Friday, December 27, 2013

The House of Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee heard evidence from Lord Hall and others on 22nd October 2013. An uncorrected transcript of the evidence was published on 29th October 2013, and a there is also a video of the evidence available on the Parliament TV website.

Even though he'd been BBC director general for over six months it seems, from Lord Hall's misleading or untrue responses to the Committee, that he's failed to get to grips with the job. For example he did not appear to know the current target age of BBC children's services . He did not seem to have anything other than the sketchiest knowledge of BBC Switch, nor why it was discontinued, and he did not realise that audiences for Newsround and Blue Peter had, according to the BBC Trust, fallen recently. In fact, Lord Hall told the Committee that audiences for those programmes were growing.

Philip Davies questions BBC director general, Tony Hall

All of this could, perhaps, be forgiven had Lord Hall attempted to correct his mistakes. After all he recently told viewers "we should own up to things we don't get right." I did inform him personally by email and suggested he wouldn't want to mislead Parliament.

I contacted the Committee on 20th November 2013 to ask whether they'd heard from anyone on behalf of the BBC in respect of possible errors given in evidence on 22nd October 2013 by BBC director general, Tony Hall. They replied that they'd received some supplementary evidence from the BBC, which relates to the oral evidence, and a few minor amendments correcting transcription errors. The Committee, I was told, had not received anything else. The supplementary evidence was published on Monday and it's now available on the Committee's website. The misleading information, to which I drew Lord Hall's attention, was not corrected, neither has he answered me personally about the matter.

Another BBC executive not noted for their willingness to correspond with the public is Helen Boaden. Philip Davies developed the argument - based on the Pollard Review and subsequent developments - that Ms Boaden, BBC Director of Radio and formerly Head of News, is unfit to remain in place as a senior director of the BBC. Both Lord Hall and Lord Patten were left floundering, attempting to deflect the argument by defending the Pollard Review which cost licence payers £3million.

Nevertheless, as we saw in my last blog entry, Lord Hall says he's enjoying himself at the BBC and that's sufficient enough for him. He'll almost certainly continue to stay well away from the likes of John Humphrys and Jeremy Paxman. Truth be told Lord Hall is completely out of his depth at the BBC, and his talents are better suited to running an opera house.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Jean Seaton shows scant understanding of the inner workings of the BBC in her recent Guardian article. At the time of Lord Hall's appointment to the director generalship of the BBC, Professor Seaton believed that being a member of the House of Lords was incompatible with his new role.

Ms Seaton starts her Guardian piece by acknowledging the recent criticism of larger-than-necessary payoffs by the HoC Public Accounts Committee. But, in trying to mitigate the damage, she distorts the truth - ironic in view of her association with The Orwell Prize.

Take this example ..
The real question is why did BBC salaries get so large? One issue were (sic) the non-executive directors, appointed from outside on to the executive board. These business people were supposed to be a solution but turned out to be a problem. The philosophy behind their appointment was that people from "outside" brought "commercial" realism to the BBC. But they did not seem to understand the actual business of public service, and they brought with them the 90s and noughties belief in, and casual acceptance of, gross salaries.
Of course the reason these people were brought into salary oversight was precisely because they were thought to be compliant when huge salaries are involved. This is the 'bonus culture' so encouraged by the banks, and enthusiastically embraced by BBC management for so long. People involved, like the Barclays Bank former chairman Marcus Agius, who told the Public Accounts Committee that he was entirely happy signing off on Mark Byford's payoff. He said "After sustained challenge and debate we were finally persuaded that, in the circumstances, it was the right decision on value-for-money grounds."

Ms Seaton seems to suggest that it was some terrible mistake that the executive board led to the excessive payoffs, rather than a much more likely deliberate policy to appoint people thus inclined to be helpful to management. After all, just think how few other people would have such an attitude. So it's not only the outside directors who didn't understand 'public service' but, more significantly, BBC management itself. Naturally Mark Thompson and Mr Agius continue to maintain the payoffs were justified completely. However the Public Accounts Committee concluded:
.. It is unacceptable for the BBC, or any other public body, to give departing senior managers huge severance payments that far exceed their contractual entitlements. .. Some of the justifications put forward by the BBC were extraordinary. For example, the former Director General, Mark Thompson, claimed that it was necessary to pay his former deputy and long-term colleague Mark Byford an extra £300,000, not because the BBC was obliged to, but to keep Mr Byford "fully focused" instead of "taking calls from head hunters". This increased Mr Byford's severance payment to more than £1 million.
The PAC went on to say that there was a failure at the most senior levels of the BBC to challenge the actual payments and prevailing culture, in which cronyism was a factor that allowed for the liberal use of other people's money. So the question arises as to what changes to the BBC's ethos will Lord Hall make? The omens are not good.

On 1st December 2011, both Nel & Hayley wore red ribbons on the 5pm edition of Newsround to mark World AIDS day. However, Graham Norton was censured very recently for wearing just such a ribbon. The BBC received numerous complaints that the Corporation was applying double standards. Some even suspect that homophobia accounts for the way Norton has been treated, especially as all his guests were wearing ribbons.

Hundreds of people wrote directly to Lord Hall, but despite a growing chorus of criticism Hall has shown a pathetic lack of concern. Last month he told BBC viewers: "I'm enjoying myself at the moment, and that's sufficient enough for me"

Tony Hall speaking to Jeremy Vine on Points of View last month

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Newsround's final TV bulletin of 2013 (yesterday 4.20pm) ended with each of the programme's six presenters choosing a story that stood out for them in 2013.

