Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Gareth Malone, conductor of Military Wives' chart topper Wherever You Are has told Radio Times about the homophobia he's encountered in life.

Although Gareth Malone hasn't exactly been secretive about his personal life - he has a wife and child - Malone was dismayed that his media career brought back memories of school bullying.

Gareth Malone: “It was slightly disappointing to find that after leaving school and leaving all that behind me from the age of about 15 to 30 and then coming into television and discovering, ‘Oh, right, everyone is just as juvenile as the kids at school were” 

Without wishing to endorse violence, slightly-built Malone nevertheless feels that he should have 'lamped' the school bullies: ".. looking back I kind of wish I had."

Asked if he was offended by the assumption that he is gay, Malone replied: “I've sort of got used to it. I suppose if I took the time to really think about it, I’d like to say, ‘It’s my business and I'm married for a start’, but not really. Really, that’s one demon I’ve exorcised.”

Newsround's website today: MPs have called for body image lessons to be taught in schools. It is the main cause of bullying in schools.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Racism has been in the news again, with a BBC investigation finding that almost 88,000 incidents in UK schools were recorded between 2007 and 2011. Wednesday's Newsround included a recorded interview with 14 year old Khadeja, who found it hard to get through each day.

Ore told viewers that work is being done to stamp out racism in schools. Classes all over the country are being visited by campaigners who teach them how to avoid racist behaviour and comments.

Laura Pidcock, from Show Racism the Red Card said that "if something is based on skin colour, religion, nationality or way of life, then that is racism." Laura, who self-identifies as a feminist, failed to say whether she would also include prejudice relating to sexual orientation - homophobia. Show Racism the Red Card's  FAQ doesn't (at the time of writing) refer to homophobia, though there is now a brief section about the topic on SRTRC's website.

Stonewall's 7th Annual Education for All Conference 2012 takes place at the start of July. As far as I'm aware Newsround has never reported on homophobic bullying, but this year BBC Director-General is one of the speakers at Stonewall's conference. Stonewall says that a major new report about homophobia in Britain’s schools will be released at the event.

Monday, May 21, 2012

On 3rd April 2012 I submitted a Freedom of Information request to the BBC. This is the BBC's response (received 17th May 2012) to a question about BBC Director-General Mark Thompson's meetings with Members of Parliament.

Freedom of Information Act 2000 – RFI20120369

Part 1 of your request
Please find listed below details of meetings and phone calls which Mark Thompson, Director-General of the BBC, has had with MP’s over the last 18 months.

01/11/2010  Meeting with Ivan Lewis MP
03/11/2010  Meeting with Frank Field MP & Lord Sainsbury
04/11/2010  Telephone call with Jeremy Hunt MP
30/11/2010  Meeting with Ivan Lewis MP & Ian Murray MP
09/12/2010  Meeting with Jeremy Hunt MP
14/12/2010  Meeting at Foreign Office with: William Hague MP & Jeremy Hunt MP
15/03/2011  Meeting with Ed Vaizey MP
22/06/2011  Meeting with Daniel Hannan MEP
28/06/2011  Meeting with Jeremy Hunt MP
04/07/2011  Phone call with Alex Salmond MSP
10/08/2011  Phone call with Alex Salmond MSP
07/09/2011  Meeting with Cheryl Gillan MP
17/10/2011  Meeting with Bill Cash MP
03/11/2011  Meeting with Carwyn Jones AM
05/10/2011  Phone call with Jeremy Hunt MP
24/10/2011  Meeting with Jeremy Hunt MP
22/11/2011  Meeting with Alex Salmond MSP
07/12/2011  Meeting with Nick Clegg MP
11/01/2012  Meeting with Ed Milliband MP
19/01/2012  Meeting with David Cameron
24/01/2012  Meeting with Jeremy Hunt MP
31/01/2012  Meeting with Philip Davies MP
06/02/2012  Meeting with Jeremy Hunt MP
06/02/2012  Meeting with Menzies Campbell MP
09/02/2012  Meeting with Arlene Foster MLA
17/02/2012  Meeting with Gisela Stuart MP
27/02/2012  Meeting with Nadine Dorries MP and Tessa Munt MP
19/03/2012  Phone call with Jeremy Hunt MP
19/03/2012  Phone call with Don Foster MP
20/03/2012  Meeting with Labour Front Bench DCMS team Baroness Maggie Jones, Lord Wilf Stevenson, Lord Ray Collins followed by meeting with backbench group.

