Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Normally Christmas is thought of as a time of goodwill and kindness to all people. But the Roman Catholic Church, it seems, would prefer to use it as a time spread a message of prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. So on Christmas Day the Archbishop of Westminster spoke out in forthright terms against proposals to equalise marriage laws in England & Wales.

Being Christmas, you might think the media would avoid reporting such unpleasantness. And, indeed, the Archbishop of Westminster's sentiments were given short shrift on ITV. They were mentioned briefly in ITV's news at 1.15pm and again in their 8.30pm news bulletin.

However Archbishop Nichols was given pride of place on most of the BBC's morning and early afternoon news broadcasts. It was a case of poor editorial judgement, because a viewer could easily be forgiven for assuming that the BBC is in tune with what Vincent Nichols had to say.

Contrast the BBC News at One with ITV's news bulletin at 1.15pm

ITV's evening news on Christmas Day began at 8.30pm. Two sentences, and no more, were given over to Vincent Nichols' remarks -

Nick Thatcher: From Westminster Cathedral there was a controversial message from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Archbishop Vincent Nichols attacked the Government's plans for gay marriage, saying there was no mandate for changing the law and calling the proposals undemocratic and shambolic.

The BBC evening news on BBC One was broadcast at 10.45pm. Once again, substantially more time was devoted to this item -

Mishal Husain: Well, in his Christmas address the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has attacked the Government's proposals on gay marriage. The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said the process has been undemocratic and shambolic. Our Religious Affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, explains.

Robert Pigott: (strains of 'Once In Royal David's City') With carols, candles and holy communion, Roman Catholics at Westminster Cathedral proclaimed the joy of Christmas. The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols used the occasion to criticise the Government's plans for gay marriage. Ministers say no church will have to provide same-sex weddings, but Archbishop Nichols accused them of behaving in an Orwellian fashion to create a sham version of marriage.

Vincent Nichols: Frankly the process is shambolic. There was no announcement in any party manifesto. There's been no Green Paper, there's been no statement in the Queen's Speech. And yet here we are, on the verge of primary legislation. From a democratic point of view it's a shambles.

Mr Pigott went on to talk about the final sermon by Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. Pigott's report included this piece to camera -

Robert Pigott: Rowan Williams was an Archbishop with the bearing and presence of a holy man: widely revered by Anglicans - often misunderstood by others. His extraordinary intellect and eloquence were largely wasted by a Church pre-occupied by disputes about sexuality. The Church will now look to Justin Welby for harder-nosed leadership, to overcome its own divisions and win the respect of an increasingly sceptical society.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Season's Greetings

Traditional nativity scene from this year's Blue Peter Christmas Special
with lyrics to help viewers sing along to 'O Come All Ye Faithful'

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Newsround will no longer be broadcast on BBC One. The final BBC One bulletin went out last Thursday at 5pm, and was presented by Leah Gooding and Ore Oduba.

The programme began with an explanation of why, in future, Newsround will only be seen on the CBBC Channel.

Leah: Now today is a very important day for Newsround. We're saying goodbye to BBC One.

Ore: But don't worry about it {I can see people crying at home} Worry not, because Newsround will still bring you the top news stories every day on the CBBC Channel. And there's plenty on the website as well, of course.

Leah: But after 40 years we're leaving the BBC's flagship channel. Here's Ricky to tell you why.

(Ricky's video)

The second item on Thursday was a selection of Newsround's stories from 2012.

Leah: 2012 has been a huge year of news, both here in the UK and around the world too.

Ore: Yeah, from Egypt's first democratic election, to Superstorm Sandy's huge impact upon the American presidential race, to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee back here: it's been a momentous twelve months.

Leah: These were the headlines from 2012

(Leah's video)

Ore: So that was the big news of the year. But for most of us 2012 will be remembered as the most incredible year of sport - we were spoilt for choice.

Leah: Absolutely. We had Wiggo becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France, ...

Ore: ... an unbelievable dramatic end to the Premier League season ..

Leah: .. and, of course, the Olympics and Paralympic Games of London 2012

(video of sports events is not online)

The round-up of 2012 section concluded with the best of the rest - some 'weird and wonderful stories' presented by Ore.[The online version excludes new Bond movie box office hit story which began the sequence on BBC One])

Leah: So that is it for the last ever Newsround on BBC One. It's been a privilege to bring you all the best news stories over the past 40 years. But we're not stopping.

Ore: No we are not. We'll continue over on the CBBC Channel - bigger and better than ever. In fact, LG's gonna be right back here just before 7 [this evening]. She can't get enough of it.

Leah: We'll have a whole new set of longer bulletins over on CBBC in the afternoon. And that all starts on January, after the Christmas break.

Ore: But for now, it is time to say goodbye .. on BBC One. So here's a look back at the best of children's BBC over the years. Merry Christmas

Leah: Bye

Ore: See ya

(clips from Blue Peter, Saturday SuperStore, John Craven's Newsround, and Live & Kicking)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dani Harmer has been something of a mainstay of the CBBC channel for about a decade now. Today, for example, Dani appeared in Tracy Beaker Returns at 9.30am, then she starred in Dani's House at 11.30am. And at 5.10pm kids will have a chance to see her in one of the earliest Tracy Beaker stories.

Love is in the air at Dani's House

Dani helps smooth the course of true love.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Scottish plans to allow lesbian and gay people to marry were announced on 25 July 2012. There was no Newsround bulletin that day on BBC One, but the evening bulletin on the CBBC channel at 6.55pm did include this short report.

My blog on 25 July 2012 includes a screenshot of Newsround's web report about the Scottish Government announcement. But a significant change was made to the headline. The amended webpage report can be seen by clicking on the screenshot.

Originally I assumed that the headline was altered because the term "gay marriage" is not ideal. We are, after all, talking about marriage equality. So it seemed, at the time, that a headline "Same-sex marriage to be introduced in Scotland" was more accurate than the original.

However, having seen the recent Newsround report about proposed changes to the law in England & Wales, it now looks like the edit was because CBBC bosses simply feel that the words "gay" and "lesbian" are inappropriate for children to know.

Not a million miles from Victorian times, when words like "leg," "bottom," "trousers," and "ankle" were considered by some to be rude, and shouldn't be spoken or heard.

Ratus Ratus tells viewers about Victorian prudery - (Horrible Histories)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blue Peter today included a section on Christmas presents. Bobby Fuller and Will Nye (Jake and Danny from Sadie J) had a quick look at what's around at the moment. Viewers found out about a new Furby which is fed with a smartphone or tablet app.

Next up on their list was the Playstation Wonderbook: Book of Spells, which, kids were told, is hi-tech stuff.

Will (left): So, now that I've learnt my spells, do you think I can get a date with Hermione?

Other toys on their list were Twister Dance, a Ravensburger augmented reality jigsaw puzzle, and Bin Weevils Collectables.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The third story on Newsround today at 5pm was about Government plans to amend the marriage laws in England and Wales. Newsround avoided using the terms 'lesbian' and 'gay' throughout, although they had previously used the term 'gay' when they reported proposed changes to marriage laws in Scotland.

Ricky: Next - two men or two women will soon be able to get married to each other in England and Wales. At the moment same-sex couples who want to marry can only have a civil partnership, which gives similar rights but is not the same as marriage.

Nel: The Government want to change the rules so they can get married and tie the knot in some religious buildings.

Ricky: The Church of England and Church in Wales will not conduct same-sex weddings. But some other Christian groups, and some other religions say they are open to the idea.

Nel: The proposals are welcomed by many same-sex couples who say they should be treated the same way as everybody else.

Sian Payne: I'm not religious. It's not that I have a religious belief in marriage; I have a personal belief in marriage. Marriage means something. It's not just something that's really important to people who have a faith or a belief. And it's no less important for same-sex couples than it is for opposite-sex couples.

Ricky: But some people don't agree with same-sex marriage, saying that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. The Church of England says the changes would mean 'marriage' means less. In a statement they said -

Nel: "We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone."