Newsround presenters (L to R) Ayshah, Nel, Leah, Ricky, Jenny, Martin

For Leah it was the children rebuilding their lives in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan. Leah's fiancé, Ricky, then chose the horsemeat scandal. Next was Jenny, who reminded viewers of Ruben's reports about fair treatment for kids with Down's Syndrome. Nel's choice was smartphones which allow you to smell texts. Ayshah liked interviewing Chris Hadfield, the singing spaceman. Last up was Martin, whose choice was a story about an owl with work experience.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The final episode from Wizards vs Aliens received almost universal praise on social media for the way it handled Benny coming out as gay. Towards the end of the programme Tom suggests he could use his enhanced magic to "change" Benny and make him happy. Benny, though, says he is happy the way he is.

The BBC has frequently faced criticism that it is biased against LGBT people, not least from Newsround Blog itself. Others disagree and claim the corporation is not homophobic. Wizards vs Aliens would seem to suggest the latter point of view is correct ...

However, the BBC makes loads of children's TV programmes each year, and this excerpt from Dani's Castle, first shown on Friday, is far more typical of the CBBC channel. In fact, the previous time there were young gay characters on CBBC was over eight years ago. So we await proportionate representation - a third series of Wizards vs Aliens in which Benny kisses a boyfriend in the way Tom kissed Chloe, or perhaps completely new CBBC series ideas where some of the protagonists are lesbian or gay.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

The second series of Wizards vs Aliens concluded yesterday with somewhat of a surprise - and I'm not referring to wizards winning an all out war with the aliens. No, the big surprise, for many, was that Benny has come out as gay to his best friend Tom Clarke. There's no denying that the relevant scene was very sensitively written and acted; though, as it happens, the word "gay" was never actually spoken.

Tom tells Benny that they need to save the world in order that Benny can go on his very first date. They win the war, and save the world. So the big question becomes whether or not we'll see any more of Benny. Will we ever see him go on his first date?

That was the last episode of the current series, and no decision has yet been made about the commissioning of a third series.

Benny coming out as gay might seem like groundbreaking children's television but, surprising as it may seem to those unfamiliar with Newsround Blog, gay characters first appeared on kids' TV more than twenty years ago. And although Benny has yet to go on his gay date, kids actually saw teens coming out and dating in the past, before programmes like Byker Grove and Grange Hill were axed.

The reality, then, is that children's TV has just recently been playing catch-up, and there's no guarantee that it'll continue to do so. There is no room for complacency. Furthermore, lesbians have been even more poorly represented on TV than their male counterparts.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Tom Daley was the first guest to be interviewed on last night's Jonathan Ross Show. Thankfully Ross has moved away completely from the undercurrent of homophobia on his old BBC show. The Tom Daley interview, which was well received by the Radio Times and on Twitter, was recorded a few days ago, after Tom came out via YouTube.

Tom Daley on ITV's Jonathan Ross Show

Excerpt from the chat show -

Tom Daley: When you're growing up you may always have those kind of thoughts, but you think no, it can't be right. I felt like there was something wrong with me. I didn't know other people out there felt that way. I didn't know it was something that people, like, do - I just literally felt so alone and I felt so locked away, like I couldn't say anything. I couldn't be who I wanted to be. From Monday I felt like I could just be myself.

A bit later in the interview Ross told Tom that he'd become very much a role model. Ross continued "Whether you're aware of this or not, I think you will find you've become a very important figure to a lot of people."

Tom Daley, like thousands of kids, was bullied and felt isolated because of prejudice in society. Schools and the media, especially children's TV, could do so much more to change things.

Below is another Tom - Tom Clarke - from Wizards vs Aliens:-

Tom Clarke falls for Chloe on CBBC's Wizards vs Aliens

Now, as far as we know, Tom only fancies girls. And Tom is typical of every teen character currently portrayed on BBC children's TV - not one of them is seen in a lesbian or gay relationship. This kind of homophobic discrimination must not be allowed to continue.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Full marks go to CBBC Newsround for their reporting of Tom Daley coming out on Monday. The story appeared on their website early that afternoon and it was reported as third story on both the 4.20pm and the 6.50pm bulletins.

Newsround's coverage was just right, not making a huge deal of Tom's announcement, but at the same time not minimising the significance and problems faced by other LGBT people. The short clip from Tom's YouTube video cut to the chase by avoiding unnecessary explanations and extraneous details.

One thing clear, even from that short clip, is that 19-year-old Tom was quite embarrassed to reveal he was in a relationship with another man. But should we be surprised? After all we know that Tom was bullied at school and that the bullying got so bad that he was eventually forced to change schools.

Tom Daley reveals he's dating a guy

Like thousands of other schoolchildren in Britain, Tom would have heard 'gay' being used in pejorative contexts on an almost daily basis. Some of that negativity is bound to rub off and scar. Such insidious language urgently needs to be tackled in Britain's primary and secondary schools. And luckily there are now some teachers, celebrities and organisations leading the way.

