Saturday, June 23, 2012

Today is the centenary of the birth of Alan Turing.

Breaking the Code is an excellent BBC dramatisation of his life and work, made in 1996. Good performance by Derek Jacobi, though he was a little too old to portray the wartime Turing.

Alan Turing: Colleagues share their memories

Friday, June 22, 2012

With all the romance on CBBC in mind - you know programmes like Wingin' It - Newsround Blog readers might be interested in an email I wrote to the Director of Children's, Joe Godwin, at the start of last year (10th January 2011) -

Hi Joe,

Many thanks for your email at the weekend.

I'm pleased you asked about my Alan Turing drama idea. And yes, I was thinking of a dramatisation of Turing's life for children's TV. I watched the remake of Just William over the holiday period, and noticed that romance and relationships were quite prominent. We see William's brother and sister dating, and William's teacher saying that "our society is founded on a man and a woman wanting to be together." By the fourth episode William's antipathy towards girls has gone, and he wants to be friends with Dorinda.

Of course kids have crushes at the age of 11, or sometimes at an earlier age. CBBC recognised that fact with programmes like Eliot Kid and Little Howard's Big Question, but I doubt that those stories turned any gay children straight. Using the same reasoning, a children's drama about an LGB person is not going to alter the sexual orientation of straight kids. However making children's TV inclusive is likely to encourage tolerance, as was recognised in past storylines in CBBC programmes such as Byker Grove and Grange Hill.

Alan Turing is an apposite subject for a British children's drama for 2012, which is the centenary of his birth and the year of the London Olympics. Alan was a top class runner as well as mathematician, codebreaker, gay rights pioneer and a senior figure in the development of the computer. He succumbed to the prejudices of a bygone age.

Turing's teenage crush on Christopher Morcom was no different to, say, six-year-old Eliot Kid's crush on Loretta or Little Howard's feelings towards Little Susan. And if the BBC is to represent everyone, with no group underserved, it needs to deliver for LGBT children and teenagers. What better luminary could there be for the CBBC to celebrate in 2012?

I've had a few (sketchy) ideas for a dramatisation, and I suspect that Andrew Hodges would be happy to act as a consultant if you want to take the project further as I hope you will.

If you've been keeping up with my blog, you'll know that I also had an idea for MOTD Kickabout next month.

Best wishes,
Joe wrote back on 24th January 2011, mentioning the move to Manchester, the Sadie J controversy on Digital Spy forums and Ballet Boys episode from the My Life documentary series. There was no mention of my idea re: Alan Turing.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

This partly eaten apple with inscription "In the memory of a genius" is taken from a Newsround report last October.

What does the apple have to do with the world of computers?

For those who don't know, codebreaker, computer pioneer and all-round genius Alan Turing was a victim of homophobic laws in 50's Britain. He committed suicide in 1954 by eating an apple laced with cyanide.

But if you thought the picture was from a report about Alan Turing, you were mistaken. In fact it was from a report about the death of Steve Jobs. Over the last year or so, Newsround has had quite a lot to say about Steve Jobs and his achievements. In this report we can see Steve sculptured in sand.

Alan Turing should be a household name. So will CBBC be doing anything to help ensure that young people know about his life and work? His centenary is only a matter of days away, so we'll soon have an answer. The smart money is on there being no mention of Turing.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Free speech and censorship

When 9-year-old Martha Payne was told she could no longer take photographs of school dinners for her Never Seconds blog, it didnt't take long for people to sit up and take notice. What right did Argyll and Bute Council have to ban Martha from just taking a few photos at lunch time?

Within hours the Council relented and Martha was told that she could, after all, take the pictures needed for her blog.

A similar free speech U-turn took place in America last week after 10-year-old Kameron Slade won a competition in his class. As a winner Kameron was entitled to make a speech to the whole school, but when the school found out that he intended to present a speech in favour of marriage equality, the principal made clear that Kameron needed to either change the topic or be removed from the contest.

As with Martha Payne, there was a backlash against the ban, and as a result the authorities have said Kameron will, after all, be allowed to speak on his topic of choice. He will deliver his speech on marriage equality at a school assembly tomorrow.

