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!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Olympic champion sprinter, Shelly-Ann Fraser was the guest celebrity on Newsround's When I was 10. Shelly-Ann was running against other top athletes, including Carmelita Jeter, in London this afternoon.

Presenter Joe Tidy told Newsround viewers that Shelly-Ann had popped into Caribbean food company, Grace Foods, to talk about what she was like at the age of 10.

Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce on Newsround 6 August 2011
Shelly-Ann talks to Newsround

One of the questions which often used be put to guests, but is now only very rarely asked, was Did you fancy anyone at school?

Shelly-Ann: Ah yes I did.(laughs) I fancied this guy in my class. I was like nine, and he was my height. And I wanted to march with him at our graduation and I was actually asking people to go behind me so I could be next to him.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

A few days ago Miley Cyrus tweeted a picture of a tattoo on her finger. The equals sign on her ring finger is to signify that Miley believes that lesbian and gay people should be entitled to marry.

Although Newsround reports a great deal of celebrity news, it has never, ever (well since 2002, at any rate) reported on gestures of support for LGBT people in the battle for equality, and against homophobic prejudice. So kids won't have learnt about the good work done by Daniel Radcliffe, Lady Gaga and several others.

It's three years since the brutal homophobic murder of Michael Causer. The trial which followed was a stain on the British judicial system, as the prime culprit for Michael's death, Gavin Alker, walked free in February 2009.

The BBC, as the main UK public service broadcaster and therefore a major public opinion former was, and still is, in a position to help prevent hate crimes like that.

Director-General, Mark Thompson, is a devout Roman Catholic who clearly recognises the authority of the Pope. Amongst the teachings of the Catholic Church is that homosexuality is a "tendency ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil; and thus the inclination itself must be seen as an objective disorder."

So how much is BBC policy being shaped by Catholic doctrine. Mark Thompson has often lectured about the place of religion in broadcasting. Here, for example, he begins with a quote from the Gospel according to Mark. A few months later he lectured to Theos on his conviction that religion is back.

Perhaps Mr Thompson would now care to address the controversy directly.

Does Mark agree with Vatican teaching on LGB people? Is he and BBC management acting as a kind of self-appointed Curia?

Recall that, only a year after Mark Thompson took the helm of the BBC, the following advice was removed from programme makers' guidance -

Gay and lesbian people, and those who are bisexual, make up a significant minority entitled to be served and treated fairly by the BBC.

Have BBC children's programmes since 2005 been tailored to comply with Catholic doctrine, even though it undoubtedly fosters homophobic prejudice?

Monday, August 01, 2011

Miriam O'Reilly did well in her legal case to highlight the BBC's ageist policy, but I fear Miriam was unwise to accept the BBC's offer to present Crimewatch Roadshow. Truth is that the BBC is a very crafty organisation - and that's not going to change any time soon.

Last night Dragons' Den broke with tradition by featuring two women on the team rather than the usual one - and, like Miriam O'Reilly, neither of them was in the first flush of youth. So the BBC has, quite properly, taken Miriam's legal victory on board. I have a feeling, though, that Miriam herself is unlikely to be offered much more work by the Corporation. As far as BBC management is concerned, there's nothing worse than others getting the upper hand. Of course, I'd be happy to be proved wrong.

Mysterious goings-on were evident on the BBC News channel at 1am this morning, presumably to do with a one day strike by journalists. Just as Chris Rogers was about to start reading the news headlines from the London studio the feed switched instead to Rico Hizon in Singapore. If you blink you'll miss it.

A campaign has been launched to hold to account Britain's 'feral' elite for the series of crises which have scarred the country. Although the BBC isn't mentioned explicitly, I think it is telling that former Director-General Greg Dyke is the first signature on the list.