In addition to the above meetings and phone calls, Mark Thompson hosted a number of events and briefings with question and answer sessions during the period specified in your request. These events include lunches, dinners and receptions and the details are set out in the table below. Such events are standard across the industry and used for a wide range of reasons; from developing partnerships with external organisations and institutions, to publicising new programming and building relationships with our external stakeholders. Guests invited to these events represent a broad cross-section of community representatives, opinion-formers and the media. It is not always possible to provide a definitive list of attendees for these types of events as many MPs and Peers do not RSVP to invites and a record is not kept on the day.

The BBC is careful to ensure corporate hospitality events provide value for money and in recent years, has significantly decreased the amount of corporate hospitality we offer.

Please note that the dinners held at Mark Thompson’s home on 2 October 2010 and 20 November 2010 were at no cost to the BBC.

02/10/2010 Private dinner at Mark Thompson’s home – guests included Jeremy Hunt MP

02/11/2010 MP Briefing, attendees:
Luciana Berger MP
Gemma Doyle MP
Jack Dromey MP
Bill Esterson MP
Lisa Nandy MP
Alison McGovern MP
Catherine McKinnell MP
Ian Mearns MP
Tessa Pearce MP

09/11/2010 MP Briefing, attendees:
Andrea Leadsom MP
Nick De Bois MP
Damian Hinds MP
Dan Byles MP
Jo Johnson MP
Karen Lumley MP
Mark Garnier MP
Michael Ellis MP
Richard Graham MP
Simon Kirby MP
Stuart Andrew MP

20/11/2010 Private dinner at Mark Thompson’s home – guests included Ben Bradshaw MP

07/12/2010 MP Briefing, attendees:
Alistair Carmichael MP
Norman Baker MP
Don Foster MP
Duncan Hames MP
Steve Webb MP
Andrew George MP
Lord Addington
Baroness Kathryn Parminter
Baroness Neuberger

18/01/2011 MP Briefing, attendees:
Rushanara Ali MP
Tom Blenkinsop MP
Pat Glass MP
Graham Jones MP
Graeme Morrice MP
Bridget Phillipson MP
Emma Reynolds MP
Jonathan Reynolds MP
Liz Kendall MP
Pamela Nash MP
Anas Sarwar MP
Gavin Shuker MP
Owen Smith MP
Valerie Vaz MP

12/07/2011 BBC All Party Parliamentary Group - topic of discussion: BBC Annual Report

09/09/2011 Northwest MPs Visit to MediaCityUK, attendees:
Ian Lewis MP
Hazel Blears MP
Paul Goggins MP
Andrew Miller MP
Yvonne Fovargue MP

18/10/2011 MP Briefing, attendees:
Dame Anne Begg MP
Luciana Berger MP
Dr Therese Coffey MP
Damian Collins MP
Paul Farrelly MP
Tim Farron MP
Helen Goodman MP
Louise Mensch MP
Mark Menzies MP
Austin Mitchell MP
Owen Smith MP
Rory Stewart MP
Baroness Bonham-Carter
Lord Bragg
Baroness Fookes
Lord Fowler
Lord Glasgow
Lord Grocott
Baroness Howe
Lord Inglewood
Lord Jones of Cheltenham
Lord Lipsey
Baroness Neville-Jones
Lord Newby
Baroness Scott
Lord Stevenson
Lord Storey

