desperation.

Sadie J could have been so much better.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Monday's Newsround included an attempt to explain the rivalry between Celtic and Rangers football supporters.

Ricky: We sent Leah to the Final at Hampden Park yesterday to find out what young fans really feel about the tensions.

Leah: This is the first time that both sides have faced each other since the trouble a couple of weeks ago. And in just a few hours time this place will packed full of supporters from both sides. And like most big cities there are often footballing rivalries. But here the tensions go back hundreds of years, and it's all to do with religion. To start with Celtic fans were mainly Catholic, and Rangers, Protestant. And for that reason there's been friction between the two sides and they don't always get on. For some supporters the tension of years ago still matters today.

Leah spoke to two young supporters; one a Rangers fan and the other a Celtic fan. Neither approved of the violence. Leah ended her report hoping that the plans put in place to stamp out the violence really make a difference.

But apart from Leah's entreaty, CBBC doesn't exactly encourage tolerance or good behaviour. Not even between friends.

Take yesterday's Newsround. On of the news reports was about a revolutionary new way of teaching football in Scotland. The idea is to use smaller pitches, goalposts and fewer players in teams. Experts think it will get kids more involved in the game.

But after the report came the sofa chat between Ore and Sonali -

Ore: Iain Stirling would have loved to have had that programme when he was back at school. He's rubbish. He really is.

Sonali: Say it to his face.

Ore: Yeah I will do, when he's back in the morning.

Sonali: We're gonna talk about rubbish playgrounds now, not rubbish players. ..

That was just the latest in a series of put-downs CBBC presenters have made against each other, perhaps in jest, but without considering their behaviour could encourage playground taunts and bullying.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Newsround reporter Ricky says he's applied for tickets to the London Olympics. He's hoping to go to the swimming semi-finals and the closing ceremony.

On the 3.25pm bulletin this afternoon Newsround reported on the London Olympics countdown clock -

Ricky: And to add to the excitement, this clock has been unveiled in Trafalgar Square in London. It'll be counting down the minutes and days to the opening ceremony next year.

What Ricky didn't say was that the clock had broken down three hours previously. Later, at 5pm, a filmed report by Leah about the 2012 Olympics concluded with a mention of the countdown clock -

Leah: And just in case you were wondering how long it is till the London Olympics, they've got this massive clock in London's Trafalgar Square to remind everyone. They've covered all bases.

Back in the studio Leah and Ricky look at each other (see screenshot below)

Ricky looking apprehensively at Leah
Leah and Ricky on Newsround

Leah: Ooohhh dear. Not quite all bases .. (Ricky shakes his head in agreement)

Leah: .. because since I was there, the clock's actually broken

Ricky: (shocked at just hearing the news from Leah) Nooooo ... it hasn't!

Leah: But I'm sure someone will get there soon to fix it

Ricky: Hopefully. Right, now we asked some of you what you think about the Olympics ....

Yesterday's Newsround included Sonali's explanation of nuclear power. Taken together with Brian Cox's Wonders of the Universe series, it really does look like the BBC is dumbing down science at the moment.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Is homosexuality un-African? That's was the title of a BBC World Service Debate, first broadcast yesterday. Why choose that topic for debate when they might have asked so many other questions. They could have debated whether ginger hair is un-African; or whether having blue eyes is un-African; or whether being white is un-African.

Fifteen months ago the BBC asked 'Should homosexuals face execution?' That debate caused considerable offence, and Peter Horrocks explained the BBC's rationale. In doing so Peter acknowledged that the question was too stark, especially when taken out of context and circulated on social media. Nevertheless he believed it was "an absolutely legitimate debate to have."

Peter Horrocks: That wasn't just the BBC plucking that question out of the air. It was because it's being considered by the Ugandan parliament. The context within the programme was absolutely clear. The context within the website was absolutely clear. But if you just take that headline away and say "the BBC is asking this," I can absolutely understand why some people were significantly offended by that, and we apologise for that, and that's something which we're going to learn from.