Whereas the school dinner blog U-turn was reported by Newsround on Friday afternoon's TV bulletins, I think it's a very safe bet that there won't be a report about the other U-turn any time soon. Kids who watch CBBC might suspect that their news and entertainment programmes are being unreasonably censored by BBC bosses. So for the benefit of kids in the UK, this is what Kameron will say to his school:

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Iain Stewart MP talking about his own experiences of homophobic bullying and about the need to do more to combat homophobia. From a debate this afternoon in Westminster Hall

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Prime Minister David Cameron has said that he wants forced marriage to be made illegal. It was the main news item on Newsround at 3.25pm yesterday afternoon. Fiona Dwyer of Women's Aid talked to Nel about the issues involved.


Nel: Fiona Dwyer works for Women's Aid which supports people who are affected by forced marriages. Fiona, thank you for joining us. I want to first know: what is the difference between a 'forced marriage' and an 'arranged marriage'?

Fiona: Well with an arranged marriage it's where your parents or your relatives think that they've found someone who would be perfect for you to marry, and then you meet this person and you think "Oh great," and you want to get married. Whereas a forced marriage is where your parents or your family - they bully you either physically or emotionally - and force you into getting married. So the main difference between the two is you have a choice with an arranged marriage.

Nel: Whereas a forced marriage you just don't have that choice. And what are the laws that are going to be coming in next year? Will they offer more protection for victims of forced marriages?

Fiona: Well they should do, but - and we are very happy that the Government is against forced marriages - but we're also worried that because so many people don't tell at the moment, that even more people won't, because they're afraid that their families will go to prison.

Nel: So you're worried, as other charities are as well, that because the laws are stricter that it will mean that less victims come forward?

Fiona: Yes, there is a worry that many more young people - they won't tell because they're worried that their families will get into trouble with the police.

Nel: OK. And what should someone do if they think that their friend or someone they know is being forced into a marriage?

Fiona: Well, if they're worried they should contact the police, or they should contact a helpline like the NSPCC, or they should talk to one of their teachers - but also letting them know that they shouldn't tell the family.

Nel: But no matter what they should talk to somebody?

Fiona: They should definitely talk to someone. That's the most important way to get support.

Nel: OK, Fiona, thank you so much for joining me today.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

BBC Director of Children's, Joe Godwin, will shortly jet off to the Banff World Media Festival. He's scheduled to appear at a session on Tuesday afternoon - Top Kids Broadcasters: Open For Business.

Of course, this won't be Mr Godwin's first visit to a media festival.

Taking a look at the breathtaking views in Banff, it comes as no surprise that the Director of Children's thinks he's got the best job in the world.

Whether Joe Godwin's excursions are value for the public's money is still unclear, despite a Freedom of Information enquiry last year. Also unclear is how British kids benefit from Mr Godwin's visits to all these mediafests.

One thing we do know is that, so far, the media sector has proved deeply averse to genuine equality. A diverse-friendly BBC would undoubtedly help in the fight against homophobia and homophobic bullying. An unfortunate and shameful missed opportunity came in a session about heroes and superheroes at last year's Kidscreen Summit, where the idea of having a gay hero/superhero was never even mentioned. And later that year BBC children's TV broadcast a series about the young Leonardo da Vinci, in which Leonardo's romantic proclivities were misrepresented to bolster heteronormativity.

There are, however, some positive signs on the horizon.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

DC Comics has just confirmed that one of their superheroes, the Green Lantern, is gay. The media/showbiz industry is thought by many as supportive of LGBT people and issues, but with a small number of exceptions, as this blog has mentioned more than once before, that couldn't be further from the truth.

A few celebrities have come out in favour of equality, but most haven't. For example, Jonathan Ross: we know he has a history of mocking gay men, and that he's content for The Sun to taunt Roy Hodgson about rhotacism, but what does he think about marriage equality? With a lesbian daughter you'd think he would want to speak out in favour of that issue.

And despite being a huge comic fan - Jonathan likes to visit Comic Con in the USA - he's still yet to comment on DC Comics' Green Lantern. It's not as if he hasn't been asked.

Original Green Lantern from 1940