Ricky: And earlier this year Scotland became the first part of the UK to agree to introduce same-sex marriages. It's thought it will become law in England and Wales in 2015.

Newsround website: Same-sex marriage plans set out for England and Wales

Saturday, December 08, 2012

According to Chaos Theory, in some circumstances it's possible for a minuscule almost unnoticed event to result in devastating consequences. The usual example quoted is that of a butterfly flapping its wings which could, according to the theory, result in a hurricane weeks later on the other side of the globe. It's known as the Butterfly Effect.

So what has all this got to do with the BBC and other mainstream media?

Basically it is that the seemingly most insignificant word, report, prank or whatever has the potential to do harm.

How can this be avoided?

Put simply, we can't really stop this from happening. We can, perhaps, lessen the likelihood by saying and doing absolutely nothing, or at least being more cautious about what we do and thinking through the potential consequences of our actions.

Isn't it possible that the relentless reporting of what would otherwise have been a relatively harmless prank call to King Edward VII hospital might have put great pressure on the person who took the call - Jacintha Saldanha?

Interestingly Newsround did not mention the death of the nurse, perhaps because they appreciated that the news would upset their audience. On Wednesday Newsround reported the hospital had said sorry for divulging confidential patient information about the Duchess of Cambridge.

Today the hospital is shifting all blame to the Australians. BBC News channel reports, as its lead story, that the hospital's chairman has made a complaint "in the strongest possible terms."

But without King Edward VII hospital's management's misjudgement in employment and training practices, and without reporting of a trivial event by the 24-hour news media, Jacintha might still be alive.

A recent and unrelated prank by another Australian can be seen on Newsround's website.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Newsround report about Pope Benedict XVI. This was from the 8.17am bulletin today -

Ore: The Pope is opening his very own Twitter account today. The head of the Catholic Church reckoned it'll help him spread the word. Apparently, though, the Pope himself won't be tweeting. Top Church sources say Pope Benedict prefers writing by hand than using computers.

The story was also reported on the early afternoon bulletin, with video showing the Pope's Twitter account in several languages.

So far the Pope has not tweeted anything at all. Newsround says that "Catholics will be able to send messages direct to his account."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

No-one who could be in left in much doubt about where the BBC's sympathies lie in the Rotherham Council adoption case. Last night a BBC news report referred to it as "that scandal over the foster children." For a supposedly impartial broadcaster, using the term 'scandal' does seem rather harsh. So let's look more closely at how the BBC has dealt with the issue, and with reporting on UKIP generally.

When children slowly grow into young adults, they will at some time start to appreciate politics and what each political party stands for. So even though the Rotherham couple may treat their foster-kids with love and care, the kids themselves might have eventually suspected that their foster parents did not approve of others, like them, from abroad. No-one has to be a member of a political party. But remember, in this case, the couple actually chose to support UKIP, and what it stands for.

Would this story have even been worthy of a news report if the couple had been members of the BNP? And would BBC News spend a day talking about 'mounting criticism' of Rotherham Council if the kids had instead been moved out of a BNP family environment? Perhaps CBBC's Newsround understood this consideration.

As mentioned in my previous blog, BBC national news had little, if anything, to say about the anti-gay remarks expressed by UKIP's culture spokesperson, Winston McKenzie. Nigel Farage indicated his backing for McKenzie when he told Tim Willcox yesterday that he completely supported Winston’s "Christian" position opposing gay adoption.

BBC's News at Ten, last night, included a report on the three by-elections, but nothing was said about UKIP's anti-equality stance. Neither was a word said about those discrimination issues on Newsnight's discussion shortly afterwards on BBC Two.

In the view of Newsround Blog, David Cameron was quite right to call UKIP generally "fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists basically." Clearly, from what we saw during the Croydon North by-election campaign, he could have added 'homophobes' to that list. It's a pity that Ed Miliband has not similarly stood against UKIP's bigotry.

But the real 'scandal' here is the BBC giving this obnoxious party so much free and uncritical publicity.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What makes an important news story?

Last Saturday one story dominated the BBC's news channel. It was about the suitability of two foster-parents to bring up children who are "not indigenous white British." The couple had been deemed unsuitable by Rotherham Council workers, who felt membership of UKIP - which some believe is a racist party - meant they were not the ideal couple to bring up the children.

All day long, and at the start of almost every TV news bulletin that day, BBC News reported that there was 'mounting criticism' of Rotherham Council.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage was asked if politics should be a consideration when children are fostered. He replied "Absolutely not - and certainly not in the case of UKIP. We are a non-racist, non-sectarian political party." He went on to adduce the fact that UKIP's candidate in Croydon North by-election was actually born in Jamaica.

Mr Farage believed it was an example of "the most appalling prejudice."

On Monday it emerged that UKIP's spokesperson for culture, media and sport - who also happens to be the Croydon North candidate - believes that gay people should not be allowed to adopt - he said it amounted to child abuse.

So how much publicity did the BBC news channel give to this story. The answer is almost none at all, although it did eventually make the BBC News website.

Newsround did not report on either the foster case or on the homophobic remarks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Newsround at 5pm yesterday began with a report about women's equality and the Church of England -

Ricky: First - should women be allowed to become bishops? That's what the Church of England is set to decide within the next hour.

Nel: At the moment women are only allowed to be priests, and there's been a big debate about whether they should be able to take the next step up. Well, I've been looking at both sides of the argument.

(Nel's video report)

Nel: Throughout history women have had to fight to be seen as equal to men. Because of that we can now vote - join the army - we can even be prime minister. One thing women still can't do in England is be a bishop. Well, that all could change today as the leaders of the Church of England vote on the issue. It's 20 years since women were allowed to become priests, and some say there's no reason they shouldn't be allowed to take up the next step.

Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin: We've got a lot of young women growing up in the Church. The message we're giving to them is: we only want you to prepare the altar, put the flowers on, make the tea, clean the church - but that's all you're good for. That is an unacceptable message.

Nel: But many in the Church disagree over the issue.

Nel: Why can't a woman be a bishop or a priest?

Father Paul Plumpton: I believe that a woman can no more be a priest than I can be a mother. It really is as basic to nature and the way God has ordered things as that.

Nel: But they are allowed to become priests at the moment. So what's the problem with that?

Father Paul Plumpton: Not only do we not believe that women can be ordained as priests - or at least we have grave doubts about it - we must have equally grave doubts that they can be bishops.

Nel: Here's how it works. The Church of England has The Queen as its head. It's split into different areas, known as dioceses. Each area is run by a bishop, who's in charge of the priests. The Church of England is part of a wider community - the Anglican Church - which has tens of millions of followers worldwide.

Nel: It may seem surprising that when it comes to being a bishop, men and women are still not seen as equals. But the Church of England is considered to be way ahead of other religions when it comes to giving women more power. If the vote goes through today, it could mean that we see female bishops by 2014.

Newsround bulletin last night at 6.55pm carried the Synod decision -

Ricky: First up - in the last hour, leaders of the Church of England have voted against allowing women to become bishops. The decision has come after a day of debating about the issue. Campaigners needed to win two-thirds of votes, but failed to do that. It's 20 years since women were allowed to become priests, and could be years before they can vote to become bishops again.

The aftermath of yesterday's decision was reported on most of today's' Newsround TV bulletins, where the disappointment of many was made clear. Two of the morning bulletins included a clip of Revd Rachel Weir, who said they'd been campaigning for 15 years. She said there was something badly wrong in the Church of England, because it can't deliver after all this time.

This afternoon Newsround reported that most of the bishops and priests wanted the changes to happen. Newsround reported David Cameron as saying he's sad the Church of England voted not to allow women to become bishops. The 5pm bulletin also included the following clip of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, telling the Synod that the Church risked looking out of touch with modern life -

Rowan Williams: It seems as if we are willfully blind to some of the trends and priorities of that wider society. We have some explaining to do. We have, as a result of yesterday, undoubtedly lost a measure of credibility in our society.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

It's Anti Bullying Week, and the first Newsround bulletin yesterday morning began with findings of a survey that kids often pretend to be no good at some subjects or activities to avoid the bullies. The topic was covered in more detail at 5pm

The second story yesterday morning was about religion -

Ricky: A big meeting starts today to decide whether to allow women to become bishops in the Church of England. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams, and this man who'll replace him in January, the Right Reverend Justin Welby both believe women should be allowed to become bishops. But it's thought the vote tomorrow will be very close indeed.