Eliminating homophobic prejudice, though, isn't only about raising awareness of offensive and hurtful language. It's also about inclusion for all - making everyone, regardless of sexual orientation, feel wanted and valuable members of society. In recent times that's something children's TV has not done well. There was a session devoted to this topic at this year's Children's Media Conference, though whether any media companies have followed up with plans for inclusive programmes is a completely different matter. CBBC is one of the Conference sponsors, so I have asked CBBC's media people about any plans they may have for including relevant teen protagonists/role models in their drama. Waiting to hear back.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Newsround reports on Tom Daley coming out

This was the third story on Newsround at 4.20pm yesterday -

Newsround report about Tom Daley coming out

Leah: Fellow sports stars and swimming officials have given their support to diver Tom Daley after he revealed he's got a boyfriend. It's being seen as a big step because some athletes have said it's difficult for high profile stars to be openly gay. The Olympic bronze medalist posted a video online announcing the news. He says he couldn't be happier.

brief clip from Tom Daley's YouTube announcement followed
Tom Daley: I met someone and they make me feel so happy, so safe, and everything just feels great. And well that someone ... is a guy.

A very similar report (again the third story) on the 6.50pm bulletin -

Leah: Sports stars and swimming bosses have given their support to diver Tom Daley today after he revealed he's got a boyfriend. It's being seen as a big step because some athletes have said it's difficult for high profile stars to be openly gay. Tom posted a video online announcing the news. He says he couldn't be happier.

brief clip from Tom Daley's YouTube announcement followed
Tom Daley: I met someone and they make me feel so happy, so safe, and everything just feels great. And well that someone ... is a guy.

The news story is also on Newsround's website.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Viewers who rely entirely on CBBC Newsround for gossip about what's happening on the X Factor will be completely unaware of the recent off the rails behaviour of last year's winner, James Arthur. Fortunately there are other sources of information including, of course, Newsround Blog.

James Arthur sang on last night's X Factor results programme and afterwards spoke to presenter Dermot O'Leary.

Dermot O'Leary clapped Mr Arthur's performance of 'Recovery' and exclaimed "JAMES ARTHUR, EVERYONE!" Then he spoke to Mr Arthur -

Dermot O'Leary seeks contrition from James Arthur - (ITV1 on 1st Dec 2013)

Dermot: New single from the album out now. It's been quite a year for you, young man, in particular the last couple of weeks.

James: Yeah, erm y'know it's been an amazing year for me. It's been incredible highs, paired with some terrible lows. Y'know I've made a few very st .. erm silly mistakes but I just want to thank all the people that have stuck with me and supported me. I wanna thank the X Factor for giving me the opportunity to do my ... (audience cheer) Above all I want to say sorry for abusing my position as an X Factor winner, because, you know, I owe everything to this thing, so thank you very much. (more cheering)

Dermot: So, chamomile tea and early to bed from now on, is it?

James: How d'you know I was on the chamomile tea? Yeah I love chamomile tea now - it's very calming.

Dermot: Alright mate, listen it's great to have you with us. Thanks so much. Give it up for the one and only JAMES ARTHUR! (audience cheers)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

James Arthur has been in the news recently and, once again, it's not for good reasons. Shortly after his interview for Newsround Mr Arthur became involved in a Twitter spat, to which he responded with a rap track which included offensive homophobic language aimed at his rival.

Reacting to the outrage, on 16th November Mr Arthur tweeted a series of confused excuses/explanations/apologies, before tweeting -

#LOVE to my fans but I'm coming off twitter for good. HQ will be doing all my tweets from now on. PEACE!

More odd behaviour ensued, including another spat, this time with fellow X Factor contestant Lucy Spraggan.

On 22nd November James Arthur HQ tweeted that James had been diagnosed with "acute exhaustion" and been instructed to rest for several days by his doctor.

Of course, had James Arthur used offensive language in a racist context his career would be over by now - he'd be a pariah, and not at all welcome on any family entertainment show.

But things are quite different in the TV/showbiz/media world. It should come as no surprise to learn that Mr Arthur, despite his "acute exhaustion," is already preparing to appear on X Factor again this weekend.

Can we expect a full and unreserved apology when James Arthur appears on the show? Simon Cowell wouldn't hear of it.

Whatever happens with James Arthur at the weekend, don't expect anything about the controversy to get reported on Newsround.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Newsround's main contribution to this year's Anti-Bullying Week was the story of Chloe, who was bullied for years because of the colour of her skin. Chloe managed to overcome the bullying and now tries to help others.

Chloe's story was broadcast on Monday morning at 7.40am, when the programme was presented by Ricky Boleto, and repeated at 6.50pm with Ayshah Tull presenting.

Unfortunately Newsround failed to report another important bullying-related story on Monday - the start of a campaign aimed at raising awareness that "gay" should not be used in a negative way or as a term of abuse. It is especially hurtful, and can cause great distress to the many thousands of kids in Britain who have yet to 'come out' to their friends and family.

Pop Idol winner, Will Young, feels strongly that things need to change. He spoke about Stonewall's new campaign to Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby on ITV's This Morning, and on the following day took part in a Mumsnet webchat.

Homophobic bullying differs from other forms of bullying in that being gay is still regarded by some as shameful. So kids - particularly gay kids - are less likely to speak out and seek help. Depression and suicidal thoughts are consequently higher than those bullied for other reasons.

Head of BBC Children's, Joe Godwin, says no young person should have to suffer from homophobic bullying, but so far there's been no sign of CBBC making properly inclusive drama.