What exactly was learnt from the December 2009 controversy? If they'd been a bit more thoughtful, they might have posed the question in a different way. Instead of asking 'Is homosexuality un-African?' and thereby lending credence to the notion and reinforcing prejudice, the BBC could have challenged their intended audience by calling the debate 'Is homophobia un-African?'

So why didn't they choose that title? Perhaps because it would have attracted a smaller audience, or perhaps because David Bahati - the Ugandan MP who wants to legislate the judicial murder of gay people - would be less willing to participate as a panelist. Would that have been such a bad thing? In fact aren't we really back to the question of why the BBC wanted such a debate in the first place?

Friday, March 11, 2011

If ever there was a missed opportunity to make a real advance for kids, Newsround has achieved just that. Pressacker Hannah, accompanied by Newsround reporter, Hayley, went to meet Health Minister Anne Milton to ask why the government wasn't intending to introduce a ban on adults smoking in cars when children are present.

Leah: Now guys listen, last week we told you about a group of kids who were so fed up with adults smoking around children in cars they wanted to get it banned.

Ore: You got in touch, and loads of you agree. So, with the help of presspacker Hannah, Newsround took some of your thoughts to the top to get some answers.

video clip Hayley: ... Research by the British Lung Foundation has shown that smoking in small places like the car is particularly dangerous to children. I've come to Westminster with Hannah, one of the campaigners, because you're going to put some questions to Anne Milton, the minister in charge, aren't you?

Hannah: Yes I am.

Hayley: What are you hoping for?

Hannah: Hopefully there should be a law made so that parents can't smoke in cars with children.

Hannah (questions the minister): We want to know if you're going to ban it.

Anne Milton MP: No we're not going to ban smoking in cars because we think that would be interfering in people's family life .....

Hannah might have pointed out that the concentration of smoke could be far higher in a car than in a workplace, yet smoking at work is banned. She might have asked why the government cares less about the health of children than they do about the 'rights' of grown ups. Hayley explained that kids were often embarrassed to ask parents to stop smoking. But the cheeky minister got away with telling Hannah and Newsround viewers that kids needed to educate their parents.

Hannah said she would carry on fighting, and hoped that making more of a noise would result in a change. This seems like an ideal topic where the UK children's commissioners could get involved. It would be nice to see them on Newsround more often.

Monday, March 07, 2011

Should women be allowed to wear the niqab in public places, or is the French government right to ban it? That was the first topic on Newsround last Friday at 5pm.

Ore: Most of you are used to being told what you can and can't wear at school. But imagine being banned from wearing certain clothes all the time.

Hayley: Yep. In France it will soon be illegal to wear the niqab - the Muslim face veil - in any public place. It's meant to make women feel more free, but some people say it might well do the opposite.

The video report which followed failed to give a voice to those in the Muslim community, such as Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, who favour a secular society where women and men are treated as equals. Newsround's report seemed to give more weight to those opposed to the French law, and ended by saying similar legislation is unlikely in Britain .

Tomorrow, 8th March, is International Women's Day (centenary year)

Saturday, March 05, 2011

CBBC ought to take a few lessons in accuracy from Newsround Blog.

Hayley reported the Queen's forthcoming visit to Ireland. Someone at Newsround seems to be confused between Queen Elizabeth's dad George VI, and her granddad George V who visited Ireland in 1911. The script error occurred on bulletins today, but at least the accompanying film clip was of George V.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Two former Newsround presenters have been in the news recently. On Monday there was Helen Skelton's tightrope walk at Battersea Power Station, which will be the subject of a Blue Peter Special next week.

And on Tuesday it was reported that Lizo Mzimba will receive "substantial damages" and costs from The Independent after it repeated false allegations in The Tab - a Cambridge student newspaper which, itself, had already apologised for the untruthful story.

Mr Mzimba said: "I'm very pleased that this matter has finally been resolved."

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

After months of problems, it's nice to see Newsround video clips working more smoothly on broadband.

Here's the clip of Helen Skelton's amazing tightrope walk between the chimneys of the old Battersea Power Station. Helen presented Newsround a few years back, but now works on Blue Peter.