The same issue was the lead in all three Newsround bulletins this morning. The first bulletin also included a vicar talking about the issue. (7.40am CBBC) -

Ore: People in charge of the Church of England will vote today to decide whether to allow women to become bishops. There'll be a big debate today followed by the vote, but many in the church disagree over the issue. It's 20 years since women were allowed to become priests, and some say there's no reason they shouldn't be able to take the next step up.

Revd Rose Hudson-Wilkin: We've got a lot of women, young women, growing up in the church. The message we're giving to them is: we only want you to clean the sanctuary, prepare the altar, put the flowers on, make the tea, clean the church - but that's all you're good for. That is an unacceptable message.

Newsround also mentioned the issue of women bishops when Rowan Williams was enthroned back in 2003. More recently there was this report from July 2012, and again a brief mention when Justin Welby was appointed.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

As mentioned in my previous blog, the lead story on Thursday's Newsround at 5pm was about the Archbishop of Canterbury. Leah said that the Archbishop of Canterbury is one of the most important figures in Britain, and head of the Anglican Church, "which is one of the world's fastest growing religions." Viewers were told that the Archbishop's job is really high-profile, and that "what the Archbishop says and thinks about issues, matters."

Report from Thursday's TV bulletin (BBC One - 5pm) about the new Archbishop of Canterbury

The only Newsround TV bulletin to mention the new appointment was on Friday at 3.15pm in the afternoon (2nd story) -

Joe: Now we told you about this yesterday. The Prime Minister joked it was one of the worst-kept secrets of the year. But this morning it was made official. This man, the Right Reverend Justin Welby, will be the new Archbishop of Canterbury. He'll become the most senior person in the Church of England in a special ceremony in March next year, taking over from Dr Rowan Williams. And today he said it would be a challenge to follow in his predecessor's footsteps.

Justin Welby (video clip): To be nominated to this post is both astonishing and exciting. It's something I never expected, And the last few weeks have been a rather strange experience, to put it mildly.

Newsround web guide to the Archbishop of Canterbury

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Lead story today on Newsround 3.15pm TV bulletin-

Leah: First. He's only been a bishop for about a year, but it looks like Justin Welby will take the top job in the Church of England. It's thought that tomorrow morning he'll be announced as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, taking over when the current Archbishop, Rowan Williams, retires next month. Justin Welby has had a very fast rise to the top - he was only promoted to Bishop of Durham, in the north east of England, last year. Now one of the things he believes in is allowing women to become bishops, even though other people in the Church don't agree.

Newsround TV 4.25pm bulletin (2nd story)

Leah: He's only been a bishop for about a year, but it looks almost certain that this man, Justin Welby, will be in the top job in the Church of England. It's thought that tomorrow morning he'll be announced as the next Archbishop of Canterbury, taking over when the current Archbishop, Rowan Williams, retires next month. Justin Welby has had a very fast rise to the top - he was only promoted to Bishop of Durham, in the north east of England, last year. It's a really important job, not just in this country, but worldwide too.

Ben Edson, Vicar of St James' Manchester (Video clip): Although he's based here, his role is across Europe, across Africa, across the entire world. And so when there's problems in those countries he'll often speak about those problems - and speak for the voice of the Church within that place. So he represents me as an Anglican in Manchester, but he also represents Anglicans in Nairobi, in Bulawayo - across the entire world. So he's an important figure globally as well as within this country.

The Archbishop story was also the lead at 5pm on BBC One

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

US voters reject bigotry

Julie Etchingham, a former Newsround presenter, spoke to some young voters in New York as part of ITV's US presidential election results coverage -

Young voters in New York talk to Julie Etchingham

These voters are clearly passionate about human rights, a subject seldom mentioned on Newsround.

Last night was a historic night, not just because of the presidential election result, but also because we saw there's been a sea-change in the public attitude towards marriage equality. The issue was voted on in four States - Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington.

At last, marriage equality seems to have majority support in the United States - something inconceivable only a couple of years ago.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

For the record, here are the items reported by Newsround on 22nd and 23rd October 2012 at 5pm -

Monday 22 October 2012

1) Obama and Romney will go head-to-head for third time on TV tonight

2) Lance Armstrong stripped of all seven of his Tour de France titles

3) Violence in Syria may be spreading to Lebanon

4) Survey (source not given) finds kids want to spend more time with their parents

5) 10-year-old from Wales helped build mini version of solar-powered car

6) Obsolete CEEFAX service closing down

Tuesday 23 October 2012

1) Plans to start killing badgers have been delayed at the last minute

2) Oldest surviving Battle of Britain pilot, William Walker, has died

3) Scouts want to ban all nicknames because they can lead to bullying

4) Species of small wasp might help farmers protect crops from bugs

5) Auction of designer Pudsey Bears to raise money for BBC Children in Need

Friday, November 02, 2012

Newsround at 7.40am this morning included an interesting item about the Mormon religion -

Hayley: There are just four days until Americans vote on who they want to be their next President - Barack Obama or his opponent, Mitt Romney. Now for months they've been crossing the country meeting voters and answering questions about how they think the country should be run. And one of the things that lots of people have been talking about is Mitt Romney's religion. So we sent Leah to find out more.

Leah's video report

According to this Reuters report on YouTube, Romney's ancestors emigrated to America from England.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

John Simpson is one of the BBC's most respected journalists. He appeared on Panorama's investigation (iPlayer) into what the BBC knew about Jimmy Savile and why the Newsnight investigation had been dropped -

John Simpson: This is the worst crisis that I can remember in my nearly 50 years at the BBC. I don't think the BBC has handled it terribly well. All we have, as an organisation, is the trust of people - the people that watch us and listen to us. And if we don't have that - we start to lose that - that's very dangerous for the BBC.

John Simpson's comments were the basis of a detailed news report in children's newspaper, First News. But, although all this has been such a big story in Britain, the BBC's own flagship news and current affairs programme for children has yet to say a word about either Jimmy Savile's abuse or about the BBC crisis.

The BBC's editorial guidelines cover all situations that could arise as a broadcaster, including controversial news. The guideline in Section 4.4.15 deals with impartiality when the BBC, itself, is the story -
When dealing with controversial subjects concerning the BBC, our reporting must remain duly impartial, as well as accurate and fair. We need to ensure the BBC's impartiality is not brought into question (my emphasis) ...

The fact that Newsround publicised last year's Savile tribute but has, so far, completely failed to report the current controversy, does exactly that - it further brings the impartiality and integrity of the BBC children's department into question.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Scandal Incorporated

My last blog drew attention to the failure of Newsround to follow-through on their Friday morning item about the efficacy of wearing anti-racism T-shirts. So kids who rely on Newsround for sports news might not have known the views of Sir Alex Ferguson. But today's 10am bulletin began with a report from Ferguson's perspective -

Manchester United may have beaten Stoke 4-2 yesterday, but Rio Ferdinand is in big trouble with the side's boss for refusing to wear a special T-shirt in training. Ferdinand said he didn't wear a 'Kick It Out' anti-racism shirt because he doesn't think the campaign is doing enough to tackle issues in the game. But Ferguson says he feels let down and the player's actions will be dealt with.

Because of Ferguson's entirely inappropriate stance, this story has the potential to escalate. We'll have to wait and see. Newsround's midday bulletin was more balanced, as it also reported on the action taken by Swansea and Wigan teams.

The first story on last Tuesday's Newsround was about age restrictions on social networking sites. Ricky told viewers ".. if you're under 13 you're not allowed to use websites like Facebook and Twitter." Peter Bradley from Kidscape said that the rules are there to protect children against things such as cyberbullying, and stressed the need for kids not to give away any personal information on the internet. Ricky ended his video report with ".. for now, the rules to keep you guys safe are staying put."