Campaigns to change attitudes in schools are important. Such campaigns would be so much more effective if children's media, too, did its bit to fight off the stigma of being gay. Is it really asking too much for children's TV to ditch the discrimination and start to feature a few gay teen heroes in programmes like M.I. High, Wizards vs Aliens, The Dumping Ground, Dani's Castle, All at Sea ......?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

These days Newsround rarely reports on proceedings of the UK Youth Parliament, which meets once a year in the House of Commons to decide on campaign issues. Quite why Newsround steers clear of reporting news of the Youth Parliament is open to speculation, but a possible reason is that debates could touch upon what the BBC children's department regards as "grown up" issues.

The topics discussed at yesterday's session of the UKYP were

Better work experience and careers advice
Combating youth unemployment
Curriculum to prepare us for life*
Votes for 16 & 17 year olds in all public elections**
Zero tolerance to bullying in schools

MYPs then voted on which topic should be the UKYP national campaign** and their campaign for England.*

The UKYP campaign choice does not necessarily reflect the priorities of young people in the UK. Last year, for example, marriage equality received the second highest vote of young people (29,792 votes) in the Make Your Mark ballot, but MYPs chose instead to campaign on "a curriculum to prepare us for life," which had received far fewer votes in the national ballot.

Georgia Bell speaking in the House of Commons (15th Nov 2013)

Georgia Bell (Kingston): I believe tackling bullying starts earlier than a written consultation. It begins with reforming the attitudes of the bullies and the teachers who witness this behaviour. In particular homophobic bullying. Homophobia is ignored through the casual use of "That's gay!" Homophobia is built through the lack of LGBT education in schools. Homophobia is manifested through the teacher's silence - and we need to face this now. How many teenagers will have to kill themselves before we realise that we need change?

Saturday, November 09, 2013

CBBC was one of the big winners at this year's prestigious Stonewall Awards, which took place on 7th November. An episode of Marrying Mum and Dad won the "Broadcast of the Year" category.

Stonewall said "Kids favourite Marrying Mum & Dad broke new ground this year with its incidental coverage of same-sex parents. Sensitive and moving, the show followed the civil partnership plans of two proud parents."

The winning episode was reviewed by Newsround Blog on the 12th August 2013. There were one or two reservations about Marrying Mum and Dad about which I've contacted the programme makers, and expect to hear back shortly.

Director of BBC Children's, Joe Godwin, blogged about CBBC's success yesterday. He wrote that CBBC and CBeebies are both committed to producing programmes that empower children and celebrate families. He ended the blog with "No young person should have to suffer from homophobic bullying which is why I think we have an especially critical role to play in producing programmes such as this."

Thursday, October 31, 2013

BBC School Report (part 2)

The BBC is asking schools to sign up for School Report. According to their teacher resources "Truth and accuracy" are two of the BBC's most important news values.

Most people are probably aware that it's illegal to discriminate in the UK on grounds of race, gender, disability and sexual orientation etc. But what they may not know is that the BBC has a number of exemptions from UK laws, including some relating to discrimination, as well as to freedom of information enquiries.

The BBC takes full advantage of its privileges.

As we know, BBC children's TV does not portray LGBT kids or serve LGBT diversity. So why not get your school to take part in order to highlight CBBC's anti-gay discrimination and its reluctance to deal with homophobia and homophobic bullying.

Why aren't there young gay characters on any CBBC drama? The Dumping Ground kids, for example, whether they're black, white, Asian, or disabled are nevertheless always (as far as we know) straight.

Go on, speak to CBBC presenters, speak to Newsround's editor Daniel Clarke, and speak to 'big cheese' Joe Godwin to see what they've got to say for themselves.

"I want this story blown wide open"

Of course, whether the BBC will co-operate with any such investigation is a completely different matter. There's nothing the BBC dislikes more than scrutiny.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

BBC School Report (part 1)

The disappearance of Maddie McCann in May 2007 was widely covered by the British media. Newsround sent out Laura Jones to report on the case from Portugal, and it was the programme's top story on 14th, 15th & 16th May that year. Adam Fleming went to the McCann's home town of Rothley in Leicestershire.

Despite extensive police enquiries the search for Maddie proved fruitless. Some suspect that the parents themselves were involved, and Kate McCann's refusal to answer police questions didn't help.

A letter in May 2011 from Kate & Gerry McCann to Prime Minister David Cameron quickly resulted in Scotland Yard re-opening the case.

On Monday 14th October 2013 Newsround reported that a reconstruction of the night Madeleine McCann went missing would be shown on a special BBC programme as UK police try to gather new information that might help them find her.

The Crimewatch programme, which went out that evening, featured e-fit pictures based on sightings by Martin Smith and family from Ireland. Although quite a lot of tax payers' money has gone towards the case review, and although Crimewatch is funded from the UK TV licence, for some reason neither the police nor the BBC appeared willing to consider that the McCanns may have been in any way responsible.

In January 2008 Martin Smith signed a statement making clear he was 60% - 80% sure that his sighting on 3rd May 2007 was of Gerry McCann carrying Maddie. So if the police and the BBC really want the case solved why were critical facts withheld? Who was in editorial control of the programme? Was it the police, was it the BBC, or was it the McCanns?

Perhaps this is a story some kids might want to cover in a BBC School Report? In any event Newsround Blog will come up with a further School Report suggestion next week.