02/11/2011 BBC All Party Parliamentary Group - topic of discussion: Delivering Quality First

28/02/2012 MP Briefing, attendees:
Luciana Berger MP
Dr Therese Coffey MP
Damian Collins MP
Philip Davies MP
Paul Farrelly MP
Don Foster MP
Helen Goodman MP
Tessa Jowell MP
Mark Menzies MP
Gerry Sutcliffe MP
Rob Wilson MP
Lord Birt
Baroness Bonham-Carter
Lord Bragg
Baroness Deech
Lord Gordon of Strathblane
Baroness Howe
Lord Inglewood
Rt Rev Graham James
Lord Skelmersdale
Lord Smith

Mark Thompson also attended a number of externally hosted events, the details of which are provided in the table below. As the BBC did not host these events no further details about attendance are held. This list of events does not include Mr Thompson’s appearances at Parliamentary Committees and Hearings, for example, Select Committee and House of Lords Communications Committee.

16/03/2011 Attended creative industries round table lunch hosted by Vince Cable, MP and Jeremy Hunt MP
31/03/2011 Attended event hosted by Ed Vaizey MP
08/06/2011 Attended Founders Forum reception at Downing Street
14/09/2011 Attended dinner hosted by Jeremy Hunt MP at the RTS in Cambridge

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Archbishop of York has decided, once more, to speak out against marriage equality. It seems the Archbishop believes the legislation is unnecessary because it's intended to meet the emotional need of a small number of people rather than to right an injustice. The Archbishop fails to appreciate that emotional needs are substantially bound up with injustice. I have heard directly from Archbishop Sentamu about various issues, so more about his views in a future blog.

Not long ago Newsround asked  "Is there something that matters to you that you think no one else cares about? Or maybe you've already done something about an issue that affects you. We want to know the things that really matter to you."

Of course CBBC used to have a lot of message boards. But, as part "improvements" to the CBBC website, most of the important message boards were closed down. Kids were no longer able to use BBC message boards to discuss exactly the issues Newsround had asked about. I'd imagine if the message boards were still in place there would be discussions about racism, homophobia and bullying, as well as the hot topic of 'gay marriage'

Newsround Blog has, on several occasions, pointed out that removing well-used kids' message boards was misguided. The Corporation's lack of concern can be judged from how long it took former Head of BBC Children's, Richard Deverell, to reply to a letter from Kathleen Marshall, then Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People. Kathleen originally wrote to Richard on 14th January 2009, but Mr Deverell did not reply until 24th March 2009 - well over two months later. With such apparent lack of respect towards someone charged with looking after the interests of children and young people, it hardly comes as a surprise that the BBC has scant regard for its audiences.

About ten days ago a 15 year old boy, Travis Corr, took his own life. He'd been a victim of school bullying. It remains to be seen whether BBC Children's will take steps to try and prevent any more tragedies. Properly inclusive programming would help, as would more pro-active school anti-bullying practices.

All young people should be given a voice and taken seriously. BBC Children's has just gone on its own merry way, chock-a-block with vulgarity and puerile humour for far too long.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

United Nations v Homophobia - part 2

 Today is IDAHO day, but there have been no reports about combatting homophobia on Newsround.

 UNESCO's meeting in Paris yesterday ended with the screening of a short film Stand Up! - Don't Stand for Homophobic Bullying made by the BeLonG To organisation in Ireland.

Full transcripts and resources will be put on the UNESCO website in due course. The BeLonG To video is available on YouTube -


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

United Nations v Homophobia - part 1

Eric Falt - UNESCO’s Assistant Director-General for External Relations and Public Information introduced today's meeting: Effective Policies and Practices to Address Homophobic Bullying in Educational Institutions.