A headline news story - the scandal embroiling the BBC - has yet to receive so much as a mention on Newsround. But there can surely be few kids who have not seen some of the newspaper headlines about Jimmy Savile or about Newsnight's controversial editorial decision. Last year Newsround called for kids to take part in a tribute to Jimmy Savile who, they said, was well known for fixing it for children's dreams to come true.

Newsround's continued failure to report the news impartially results in kids losing faith - another nail in the coffin of socially relevant TV.

This Blog is expecting the Savile story to be reported on Newsround very shortly - probably tomorrow.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Lately Newsround has been pretty good on covering racism stories. On Wednesday at 5pm, for example, it was introduced by Leah and Ricky -

Leah: It's Wednesday 17th October. I'm Leah and this is Ricky.

Ricky: You're live with Newsround. On today's show - Racism rears its ugly head in football once again. ....

Yesterday, the 8.17am bulletin began with the news about Jason Roberts telling footballers to protest against the lack of action to combat racism in the sport -

Leah: A top Premier League striker's urging black players to stop wearing 'Kick Racism Out Of Football' T-shirts during warm-ups for this weekend's games. Reading's Jason Roberts says he's ditching the T-shirts in protest at the organisation not taking a stronger stance against John Terry. The Chelsea captain accepted a four match ban for abusing Rio Ferdinand's brother Anton, yesterday.

Jason Roberts: The players are very frustrated. And, you know, if you're asking me, if players ask me about it and wearing T-shirts, they have. And I can only speak for myself - I find it very hard to wear a T-Shirt and to hold a banner after what's happened last year.

Although the John Terry racism story grew during the day, for some reason Newsround chose not to revisit the issue, either on the later TV bulletins or on their website. Two interesting developments were Roberto Di Matteo's coyness on John Terry's captaincy and Sir Alex Ferguson saying he disagreed with Jason Roberts. In the normal course of events football managers are freely given air time on Newsround, so it was doubly strange that this wasn't covered. But then it has always been difficult to fathom BBC editorial judgement.

Today, Newsround mentioned that Chelsea have "taken firm disciplinary action" against John Terry.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Today is Spirit Day, marking the victims of homophobia. Anyone can show solidarity with the principle of tolerance and mutual respect by wearing the colour purple.

Despite several promises of change, BBC children's TV continues to apply a different standard of 'editorial judgement' to anti-gay discrimination than it does to news about discrimination based other types of prejudice.

In September Newsround reported about four Christians who allege they are being discriminated against. Two of those people want to be granted the legal right to discriminate against lesbian and gay couples, though that would not have been obvious to anyone who saw the Newsround reports.

Yesterday a gay couple, who were turned away from a 'Christian' Bed-and-Breakfast, won their case of discrimination and will receive £3,600 damages. But that case went unreported by Newsround.

Nick Griffin, of the racist and homophobic BNP, was annoyed about the judgement. He tweeted the gay couple's address, and suggested that a 'British Justice team' would arrive at the address. Griffin's Twitter account was temporarily suspended and the tweet with the gay couple's address has now been removed.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Esther Rantzen interviewed by Martine Croxall
BBC News channel 5.21pm Saturday 13th October 2012

Martine Croxall: The TV presenter and founder of the ChildLine charity, Esther Rantzen, appeared in the ITV documentary on Jimmy Savile aired last week. I've been speaking to her, and she told me that many people must now bear responsibility for what happened.

Esther Rantzen: I feel we were all culpable. I feel that viewers, charities, influential people from the Prime Minister through to the Royal Family helped to create, for Jimmy Savile, an image of being an icon - a national icon, a national treasure - and I think that's what made it particularly difficult for children.I just want to say that children always find it very very difficult to speak up about abuse.

Martine Croxall: Of course they do, of course they do but ...

Esther Rantzen (right) talks about ChildLine - BBC News channel 13th October 2012

Esther Rantzen: And that is why ChildLine - and I'm here really to say to any child watching today - ChildLine 0800 1111 - is a way that abused children can ask for help safely and confidentially.

Martine Croxall: So much easier, though, for children to ask for help if when adults hear rumours they do something about it. The NSPCC says 'Everyone has a responsibility to protect children. You do not have to be a parent. If you are worried about any child act straight away.' And it's clear, isn't it, that people didn't, including you?

Esther Rantzen: Pardon?

Martine Croxall: Including you. You say that you're culpable too.

Esther Rantzen: Can you tell me a child that I was worried about that I didn't help?

Martine Croxall: It seems, well, peculiar to appear in a documentary on television last week ..

Esther Rantzen: Yes

Martine Croxall: .. saying that you were aware of rumours about abuse ..

Esther Rantzen: Yes

Martine Croxall: .. and then to say you didn't know anything specific.

Esther Rantzen: Of course I didn't know anything specific. For 26 years, at ChildLine, we've been hearing from specific children talking about abuse they're suffering, and we have done our best to investigate, to support them, to make them safe. There has never been a child that has reported abuse to me, that I have not taken action to protect. And the same is true of ChildLine. And the same is true of the NSPCC. When you hear a rumour in a television office, that a television presenter has a particular sexual taste, you can't actually then proceed back. Nobody who talked to me about Jimmy Savile had ever met him. Nobody had ever worked with him.

Martine Croxall: But why then appear in a documentary, as you did last week, saying there were rumours, there was gossip and we all blocked our ears to it?

Esther Rantzen: Because, as I've said to you, I believe we're all culpable. I think we, who created this 'national treasure' so that children couldn't speak out against him, made it all the more difficult for children, who find it difficult anyway, to disclose this kind of crime in which the shame and the fear actually is transferred from the abuser to the child.

Martine Croxall: This is the subject which comes up a lot with people when you talk about the time, years ago. Very few women you speak to who didn't feel that they were in some way subjected to unwanted attention but didn't feel that they could say anything to anyone. The reports in The Sun today: Shy Keenan, who is an anti-abuse campaigner, she says that she alerted you to concerns about Jimmy Savile 18 years ago.

Esther Rantzen: She says. I have no memory of even meeting her.

Martine Croxall: But there's a photograph of you here with her.

Esther Rantzen: I don't know where it was taken. It could have been in a green room. You'll understand that, having launched ChildLine in 1986, we continued our campaign trying to protect children. And a number of people in the field of child protection came to see us, came to talk to us. Now she says that she told me there were rumours about Jimmy Savile - which I don't remember. But had she done so, I would have said I do hope she's taken them to the police if she has any evidence. You can't go to the police without evidence.

Martine Croxall: But it seems ... How regularly did you hear rumours about Jimmy Savile when you were working in the BBC?

Esther Rantzen: Not regularly at all. He was not often talked about. Where I worked we were talking about, for example, the abuse that took place in a boys' school which we investigated. And the owner, who was a paedophile, thanks to our investigation was sent to prison. He employed other teachers. That was the sort of thing that we were trying to investigate when children came forward and asked for help. In that case it was a child who wrote to me at ChildLine. And I was able to find evidence against three teachers. Only recently another teacher who worked at that school has just been convicted, because only recently has another one of his victims come forward. A couple of weeks ago I was talking to a lady in her 80's, who told me that she had been abused as a child by someone in her family who was a judge. And she was told she would never be believed, no matter if she asked for help. That's where I think we're all culpable. We make it so difficult for children to speak out. And that's why ChildLine exists.

Martine Croxall: But how can .. how can the people who ... many people who come forward now with these claims about Jimmy Savile feel that they can have proper justice? The man has died.

Esther Rantzen: I know, I know and that is absolutely tragic, because of course they should be able to put their accusations to the man himself. And of course they should have justice, I know. But at least they're being heard now - being heard for the first time. And when you think of one of those people who gave evidence in that documentary, who was at a special school who told her teacher what Savile had done to her. And was punished for it. Think how many years - and she said in the documentary - 'I wasn't believed then, and I don't expect to be believed now.' Well they are being believed. They are corroborating each other, and more and more are tragically coming forward every day.