Monday, October 21, 2013

The first of Newsround's four TV bulletins today began with Leah saying "Hello, happy half-term everyone, you're live with Newsround for Monday's top stories ... "

First Newsround bulletin on Monday 21st Oct 2013

The second Newsround bulletin, at 8.18am, some four minutes earlier than scheduled on CBBC's website began -

Leah: Hello, morning, you're live with Newsround this Monday morning. No school for many of you, so stay right where you are for some of this ...

However, it seems the vast majority of Newsround's audience were not on half-term holiday, although some schools were closed for staff training. Experience has shown that the BBC is disinclined to apologise for any confusion caused as a result of the mistake.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Pop Idol winner Will Young came out as gay in March 2002. He told the News of the World that his family and friends had known for a long time, and that he had decided to tell the newspaper because of the "media pressure" that followed winning the ITV talent show. At the time Newsround reported the story in a positive way.

Nowadays, though, Newsround is somewhat more coy. So Will Young's current campaign to stop the word 'gay' being used in a negative or homophobic context hasn't received even a single mention. However his efforts were reported at the weekend by ex-Newsround presenter, Joe Tidy, who now works for Sky News.

Will Young talking to Sky News reporter, Joe Tidy

Joe Tidy: Singer and song writer Will Young knows all about how words can have profound effects on people. As a gay schoolboy, the word he most wanted to say was also the word he most dreaded.

Will Young: Just to say 'gay' when you're growing up is a huge admission, and I had a lot of shame around that. ...

Joe said 'gay' is still being used in schools as an insult, and Will Young is lobbying the Government to try to change things for the next generation. The campaign is building traction and has the support of some MPs.

Although the campaign against using 'gay' in a homophobic and offensive way in schools wasn't reported by Newsround, they did report, yesterday and today, about a school in Croydon which is trying to stamp out slang words such as 'ain't', 'innit' and 'coz'

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Newsround reports that the torch relay and playing host the the Sochi Olympic games "are a chance for Russia to show off their country, and they want to impress."

From Newsround bulletins yesterday afternoon (4.20pm & 6.50pm) -

Nel: .... But there have already been a few problems. Work on the Olympic venues is thought to have gone massively over budget. And Russia has been criticised about the way it's treated people who came from other countries to work on the site. There's also an issue of weather, after fears there may not be enough snow in Sochi because of a milder winter. They've been stocking up just in case, and keeping their fingers crossed that it doesn't melt.

The bit about stocking up on snow was also reported a while back, on 25th August. But so far Newsround hasn't breathed a word about widespread concerns over Russia's new anti-gay legislation. It's as if bosses in charge of Newsround consider that news to be "homosexual propaganda"

The BBC Trust works on behalf of licence fee payers to ensure that the BBC provides high quality services and good value for everyone in the UK. One of the ways they do this is by carrying out an in-depth review of each of the BBC's services at least once every 5 years, and part of the review is a public consultation so they can hear your views. The current review of BBC News and Current Affairs will be looking at all news and current affairs output that is broadcast or available to the whole of the UK on BBC TV, Radio and Online.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

British children are getting yet another opportunity to see the Canadian award-winning series Wingin' It. The series was nominated for the Shaw Rocket Prize in 2011 by a panel of judges which included Director of BBC Children's, Joe Godwin. A Canada-wide kids jury had the final say.

I've previously demonstrated that Wingin' It is a heterosexist/heteronormative programme.

So where does the Shaw Rocket Fund stand when it comes to diversity? That issue was investigated earlier this year, when I asked the organisation if they could advise the extent to which they take account of LGBT inclusion when funding decisions are made. Their lack of a response suggested that it is not a matter of any concern to them, either now or in the future.

The BBC, on the other hand, including BBC Worldwide, is bound by Creative Diversity Network principles. So the question arises as to why Joe Godwin continues to assist the Shaw Rocket Fund. This year he was offering his services as a mentor for the Shaw Rocket Fund annual Mentorship Program in partnership with the Banff World Media Festival. Whether or not the Mr Godwin's mentorship expenses are paid for out of the UK TV licence fee is still unclear, and a freedom of information request to the BBC would likely prove fruitless.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friday was a sad day for Newsround, as it was Joe Tidy's last day at the BBC before he moves on to Sky News.

Joe Tidy reporting for Newsround on Tuesday 9th April 2013 at 4.25pm

A series of Newsround reports about gender pressure concluded on Friday afternoon with kids talking about their own experiences and Dr Aaron Balick giving his expert opinion.

Leah: Joining me on the sofa is CBBC's agony uncle Aaron. Thank you so much for joining us.

Dr Aaron: You're welcome

Leah: So what did you make of those videos - lots of girls there talking about worries they have about their appearance?

Dr Aaron: Yes, sadly this is really common, girls do get really worried about their appearance. Part of the reason for this is they tend to focus on the parts of themselves they don't like much more than the parts of themselves that they do like. And if they could kind of reverse that, lots of girls would feel a lot better about the way they looked.

Leah: Now not many videos from boys, but they do have the same types of pressures. I guess it's just not as easy to talk about how they're feeling?

Dr Aaron: Yeah that's exactly right. Boys and girls have the same kinds of feelings, face different kinds of pressures, but experience them in the same ways. It's just that girls, for some reason, are allowed to speak about their feelings and it's like boys aren't. But boys would feel better if they could talk about their feelings, so it's really important they can find people they can talk freely with.

Leah: And if you had any advice about coping with pressure what would you say?

