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.