Martine Croxall: In retrospect, with the gift of hindsight, was it a mistake to appear on the documentary that ITV made, saying that you'd heard these rumours? Because now, of course, we're pressing you for specifics.

Esther Rantzen: That's alright. I mean I'm happy to be pressed by you. But when they asked me to appear, it was to give my view about the credibility of the women. Because I've heard so many children and adult survivors talking about their experience - that's what they wanted me to do.

Martine Croxall: But you went further than that, didn't you?

Esther Rantzen: Because I felt ..

Martine Croxall: You did say you'd heard gossip, you'd heard rumours and we all turned a blind eye.

Esther Rantzen: I felt terrible. I felt terrible listening to them. Because I thought to myself 'I appeared on Jim'll Fix It. I was one of the people that helped to create this mythology of the Saint Jimmy'

Martine Croxall: But had heard the rumours.

Esther Rantzen: And the rumours were everywhere. They were in your newsroom. They were in Fleet Street's newsroom. They were in the music industry. But rumours, you realise a journalist must distinguish between, as Ian Hislop said so well last night, 'there are things you know - that is you know from people who've experienced something or witnessed something - and there's rumour, which you don't know.'

Martine Croxall: Of course there is. But when rumours become so regular and prevalent ..

Esther Rantzen: Rife is the word on the tip of your tongue.

Martine Croxall: .. don't you try to establish whether there's more to it than that?

Esther Rantzen: Right. Here you are, and I'm saying to you of course I've never met the man, and I've never worked with him, but I hear Jimmy Savile attacks girls.

Martine Croxall: But you had met him, hadn't you?

Esther Rantzen: No, no, no. At the time I heard this rumour I hadn't met him. I was a researcher, a junior researcher. And I was being told it by a junior researcher who had contacts in Fleet Street. The big newspapers tried to investigate him on several occasions. The police tried to investigate him. But everything depended on the evidence of children standing up in court. Without it you can't broadcast, you can't publish, you can't take a case. Operation Yewtree, now, is able to look at individual statements by adult survivors, see how they corroborate each other. And that, at last, is evidence.

Martine Croxall: What could people have done in the 80's and 90's?

Esther Rantzen: Well. We launched ChildLine. We launched ChildLine specifically to find a way for children to talk about something they found impossible to disclose to the people around them. It gives them anonymity, it gives them confidentiality. And the first thing we do to a child is say 'this is not your fault.'

Martine Croxall: How much more readily are children believed these days than they were, say 20 or 30 years ago?

Esther Rantzen: I think that's an excellent question. I think they are believed more often now. The children who ring ChildLine now, ring within a month of it starting in half the cases. (unclear) When we opened ChildLine in 1986 people were telling us about abuse which had been going on for 15 years - all their lives. Fortunately, now, they're starting to disclose earlier, and are being believed earlier.

Martine Croxall: Do you think, looking back on the documentary of last week, it was a mistake to mention the rumours that you knew of?

Esther Rantzen: I'm not here to defend myself. The fact is that everybody working in the music industry, television and in journalism had heard those rumours. It's .. it was as they say an open secret. You know, I believe, I've been told by someone who worked in the field, that there were rumours in the NHS. A journalist tells me that there were rumours in military intelligence. But the trouble is that, you know, that a lie goes half way around the world before truth has got its boots on. And we have to be very careful about distinguishing between rumours, which have no evidence, and real evidence of the kind that's coming out now.

Martine Croxall: Esther Rantzen, TV presenter and founder of ChildLine.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Last night, after an inordinate delay, Newsnight finally bit the bullet and got round to reporting the Jimmy Savile affair.

Eddie Mair: On Newsnight tonight - why did the institutions that could have stopped him, fail to do so? In the studio, people who know the workings of the BBC, the tabloids and children's charities. .....

(from video report)
Liz MacKean: ... When rumours attach themselves to public figures the media are often the first to get wind of it. It's become clear that happened in this case and yet newspapers and broadcasters didn't run with the story. Why not? Several former BBC staff have come out to say they were aware of Savile's predatory behaviour in the 70's and 80's. The BBC has announced it will hold an independent inquiry into who knew what about their fallen star once the police give the green light. More recent decisions are also under scrutiny.

Liz MacKean: After Savile died, I was part of a Newsnight team that investigated claims of sexual abuse. The allegations centred on Duncroft School in Surrey, but they included Stoke Mandeville hospital and Television Centre. Newsnight decided not to run the story for editorial reasons. The BBC is under pressure to explain why the story was not broadcast, and whether any influence was brought to bear by senior executives ahead of the Christmas tribute programmes for Savile. ...

Guests in the Newsnight studio were Jon Brown of the NSPCC, newspaper journalist Paul Connew, Vanessa Feltz and Kevin Marsh former editor of Radio4's Today programme. Eddie Mair said that the BBC had declined to take part in the live discussion.

Incidentally I emailed Kevin Marsh at the BBC in 2006 about a completely unrelated matter, but received no reply.

The Newsnight discussion was fine as far as it went, but the elephant in the room was that Newsnight is in possession of all the relevant information, yet they failed to disclose any of it. The programme last night was a perfect opportunity to shed light on the rationale for not broadcasting their investigation late last year, and to disclose the internal debate which took place relating to the decision. But it seems the BBC has, once again, used its 'editorial judgement' and made the wrong decision. Failings of this kind are rapidly undermining trust in Britain's national broadcaster.

At the time of writing, Newsround has failed to mention anything about the Jimmy Savile controversy, though last year they were giving publicity to one of the BBC Savile tribute programmes and asked kids aged 14 or under to write in if they wanted to take part -

Classic TV show Jim'll Fix It comes back for Christmas

Peter Rippon's BBC blog on 2nd October 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Ofcom received more than 1000 complaints about the X Factor results programme last Sunday. This was from Newsround on Wednesday at 4.25pm -

Leah: Next, to the latest X Factor drama. And the TV watchdog, Ofcom, is looking into complaints about Sunday night's sing-off. In the last hour they've told us that they've had more than one thousand complaints this series after Carolynne Poole left the show on Sunday night, following a controversial sing-off result which saw Louis send the judges' vote to deadlock. Gary Barlow walked off. It's not the first time the X Factor has received complaints from viewers, of course.

Today Newsround reported what Olly Murs had to say about the show. This was from the early afternoon programme -

Leah: Finally, we caught up with Olly Murs today. He says he's frustrated that people are accusing the X Factor of faking things for extra drama. He was speaking about last week's show when Louis Walsh caused Gary Barlow to storm off live on air, which upset lots of viewers.

Olly Murs: It's upsetting when people say it because I've been part of the show, and behind camera it does get feisty down there. But it is about the contestants, and when I was a contestant on the show I'd hate to think that my show was a fix - that it was fake.

Gary Barlow's disdain for Rylan Clark was obvious on the Saturday night X Factor live show. After receiving high praise from Louis, and more muted praise from Tulisa, it was Gary's turn -

Gary Barlow: Rylan, I am back on the show this year. There's one thing I wanted to change from last year - I wanted to have some fun this year. And I really was having fun till you started singing tonight. (audience jeers) I thought that was .. I'm embarrassed to be sat here. And you know what, I said 'no' to you at the first audition. Which means you (points to Tulisa) should be ashamed of yourself; you (points to Louis) should be ashamed of yourself. And Nicole I don't know how you've even shown up here tonight ....

Gary Barlow & Nicole Scherzinger on X Factor (6th October 2012)

One issue not reported by Newsround is the fact that Rylan Clark had been eliciting a large number of hate messages on social networks like Facebook and Twitter. Many of the offensive tweets were also homophobic in nature. This one is typical of hundreds - if not thousands - of others.

In October 2008 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child said urgent measures were needed to address intolerance and discrimination against vulnerable groups in the United Kingdom, including LGBT children. The Committee was
"concerned at the general climate of intolerance and negative public attitudes ... which appears to exist in the State party, including in the media, and may be often the underlying cause of further infringements of their rights."