Dr Aaron: I would just say that there's really no one way to be a boy and there's no one way to be a girl and we're all different. And though we face some pressures, if we could try really hard just to be really who we are and try to ignore some of those bad pressures we'd be a lot happier.

Leah: OK Aaron, thank you so much for joining us.


Newsround is considering which big topic to cover next, and is asking for suggestions about the big issues that affect viewers' lives. However kids are told "You must ask your parent, teacher or guardian for permission before you send us a comment." So that's put paid to any children's problems about which they feel unable to discuss with those closest to them.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Newsround is planning to carry a series of reports about gender.

They'll be investigating whether it's okay to sell toys as 'for boys' and 'for girls'; why girls do better than boys at school; and if being a boy or a girl affects the job you think you could do. They want to hear from kids about the pressures growing up as a boy or a girl. Check out this webpage for more information.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

BBC bosses were in the spotlight yesterday when seven of them were asked to appear before the Commons Public Accounts Committee to answer a few questions about the BBC's imprudent use of licence payers' money.

One very important boss, the current Director-General Tony Hall, seemed to be keeping a distinctly low profile. It was, by the way, essentially Chris Patten's decision to offer the director-generalship to Tony Hall after his previous nominee failed to deliver. So why, on such an important day for the BBC, did Lord Hall not surface to give interviews to programmes like Channel 4 News and Newsnight?

Tony Hall

Lord Hall: the next BBC disaster waiting to happen? He spoke recently about the death of David Frost.

Tuesday, September 03, 2013

BBC seeking families to take part in Marrying Mum and Dad (Series 3)

CBBC is looking for families to get involved in series 3 of Marrying Mum and Dad

CBBC - Get Involved

Applications to take part must be in by the end of September - that's about four months earlier than the deadlines in previous years. At the time of writing it's still not clear whether the BBC is interested in hearing from families who might want to take advantage of the new marriage equality legislation.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Concerns mentioned in my last blog relate to CBBC's Marrying Mum and Dad series. The BBC has addressed one of those concerns. Still waiting to hear back on another important issue.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

There have been two or three possibly worrying developments discrimination-wise at the BBC over the last few days. Newsround Blog is investigating and will provide updates when more details are available.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Selling strawberries and sexism?

Tesco has received quite a lot of news air-time over the last few days - probably most of it unwelcome. Newsround went big on the story about them getting fined for misleading shoppers over the pricing of strawberries. But yesterday's "national day of action" a campaign aimed at getting Tesco to stop selling "lads' mags" wasn't reported on Newsround, though it did get some coverage on the BBC News channel.

Lose the Lads' Mags campaign organiser, Kat Banyard, told Maxine Mawhinney that there was "extensive evidence" that the magazines fuel sexist attitudes that underpin violence against women.

Unfortunately, though, the campaign may well be putting the cart before the horse. If these magazines underpin violent attitudes, wouldn't it be more sensible to tackle whatever is responsible for those attitudes arising in the first place? Blaming the magazines for violence against women is like blaming victims of rape because they weren't wearing modest enough clothing. Instead of just "modesty covers" on supermarket shelves, British women would effectively be pressured to wear full length "modesty dresses."

Lose the Lads' Mags isn't really a feminist campaign - it is faux feminism.

Rather than campaign against these mags, a more fruitful approach would encourage respect for women as equal citizens. How often, for example, have male CBBC presenters dressed up as women to raise a laugh? Finally take a look at the joke from this recent Newsround story.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The introduction of Section 28 was one of Mrs Thatcher's legacies which didn't get mentioned in all of Newsround's tributes when she died earlier this year. Section 28 [of the Local Government Act 1988] stated that a local authority "shall not intentionally promote homosexuality or publish material with the intention of promoting homosexuality" or "promote the teaching in any maintained school of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship."

Many schools interpreted the law as banning any talk about being lesbian or gay. The result was that bullying of GSD kids frequently went unchallenged for fear that teachers might be accused of promoting homosexuality. The law was repealed about ten years ago, but recently a number of schools were found to still be using Section28-style terminology in their education policies.

School policies which use discriminatory language (such as by singling out a particular race or sexual orientation) are in breach of UK equality legislation. Children should be aware of their rights, especially where that knowledge can help reduce school bullying. It would obviously have been appropriate for the story to be reported by Newsround.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The top story on Newsround yesterday morning was about pronouncements by UKIP treasurer, Stuart Wheeler, to the effect that men are cleverer than women. A couple of people took to social networking site Twitter suggesting the programme was biased against UKIP. One wrote "Stuart Wheeler's '@UKIP member' remarks on Women have been picked up by CBBC Newsround - Child Propaganda? Think so" and a link to the Newsround web report.

Now, had that been the only time Newsround mentioned UKIP the objectors might have a point. But the truth is that, like the BBC in general, UKIP and their leader Nigel Farage enjoyed a disproportionate amount of uncritical air time at the end of last year and the first months of this year. The picture on this Newsround webpage could hardly be seen as attempt to dissuade kids from supporting UKIP; in fact taking into account the purple Newsround-UKIP colour coordination, you might even conclude that the story was a subliminal message of endorsement.

Judging from feedback to Newsround web pages, and assuming the feedback is representative of Newsround's audience, it seems that the majority of the programme's audience are female. It was hardly unreasonable to let kids know that UKIP isn't the party to back if you're in favour of gender equality.