Eric Falt introducing UNESCO meeting on 16th May 2012

Mr Falt's introduction began as follows -

Ms Russlynn Ali, Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Education; Mr Louis-Georges Tin, IDAHO Founder and IDAHO Committee President; Mr Charles Radcliffe - Chief, Global Issues Section at the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights;  Mr Lauri Sivonen - Advisor to the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe; Excellencies, Dear colleagues and Friends

It is a pleasure for me to welcome all of you here today on behalf of the Director-General of UNESCO, Ms Irina Bokova. As you know, she could not be with us today, but I'll have the pleasure to read a message that she was very keen for me to share with you. Before I do so, just a few words to say that this UNESCO house is really the house of all cultures, and all people. We proudly welcome everyone here, and everyone's rights are respected here.

Today is the eve of IDAHO day, the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia, and, as you all know, this day has been celebrated in many parts of the world since 2005, and is organised by the IDAHO committee - still I think we can say a new event in the international calendar, and probably has some ways to go before gaining full acceptance everywhere. But certainly the fact that we celebrate this day here today is indicative of a new willingness, I would say, of all stakeholders to concretely recognise that gay rights are human rights.

Moving to such a point of acceptance is a long and slow process for some perhaps, and for others it is a journey met with obstacles. For my part, for instance, I am very aware of the prejudices that I inherited from society early on in my life which I have slowly been able, like I'm sure many others, to overcome to a point of acceptance today.

A much better example of such a journey, which obviously has a lot more impact, could of course be seen in the recent statement on marriage equality made by the President of the United States of America, President Obama. He said - I'm sure you heard his speech and his remarks only last week, I think it was the 9th May in a television interview, and I quote him, "At a certain point, I have just concluded that for me personally it is important to go ahead and confirm that I think that same sex couples should be able to go ahead and get married." Unquote.

Earlier this year, on the 7th March the UN Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon addressed a video message to the Human Rights Council meeting on violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. He said, and I quote him: "To those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, let me say you are not alone. Your struggle for an end to violence and discrimination is a shared struggle. Any attack on you is an attack on the universal values the United Nations and I have sworn to defend and uphold. Today I stand with you, and I call upon all countries and people to stand with you too." Unquote. Again this was Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaking only a few weeks ago. And I'm sure you know he's had a chance to express his views on the matter, and the views of the United Nations at large more and more in recent months.

The simple fact of loving someone of the same gender remains unfortunately illegal in too many countries. But consensus is slowly moving towards declaring that this is simply inadmissible in the 21st century. The only way to overcome the ignorance of the other is through education and understanding. This is an important task and it starts, in many ways, on the benches of schools. And that's why the importance of having this meeting here today - the house of education, culture and science,  but certainly where education takes  a primary goal. Schools are squarely at the epicentre of the storm of homophobic bullying. And this kind of bullying has even reached, we now know better, epidemic proportions in some parts of the world, and it must be stopped. No child's life should be threatened in the place where they're expected to learn. No child's life should be cut short because they are fearful of going to a school that ought to be a nurturing and accepting environment.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Last week was one of mixed fortunes for the human rights of lesbian and gay people. The week began with the presidential election in France, and the victory of Francois Hollande - a supporter of equal marriage.

On Wednesday the Queen announced some of the legislation we can expect in the coming months. Newsround might have had something to say about proposals to increase powers of the Children's Commissioner, but instead the programme concentrated on possible changes to the House of Lords. Fortunately for CBBC there was no hint of marriage equality legislation - so this time Newsround can't be accused of censoring LGBT-related news.

Across the pond, residents of North Carolina were voting on whether same-sex marriage and partnerships should be made unconstitutional.  Last time North Carolina amended their constitution on marriage it was to ban interracial marriage:

North Carolina's marriage amendment in 1875

North Carolina again decided that human rights do not apply to some citizens.

Later that day President Obama told the world that his position on the issue of marriage had evolved, and that he had now personally decided that gay and lesbian couples should, indeed, be entitled to marry. Obama said his daughters - Malia and Sasha (aged 13 & 10) - didn't understand reasons for the discrimination.