Regrettably, four years later and BBC children's TV has still done nothing to directly address the issue of homophobia and homophobic bullying. No wonder the level of prejudice seems to be on the increase, rather than on the decline

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Correspondence with the BBC is frequently met with a thank you for getting in touch, and a promise that concerns have been logged and passed on. So it came as something of a welcome surprise when I received a more thoughtful and courteous, if somewhat belated, response to my latest email about continuing discrimination on children's services.

My enquiry was sent on 20th August, and detailed reasons for concluding that BBC children's TV is still not inclusive. Although three different programmes were cited in my message, the BBC's reply only responded to what I had to say about the first series of Leonardo. According to the programme's executive producer, whilst Lisa is clearly in love with Leonardo, he remains "sublimely unaware" of Lisa’s crush. The subtext is that he does not respond to her sexually, although he does recognise her feminine beauty which, as an artist, of course he would appreciate.

The Corporation's reply, dated 2nd October, ended with an assurance that they "are always thinking about the portrayal of sexuality in CBBC programming." It remains to be seen how "thinking about" the portrayal of sexuality in CBBC programming will yield concrete results in terms of diversity and inclusiveness.

One of the best new series on CBBC must surely be Wolfblood, in which Rhydian and Maddy are striving, against the odds, to stop their friends from finding out who they really are - wolfbloods. Allegories are fine, but aren't they just a way of not dealing with real life? There's tonnes of hetero love and romance on CBBC but lesbian and gay equivalents are avoided.

Newsround is still showing those clips of celebrities talking about their time at school: When I Was 10. Today Lemar Obika was answering the questions. Lemar was one of the contestants from the BBC's Fame Academy series 1, and has a new album, Invincible, out tomorrow. Amongst the questions put to him was "Did you fancy anyone at school?" He said he had a few crushes, including one girl who lived along his street.

Alex Parks won Fame Academy series 2, but because she was a proud lesbian, the media, including the BBC, treated her very differently, and effectively stifled her career. A CBBC interview on 14th November 2003 presumably contributed to her disillusionment.

In February 2006 Alex wrote "...A lot of you have asked if I'm disappointed with the way my record releases have gone and of course I am. I've had almost no support from the media - hardly any coverage on the radio and TV or in the press and whether that's because they don't like my music, or they don't like me, or maybe because I came from a reality TV programme - I don't know. ..."

Saturday, October 06, 2012

BBC Blue Peter says it's giving kids a chance to participate in the Children's Commissioner's Takeover Day. From the end of Thursday's programme -

Barney: .... if you'd like to achieve you're dreams - let's say your dreams are to produce Blue Peter, the show that's on telly - we might be able to make that come true for you.

Helen: Yes, now next month there is a day that sees children take over places normally controlled by adults. So, in the past we've seen children run local government offices, they've run schools, they've run museums - and even Radio 1. So yeah, you've guessed it, we want you to take over Blue Peter.

Barney: It's an amazing competition - your chance to be a producer on the show, and on the website. Take a look at this.

Barney: You'll work behind the scenes to decide what goes into the programme and what gets shown on TV. From what happens in the studio ... to what happens when we go out on the road. You'll also get to work with the best of the Blue Peter team and find out what it's like to make the show. ... It's a chance for you to run the show and become one of the producers behind Blue Peter.

Helen: ... in no more than 250 words we want you to tell us what you'd like to see on Blue Peter. We want to know what you think we should be doing in this studio and out on the road.

Barney: There are two age categories: 6-9 and 10-12. Go to the website and download an application form. And we'd like everything in by 10am that's Monday morning on 22nd October ......

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

BBC editorial judgement was, once again, called into question yesterday when it was claimed that Newsnight's editor had vetoed transmission of an investigation into Jimmy Savile. It seems that some people at the Corporation were aware Savile was abusing children, but no-one was prepared to go public at the time.

Child safety was one of the topics broached at last week's Church and the Media Conference. During the discussion it was clear that CBBC bosses are aware, whether it's appropriate or not, that young people use social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

As for Newsround - it's unlikely they'll report the news about Jimmy Savile.

When Megan Stammers went missing, it was not until last Tuesday that her abduction was reported by Newsround (see previous blog)

Today's news about missing toddler April Jones wasn't reported on Newsround's morning TV bulletins, though the story is now on their website.

Sometimes caution in reporting a story is appropriate, other times not. However, in general a more open approach by BBC bosses would empower children to better understand the issues, and know when and how to speak out.

Going back to Newsnight, the BBC would have done well to have gone ahead with their report, but ensured that it was balanced and gave a rounded portrait of Mr Savile.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

One of the main news stories last week was about runaway pupil and teacher: Megan Stammers & Jeremy Forrest. The news was reported by Newsround on Tuesday 25th September -

Leah: Next to a story about a schoolgirl who's been front page news ever since she ran away last Thursday.

Ricky: Many thousands of kids run away from home every year in the UK. But what makes this different is that Megan Stammers is thought to have gone all the way to France with one of her teachers.

Leah: Police are looking for both of them. And the 15-year-old's parents are begging her to come home, saying she won't be in trouble. Watch out for the flashes coming up.

Ricky: Last Thursday Megan Stammers told her mum she was off to stay overnight at a friend's house. Her family have not seen her since. Yesterday Megan's parents begged her to get in touch, and come home.

Megan's mum: Sweetheart - I don't care what you've done or why, but you can tell I'm in pieces and I just want you home.

Megan's stepdad: Megan - we had a date on Saturday and we didn't make it. Babes that offer's still there sweetheart. I just want you to come home - safe.

Ricky: This is the man Megan is with. 30-year-old Jeremy Forrest, a maths teacher at her school in Sussex. They boarded a ferry to France on Thursday night. They had booked to return by the same route on Sunday, but never did. The school said there had been concerns about the relationship before this happened. On a previous school trip they were reportedly seen by another pupil holding hands. UK police are now working with the French authorities to try to find the pair and bring them home safely.

Police officer: We believe you believe you left of your own accord with Jeremy. But we need to hear that you're OK. Your family and friends are extremely worried, but you are not - and I stress you are not - in any trouble.

Ricky: Because Megan is 15 she is legally still a child. Her teacher's been criticised because part of a teacher's job is to look after children on behalf of their parents.

Ricky: Now although it's important to have a good relationship with your teachers at school, we've been looking into this story today. And we've got in touch with a former teachers' union leader, and she told us that the trust children build up for their teachers is very important, this is clearly an abuse of that trust.

Ricky: Police are now asking friends of the missing teenager if they have any information about where she might be. But in the meantime her family can only hope she returns home safely.

Friday's Newsround at 5pm began with a report that Megan Stammers had been found in Bordeaux. They said Megan was being looked after by police, but that her teacher had been arrested.

The main Newsround TV bulletins yesterday reported that Megan would return to the UK. Her dad said the family were overjoyed at the outcome.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Click is a BBC TV programme about developments in technology. This week it began with a report from a remote location in South America, where internet communication is now possible. Spencer Kelly introduced the report, explaining that many of the developing nations have skipped expensive wired telephone networks, and gone straight to wireless.

Spencer Kelly: ... that means there aren't actually many places in the world where you can't get a signal these days. But one such place, until very recently, was 300 miles up the Amazon River, in Brazil, deep in the heart of the rain forests. And that's where we sent Dan Simmons - nothing personal - he was there to report on one of the last places on Earth to get a signal.
(Dan's report)

Yesterday's Newsround (2pm) included a short item based on the BBC Click report. The programme was introduced by Ore. "Here's what's coming up - Kids in Brazil get connected for the first time. And why we won't be seeing our Becky in Rio. First up: Liverpool have kicked off against Manchester United in the first game at Anfield since findings were published from an investigation into the 1989 ...."

(Newsround studio with Amazon River on backing screen)
Ore: There aren't many places left in the world where a mobile signal and cheap readily available internet hasn't yet been reached. But here is one place that just got connected. A new project in the Amazon has seen people in isolated villages get in touch with the digital world for the first time. Watch this.