Newsround was right to cover the UKIP sexism row, though it's disappointing they weren't as happy to report any of the controversy surrounding LGBT equality at the IAAF World Athletics Championships, especially bearing in mind that pole vaulter Yelena Isinbayeva is an IOC Youth Olympics ambassador.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Repeats are a regular part of CBBC schedules, but if the BBC want to keep repeating the spy-themed civil partnership episode of Marring Mum & Dad they will soon need to edit the script where Naomi Wilkinson says "... the time has come to make things official by organising a civil partnership - the ceremony that two men or two women have in place of a wedding." (see previous blog)

Old episodes of Sadie J are still being shown - today it was the last episode with Kit before he went away to Brazil. Right at the end he's on a beach in South America chatting via a remarkably clear and fast Skype link to Sadie and Dede. He introduces them to his two new BFFs, Sadelia and Dedania.

Kit (centre) with his two new Brazilian BFFs

It looks like CBBC bosses decided that poor Kit would never find love.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Marrying Mum and Dad series 2 episode 6: Spy-themed civil partnership

The title sequence was almost the same as the rest of the series, but just at the end the caption flipped from Marrying Mum and Dad to Marrying Dad and Dad. Unfortunately the editing of this episode was not very consistent, and we often saw the "Mum and Dad" logo.

Marrying Dad and Dad

Naomi Wilkinson: Welcome to Marrying Mum & Dad, the show where you get to organise one of the most important days of your parents' lives - their wedding day.

Ed Petrie: I've just got to stop you there, Naomi. It's not marrying mum and dad today, it's dad and dad.

Naomi: OK, but the kids are still in charge of organising one of the most special days of their parents' lives?

Ed: Yes!

Naomi: And the lucky parents still won't know a thing about what's being planned until the big day arrives.

Ed: Yes.

Naomi: And we've only got a few weeks to get everything in place?

Ed: Yes!

Naomi: So we should probably be getting on with it then?

Ed: Yes, I s'pose we probably should! Let's go!

The family live in Warwickshire - dads Mark & Paul and their three kids Callum, Chloe and Paula.

Naomi: Dad Mark and Dad Paul have been together for 19 years, and the kids now think the time has come to make things official by organising a civil partnership - the ceremony that two men or two women have in place of a wedding.*(see Comments)

The theme of this episode was spying and spies. The kids went to a "spy school" where they were taught the tricks of the trade - codebreaking, observation skills and avoiding being detected by a laser alarm system. They suggested their dads should get to the venue by skydiving. Ed and the three kids had a chance to experience what skydiving was like at Airkix indoor dive centre.

The kids went on to check out a venue for their dads' special occasion - a large "spy HQ" country mansion with a marquee in the gardens. Cake maker Sarah from Sarah Edwards Cakes worked with the kids to make their dads' spy-themed celebration cake.

Callum, Chloe and Paula like to sing, so they suggested the James Bond theme song - Skyfall would be just right. Naomi arranged for a backing band to accompany the song.

The big day arrived and the dads, now dressed like Daniel Craig as 007, were driven to a secret location. But the penny dropped when they saw it was Hinton Skydiving Centre. Paul and Mark would have to jump out of an aeroplane 4000 metres above the ground! With wedding guests waiting below and the parachute drop completed successfully, the ceremony was ready to begin. But not before Paul and Mark managed to dodge the laser alarm system which had been set up in the mansion.

The ceremony over, and the two grooms kissed and hugged, as the guests cheered. The family were all delighted that it all went off so well. Absolutely perfect, said Mark.

Naomi: With Dad and Dad happily hitched, it's party time and another surprise!

Ed: It's time to reveal your spy cake, as designed by Agent C, Agent P and Agent Mini-Meister!

Lastly Callum, Chloe and Paula sang the Skyfall song.

It was clear everyone enjoyed a wonderful time.

Paul and Mark


* Comments

Despite the huge success of the occasion Newsround Blog does have a few niggling reservations about the show. Firstly the term "civil partnership" was used way too often, when Ed and Naomi could instead have referred to it as a wedding. The programme did not make clear that two dads or two mums will soon be able to actually marry in Britain. I had previously asked the BBC to make that point clear, but they failed to do so.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The main Newsround story today related to Greg Dyke's comment about the World Cup in Qatar. It would be much too hot in the summer, said Mr Dyke. Of course that sporting competition isn't taking place for another nine years.

But the Winter Olympics, due to take place in Sochi, Russia in only six months, has been another big talking point recently - especially so after Stephen Fry called for a the event to take place in another country where LGBT human rights are respected.

It hardly needs to be said that Newsround has completely avoided reporting the latter controversy. You could easily conclude - rightly or wrongly - that the people who decide what news items British kids see on TV are sympathetic to the aims of those who drafted the anti-gay laws in Russia.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

The Kick It Out campaign is twenty years old. Its original aim was to kick racism out of football. But more recently the campaign has widened its remit to include other forms of prejudice, including homophobia.

It seems there's some way to go before Newsround deals with the topic of homophobic bullying in schools, but there was a small sign of change today. Newsround has frequently talked about racism in sport, and this morning the first story at 8am was about a new app designed to help people report abusive behaviour directly from the terraces.

Joe Tidy: The atmosphere in the ground, the cheering, the chanting from the crowd are all part of what makes football great. But what do you do if you're at a match and you hear something abusive? Well according to anti-racism campaign, Kick It Out, using your smartphone could be one of the answers. They've released an app that lets users report racist, homophobic or other abuse as and when it happens.

