As a rule I never put through official complaints about BBC programmes, but earlier this month I decided to break with habit and complained about CBBC's Leonardo series.
If you don't know what's wrong with Leonardo you're obviously not an avid Newsround Blog reader. Never mind, you can catch up on the essentials by checking out this blog entry on 6 May 2011.
My complaint drew upon the consensus amongst art historians that Leonardo da Vinci wasn't heterosexual, and I argued that deliberate misrepresentation of him in the TV series was part of a much wider problem on BBC children's TV. Quoting from the complaint:
Until 2005 the BBC was prepared to regularly portray lesbian and gay characters in kids' dramas. However since then I believe that not one single new CBBC drama has included LGBT characters or role models. Factual output is barely any better. For example the kids' news programme Newsround ignores virtually all news where LGBT issues are involved, and there has never been any specific mention of efforts to combat homophobia and homophobic bullying.
My complaint also quoted from BBC Producers' Guidelines which were withdrawn in 2005:
Gay and lesbian people, and those who are bisexual, make up a significant minority entitled to be served and treated fairly by the BBC.
The BBC responded:
Thanks for contacting us regarding CBBC's 'Leonardo'.
I understand that you're unhappy as you feel that this programme and many others are biased against homosexuality.
As you have mentioned gay and lesbian people make up a significant minority of the BBC’s audience. As a Public Service Broadcaster dedicated to reflect society, the BBC rightfully shows that homosexuals play a full range of roles within society and have the same right as other people to see that range truthfully explored in our programmes. Our dramas have a long-standing reputation for dealing with all subjects in a responsible way and by handling the issue carefully, people gain more understanding and tolerance of gay and lesbian people. We must make it clear that we show a range of programmes which is expected of us by the wide and diverse audience we serve but I'm sorry that you feel 'Leonardo' did not reflect this but I welcome your feedback on the programme.
We’re guided by the feedback that we receive and to that end I'd like to assure you that I've registered your complaint on our audience log. This is a daily report of audience feedback that's made available to all BBC staff, including members of the BBC Executive Board, programme makers, channel controllers and other senior managers.
The audience logs are seen as important documents that can help shape decisions about future programming and content.
Thanks again for taking the time to contact us.
Notice the BBC's response: ".. Our dramas have a long-standing reputation for dealing with all subjects in a responsible way and by handling the issue carefully, people gain more understanding and tolerance of gay and lesbian people. ..."
Had the BBC forgotten that my complaint was about BBC Children's?
And what does the BBC mean by this bit?: ".. We must make it clear that we show a range of programmes which is expected of us by the wide and diverse audience we serve .."
I'd suggest it means they take account of homophobic bigots, who don't want kids to see any LGBT portrayal or issues on children's TV.
In keeping with discriminatory practices on CBBC and Newsround, there wasn't a single mention of the happy news about same-sex marriages in New York at the weekend. That could have made a break from all the sombre news we've had recently.