Ore: Three hundred miles up the Amazon River, deep in the heart of the rain forest, it's about as remote as you can get. Until recently the idea of getting mobile phone coverage around here was barely believable. The cost and effort to run the cables and navigate the signals through the dense rain forest would have made it almost impossible. But now 4 bars! (signal strength indicator)

Giant masts have been built here to send phone signals for the local communities. And for the first time - wireless internet too! This school has now logged on for work and play. People here are finally enjoying the benefits of modern technology.

School pupil (translated): We can now take pictures and videos of our circus, and show others what we do. We'll be able to ask people for what we need - more resources to expand and improve.

Ore: The project has already seen pupils' reading improve as a result. But there are benefits beyond the classroom. They say the improved communication has helped save lives too.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Lesbians can be heroes, too

Anne Gilchrist announced the axing of Grange Hill in 2008, saying that "the lives of children have changed a great deal since Grange Hill began and we owe it to our audience to reflect this."

Four years on, how well is CBBC reflecting the lives of children today?

Well, the second series of Leonardo begins this afternoon on CBBC. It's set in 15th century Florence. So, basically, not the ideal way to reflect the lives of 21st century children.

How about the brand new flagship series, Wolfblood? Yes, great at reflecting modern times, but only provided kids these days are secretly wolves.

Of course, Wolfblood could be seen as an allegory. Maddy and Rhydian might, for example, represent two gay kids who are worried that others at school won't accept them if they knew about their sexuality.

But if the BBC is serious about reflecting the lives of children today, bosses need to stop treating being lesbian or gay as something unmentionable. After all lesbians can be heroes, too.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

More needs to be done to kick out racism from football, says a report published by the House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee. News of the report was covered on Newsround's website as well as most of its TV bulletins today.

The Commons Select Committee report also has quite a lot to say about the problem of homophobia in football. In fact it says that homophobia may now be a bigger problem in football than other forms of discrimination. A high-profile campaign, according to the report, would highlight the damaging effect of homophobic language and behaviour in and around football.

Newsround failed, once again, to mention a word about homophobia, adding to evidence that BBC children's television is not doing nearly enough to combat prejudice against LGBT people.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Hillsborough independent report was released on Wednesday, and David Cameron's apology made the first story on Newsround's flagship 5pm bulletin that day -

Ricky: It's rare for a prime minister to stand up and make a public apology. But today that's what he's done. David Cameron said he's sorry to the families of Liverpool fans who died in the worst disaster in British football history.

The disaster is a personal tragedy to each and every one of the families who lost relatives and friends. And laying the blame on the fans themselves must have made it that much harder to bear. The truth has come out and the people of Liverpool may start to get justice.

But there's a family in Liverpool who may never see justice. A boy named Michael Causer was born just months after the Hillsborough disaster. Michael died in August 2008 as a result of a vicious attack. He was kicked in the head and died in hospital a few days later. It was a hate crime - Michael was murdered because he was gay, and for no other reason.

Yet despite the brutality involved the case went virtually unreported by the national media - including the BBC.

The person primarily responsible for Michael's death walked free from Liverpool Crown Court in what is every bit as much an injustice as each of the families of the 96 Hillsborough deaths has suffered. Overwhelming evidence from a thorough police investigation had been presented by the prosecution, so the acquittal, in a 10-2 majority verdict, was likely the result of prejudice by many members of the jury, taken together with Mr Justice Timothy King's pusillanimous summing up.

Perhaps the media should be concerned about all cases of injustice.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

“Continued trouble in the economy gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we ‘postpone’ the equalities agenda in order to deal with ‘the things people really care about’. As if pursuing greater equality and fixing the economy simply cannot happen at once.”

Apparently the above wording formed the basis of a speech, extracts of which were released to the press about 3pm on Tuesday afternoon, which Nick Clegg intended to deliver at a reception that evening. However, for reasons best known to Nick and his staff, the wording was amended, and those opposing equality were no longer referred to as bigots.

It seems that Lord Carey took the original text as a personal attack. He told the BBC:“To be called a bigot is a very offensive statement and I would ask him to recall it ... because there are issues here that demand very serious debate.”

A bigot, according to the dictionary, is a person who is utterly intolerant of any differing creed, belief, or opinion.

Of course there are people who, for religious or other reasons, do not agree with the idea of same-sex marriage. Whether it's reasonable to call someone a bigot for merely holding an opinion is quite another matter. But Lord Carey does not just hold an opinion that same-sex marriage is wrong, he is also in the forefront of a campaign to ensure that lesbian and gay couples aren't allowed to marry. His name is the very first name on a petition which will almost certainly have garnered 600,000 signatures within the next few days - though whether they're all genuine is open to doubt, as the petition organisers have been loath to answer any correspondence.

So Lord Carey is not just a person who objects to the idea of lesbian and gay couples marrying, he is also campaigning vociferously against equality. No wonder, then, that Carey self-identified as one of the bigots in Nick Clegg's proposed speech, and that he took such offence. It's just a shame that, once again, Clegg didn't have the courage of his convictions.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Last Wednesday, Newsround reported that 3.5 million children in Britain are living in poverty.

Nel: One of the UK's biggest police forces has told Newsround that the number of children stealing food is on the up, compared to those stealing things like sweets. Greater Manchester Police told us they think it's down to kids not having any food available to them in their homes. Well in Islington in London officers are giving out food vouchers to kids to try to stop them from turning to crime.

Hayley spoke to an Inspector from the London Metropolitan Police, who said they're not stealing sweets and chocolate and chewing gum, "they're actually going out and stealing bread and food for themselves and the family."

In light of the situation, perhaps the BBC should be more careful and a lot more sensitive.

Last night the actors who play Maddy and Rhydian in new kids' drama Wolfblood were in the studio to promote the series. They were asked to take part in a game, blindfolded, to make the best-tasting sandwich in twenty seconds. As a result, the desk was piled high with wasted bread and other food. BBC bosses need to have a word with CBBC's Head of Presentation to hopefully ensure there's no recurrence.

Finally I think the BBC, as well as making those elitist food programmes such as Masterchef, should also be more responsive to the needs of poor families, on a low budget. One leading supermarket chain, for example, is presently selling own brand mushy peas for 4p per tin. The BBC could point out other bargains and suggest recipes that enable families to live healthily at very little expense.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Well done to all the Olympic & Paralympic athletes and volunteers.

Shame the organisers and politicians don't deserve the same praise. Because they've done little to inspire a generation, and a lot to betray a generation. Never was that clearer than when Lord Coe spoke at the closing ceremony last night --
"Finally, there are some famous words you can find stamped on the bottom of a product. Words that, when you read them, you know mean high quality, mean skill, mean creativity. We stamped those words on the Olympic and Paralympic games of London 2012 - London2012 Made in Britain."

Sorry Seb, but all the products I've looked at are stamped Made in China. And presumably you and your fellow organisers were responsible for outsourcing the manufacture of the Wenlock, Mandeville and TeamGB mascots to another country because it made more profit that way. Shows how much you really think of Britain, doesn't it.

London 2012 products - NOT Made in Britain

One of the most memorable parts of the Olympics opening ceremony was the tribute to the NHS. How ironic and disappointing that the very NHS, of which Britain is so rightly proud, is now being dismantled bit by bit.

In fact Coe was amongst the parliamentarians who voted to facilitate this betrayal of a generation.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

The Presidential race is well underway in the United States - a fact which hasn't gone unnoticed on CBBC's Newsround. But despite 'gay marriage' being a major debating point in the US, Newsround has yet to report any LGBT equality differences between Obama's Democrats and Romney's Republicans.

Had Newsround's omission been a one-off it could be written off as an oversight. Truth to tell, though, the failure to report on gay equality is part of a pattern which - on this issue at least - suggests CBBC bosses are in tune with the more homophobic Republican party policy.