President Obama: Malia and Sasha - it wouldn't dawn on them that, somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them. And frankly that's the kind of thing that prompts a change of perspective - you know not wanting to somehow explain to your child why somebody should be treated differently ...

Meanwhile it turns out that President Obama's rival, Mitt Romney, had been something of a homophobic school bully. Romney's conditional apology and failure to condemn bullying, give little sign that he's become a more compassionate man as he's grown older.

On Tuesday Newsround asked its audience: "Is there something that matters to you that you think no one else cares about? Or maybe you've already done something about an issue that affects you. We want to know the things that really matter to you."  Unfortunately a "technical fault" intervened. So if any kids were concerned about, for example, homophobia or bullying, they'll just have to wait.

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

BBC Trust reply to my open letter (blog 20th April 2012)

Reply received on 2nd May 2012 --

I am responding on behalf of the Trust to your further correspondence with us on the topic of recruiting the next Director-General.

The BBC is indeed committed to the furtherance of equality and diversity. The Corporation’s strategy in this area, as well as the most recent progress report can be found on the BBC website here:

The Trust has particular responsibilities in the area of diversity and in line with our commitment to openness and transparency, we have published our work in this area at the following link:

The BBC’s diversity strategy has been agreed at all levels of the organisation, and I am sure will be embraced as much by the next Director-General as it is by the current one. You will note Mark Thompson’s personal endorsement of the strategy in the documents at the first link above.

Thank you for taking an active interest in this issue.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Anyone who watched the BBC's election coverage could well be left with the impression that David Cameron's intention to alter marriage legislation was a significant factor in the poor Tory results. Early on Friday morning Nick Robinson referred to Gerald Howarth's remarks - not once but several times.

At about the same time Robinson tweeted: "Gerald Howarth, defence minister, adds voice to those calling for change on gay marriage [and] Lords reform."

For those who don't know much about Gerald Howarth, he was once a prominent member of the far right Monday Club which supported the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. I don't recall Nick reminding viewers about Gerald Howarth's unsavoury past.

Nick did, however express surprise at a remark by Baroness Warsi, comparing UKIP to the BNP. Sayeeda Warsi is wrong about many things, but this time she was spot on. Prejudice against LGBT people is seen, in some circles, as acceptable today as racism was thirty years ago. When a picture of gay mayoral candidate Brian Paddick was set alight in Soho just before election day, in a UKIP publicity stunt, the BBC barely gave it a mention.

Nick Robinson seemed to have set the mood for the rest of the day, putting 'gay marriage' as a recurring theme in the poor Tory performance.

Gerald Howarth, was briefly given time to air his views on Friday's Newsnight:-

Gerald Howarth MP on Newsnight 4th May 2012

Allegra Stratton (Political Editor): Discontented Tories appear to agree, though probably for different reasons, that the Government have been spending time on the wrong things.

Gerald Howarth: The proposal for gay marriage. A lot of Conservatives have written to me saying "I'm a lifelong Conservative, there's no mandate for this. Why is this being proceeded with?" There's the business of the House of Lords - trying to change the House of Lords. Do we need to do this?

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Is religion good for children? That's the topic for discussion on next Sunday's The Big Questions on BBC One at 10am.

Last week it was revealed that the Catholic Education Service had been in touch with Catholic schools in England and Wales, advising them of a duty “to do all we can to ensure that the true meaning of marriage is not lost for future generations.” The duty is a reference to a letter by two archbishops, which was read out in Catholic churches on 11th March 2012.

St Philomena’s Catholic High School for Girls in Carshalton acted on the "duty" by suggesting pupils could sign a petition against marriage equality.

So why was this story ignored by Newsround?

Recall Newsround's 40th anniversary survey, and the spurious finding that kids these days are twice as likely to say religion is important than they were in 1972.

Newsround recently reported on human rights, but when it comes to secular and LGBT human rights there is a wealth of evidence that the BBC, and in particular BBC children's TV, is still mired in old-fashioned religious intolerance.