Let's look at some of the evidence -

a} No recent children's dramas with LGBT characters.

b} Until this year, Newsround had not reported on gay rights/equality/discrimination stories.

c} Obama's TV landmark interview in May, when he announced support for marriage equality was not reported by Newsround.

d} No mention of Alan Turing's life/work on CBBC during this centenary year.

e} Last Tuesday's Newsround report about the four Christians taking their cases to the European Court (see previous blog) brushed aside the fact that two of them are actually seeking the right to legally discriminate against others.

f} Worldwide anti-LGBT discrimination, for example in Uganda or Russia, never reported.

g} Homophobia and homophobic bullying yet to be specifically addressed by Newsround, or by any 'Newsround Special' to date.

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

"Four British Christians who say they lost their jobs because of their religious beliefs are taking their cases to the top human rights court in Europe today. They include an airline worker stopped from wearing a cross at work, and a counsellor who refused to deal with gay couples. They say UK laws needs to do more to protect their rights."

That was one of the reports on CBBC Newsround at 7.40am this morning. The story was also reported at 8.17am, with a few slight changes -

"First - a big court case about whether a group of British people lost their jobs because of their religious beliefs starts today. Four Christians, including an airline worker who was stopped from wearing a cross at work, are taking their case to the European Court of Human Rights. A Christian counsellor who refused to deal with gay couples is also part of the group. They say they're being discriminated against because of their faith, and want UK laws to do more to protect them."

The word 'gay' is still too rarely heard on children 's TV, but Newsround is making some progress in that regard. However it's unfortunate that more time wasn't taken to explain the background to these cases, as the reports did seem to be rather poorly balanced.

Newsround's website also includes the story but there, too, the opportunity for more detailed coverage was missed. There are, however, links to lots of background information on the current unrest in Belfast.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Joshua Rozenberg was the BBC's legal correspondent for 15 years and, according to his website, is Britain's best-known commentator on the law. He has recently written an article for the Law Society Gazette, basically stating his opinion that religious beliefs should be respected as long as people's rights are not taken away. His views have gone down very well with organisations such as the Christian Institute.

Four cases involving British applicants are due to be heard at the European Court of Human Rights in two days' time on Tuesday, 4th September.

In his piece for the Law Society Gazette, Mr Rozenberg fails to explain what makes a religious belief more worthy of respect than any other type of belief.

Some people have religious objections to inter-faith or interracial marriage - there are Biblical precedents for having such objections, which were once common in some American states

Would Mr Rozenberg support a marriage registrar who refused to officiate at the marriage between, say, a white man and a black woman? Would Joshua suggest that there's no problem because there's another council employee who would be willing to conduct the wedding ceremony?

Mr Rozenberg says "Everyone should respect the rights of same-sex couples to register civil partnerships in accordance with the law. But we should also respect the rights of those with religious convictions, so long as those beliefs do not conflict with the rights of others. Surely a fair and balanced approach to both rights is not too much to ask?"

Fifty years ago it would not be unknown for people in Britain with rooms to let to put notices in their windows: "No Blacks" or "No Irish" etc. Isn't Joshua Rozenberg's position tantamount to excusing those signs? After all surely there were other landlords prepared to rent rooms to the minority groups.

Or perhaps Britain's best-known commentator on the law only backs up "religious convictions" when they're just a euphemism for anti-gay bigotry?

Also see the Daily Mail (July 2008): 'Christian registrar who refused to marry gay couples reveals bullying ordeal at hands of politically correct colleagues'

And this .... 'What next... Firemen choosing who to save?'

Saturday, September 01, 2012

How well is the BBC keeping Mark Thompson's promise to take lesbian, gay and bisexual people as seriously as any other part of the audience and to portray them and convey their experiences and perspectives with as much conviction and fairness as they would anyone else?

Well, apart from a very brief reference to a lesbian and gay equality issue on Newsround in July, not much else seems to have changed.

Look, for instance, at this video report on Thursday about the difference between the American Presidential candidates. Nothing is said about why Mitt Romney is so disliked by the majority of feminists as well as lesbian and gay Americans. No-one watching the report and unfamiliar with the issues would be any the wiser on Mitt Romney's quite regressive and offensive policies.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is the job of a BBC journalist to investigate and report news in an impartial manner, or is it their job to disseminate a point of view without question?

Last Sunday, Catholic church opposition to marriage equality was given a great deal of air time on the BBC News channel. Presumably BBC religious affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, had decided that the latest attempt to prevent equal marriage rights in Scotland actually constituted an important news story. (see previous blog)

Of course this was not the first time that a letter about same-sex marriage had been read out in Catholic churches. So how many letters and other anti-gay publicity stunts can they get away? Mr Pigott knows very well that Sunday-morning congregations are dwindling away and that without mass media help, the church leadership would simply be wasting its time opposing 'gay marriage' legislation.

Now look at how the Bishops' message began:

In all things, we as Catholics look to Jesus Christ as our model and teacher. When asked about marriage He gave a profound and rich reply: “Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, ‘made them male and female’, and said: ‘This is why a man must leave father and mother and cling to his wife and the two become one body’.”
In actual fact the quotes from Matthew are Jesus' response to a question about divorce, not marriage. His "profound and rich reply" is a taken from Genesis. Incidentally Jesus goes on to seemingly contradict Genesis by suggesting that people are not required to marry.

Had Mr Pigott been doing his job properly, he would have immediately recognised the true significance of the Biblical verses upon which the Bishops' message is based. From there Robert might go on to ask why Catholic church leaders are not railing against divorce.

But, instead, the BBC simply acts as a mouthpiece for the church position.

All this gives rise to a very worrying possibility: Maybe Mr Pigott is sympathetic to anti-gay bigotry, and not acting as a responsible and impartial journalist.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Robert Pigott puts the Catholic church leadership perspective on the Scottish Government's plans for marriage equality.
Above - 3 stills from Mr Pigott's report yesterday

Sunday, August 26, 2012

BBC Media Centre reports a new CBBC commission in which Dick and Dom will turn their attention to the world of inventions, celebrating some of the world’s most important inventors and scientists in Absolute Genius

Key CBBC talent Dick and Dom will host a brand new format, Dick And Dom’s Absolute Genius, a 10x30-minute series executive produced by Newsround editor Owenna Griffiths, in which they investigate the work of important inventors and scientists in history.

According to the BBC, the show takes viewers on a fun, irreverent, fact-laden, explosion filled journey into our past and future. From Da Vinci to Galileo, from Brunel to Stephenson, this series will explore their amazing work and conduct experiments on inventions and scientific theories that have shaped the world we live in.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

BBC Sports Editor, David Bond, interviewed Sepp Blatter last year after a series of controversial comments, including a suggestion that racism wasn't a problem in football. Even though the interview went on for over 20 minutes David Bond did not ask the FIFA boss any questions about homophobia in football, nor on the consequence for LGBT people of choosing Russia and Qatar to host the World Cup. Was this omission merely an oversight - or was it symptomatic of a more serious problem within the Corporation?

Well, thanks to Google it is quite easy to find an answer. Because, if Google's search results are to be believed, Bond has frequently dealt with the issue of racism in football, but steers clear of news about prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. For instance, in this blog and accompanying 17 minute interview, David Bond completely ignores the issue.

In an email dated 1st March 2010 I mentioned to Joe Godwin that the BBC Diversity Strategy, adopted in 2005, says that BBC leaders across the organisation are to be held accountable for making diversity happen.

Although Newsround and MOTD Kickabout have covered the topics of racism and sexism, so far there's been nothing specifically dealing with homophobia, either in school or in football.

Last month Mark Thompson acknowledged the Corporation's "shortcomings."

Of course, one of those shortcomings was the total failure of Newsound to report on LGBT human rights issues. However, shortly after Mr Thompson's speech, the programme did briefly mention the Scottish Government's intention to legislate for "gay marriage."

But look more closely at the Director-General's speech. He said the BBC has a "duty to take lesbian, gay and bisexual people as seriously as any other part of our audience and to portray them and convey their experiences and perspectives with as much conviction and fairness as we would anyone else." He said, George Entwistle, is every bit committed as himself towards that aim.