That was the first time on air that Newsround has specifically acknowledged homophobia as a form of abuse. Joe's full report is also on this webpage.

Originally the webpage headline "Kick It Out launches anti-racism app for football matches" was followed with the byline "A smartphone app for reporting racist, homophobic and other abuse is launched by Kick It Out." But within minutes the page was revised to its present form.

I believe Newsround presenters want the programme to deal with all kinds of prejudice that kids might encounter. But obviously others at the BBC are less willing to help in the fight against anti-gay prejudice.

Monday, July 29, 2013

There was, it seems, somewhat more to Childwise's recent survey than the BBC originally let on. During last week's Newsround Special called "Generation Inspiration?" Martin told viewers "There are no recent figures to show the number of CBBC-aged kids getting involved in sports. So here at Newsround we've commissioned our own survey to try and get a better picture."

Today, however, Newsround revealed they'd also asked kids a series of other questions. They'd asked about what jobs kids want to do, who their heroes are, and probably a whole lot more.

Demonstrating that old-fashioned thinking still persists at the BBC, Newsround announced separate findings for the boys and the girls, thereby doing nothing to help create a more fair, just and equal society.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Free & Equal

A Childwise survey for Newsround suggests the London 2012 Games really have inspired more children to play sport. Amongst the survey findings were that the Paralympics, televised mainly on Channel 4, were "more inspiring" for kids than the Olympics.

Martin Dougan was one of Channel 4's commentators for the Paralympics, and this February he started making reports for CBBC's Newsround. Martin actually presented Newsround for the first time this morning. He tweeted that he was very nervous, but as you can see from many of his reports, his campaigning style shows an obvious determination to change attitudes and improve lives.

Who better then than Martin to report on the homophobic prejudice faced by kids at school? And with yesterday's start of the UN Free & Equal initiative, Newsround surely can't ignore the issue any longer.

Note: English subtitles available by clicking on the 'captions' button

Friday, July 19, 2013

Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill [HL]

The Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill [HL] passed its Second Reading today, and the Government suggested it will facilitate the legislation, which will now go to committee stage. The Bill is therefore almost certain to become law.

Lord Quirk was amongst those to speak -

Lord Quirk: ... let me end in noting something surely perverse, if constitutionally sound enough, about the Bill before us. It seeks to grant Alan a pardon when what, surely, all of us would prefer is to be pardoned by him - to receive a pardon from him.

Baroness Trumpington worked at Bletchley Park

Baroness Trumpington acknowledged the apology by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but added that this Government should go further to recognise the debt this country owes to Alan Turing.

Video of Second Reading

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

BBC news and current affairs programmes, including Newsround, are a bit flaky when it comes to fair reporting of certain stories.

One such story, affecting the future rights of numerous CBBC viewers went unreported on Newsround: namely the news that lesbian and gay couples have now gained the unquestioned right to get married in England and Wales. The legislation was granted Royal Assent yesterday and is now known as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. The first marriages under this Act are expected to take place early next year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has now passed its Third Reading in the House of Lords and is expected to receive Royal Assent shortly. One of the main opponents of the legislation spoke last week about his fears for school teachers if the equal marriage legislation is passed.

Lord Dear: I ask Members of your Lordships’ House to put themselves into the position where a classroom of 13 year-olds are being taught about same-sex marriage and ask whether the line can be drawn between endorsement on the one hand and a pure explanation on the other. It is easy to imagine that class of 13 year-olds pressing their teacher to give his or her personal opinion.

That is particularly the case when the issue of same-sex marriage arises in contexts which are outside sex education. For example, should a primary school teacher with a conscientious objection to same-sex marriage be expected a read a book such as King and King, which is well known and endorsed and published by Stonewall, about two princes who get married? The teacher could well consider such a book to be an endorsement of same-sex marriage. She should have the freedom to decline to read the book without suffering detriment, a freedom that has already been denied to one such teacher who stopped reading a book about two male penguins raising a chick because she felt it conflicted with her beliefs. She was subsequently restricted from having her own class.

If teachers are worried about two male penguins raising a chick, I wonder how they'll react when asked to teach Shakespeare plays with all those stories of betrayal, conspiracy and murder. Thankfully, though, all the ridiculous amendments failed, so teachers and other public employees will be expected to do their job properly.

Yesterday Lord Dear graciously conceded that the majority of the population support the same-sex marriage legislation, and hoped that it will prove to be a success.

A conference in Westminster today is looking at how children's books can help challenge homophobic bullying and encourage inclusivity. The topic of more inclusive TV was discussed at this year's Children's Media Conference.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Wingin' It

Wingin' It is a Canadian children's TV series set in the fictional Bennett High School. The stories feature angels combined with everyday life of human school kids. But there is something about the TV series which is almost as absurd as the idea of human-angel interaction - and that is that all pupils at the school are heterosexual. Take, for instance, the episode shown last Friday: Magical Kiss-tery Tour.

The episode begins when Denise tries to help Carl gain the confidence he needs to tell Jane how he really feels about her. Denise suggests a 'kiss enchantment' would do the trick. Porter explains that it's a magic spell which gives you courage to kiss someone. Denise says "if you like them and they like you, you see fireworks." Porter says love magic is hard to get right, and then casts the spell.

Carl Montclaire: Jane - got something for you (He tries to plant a kiss on her)

Carl's kiss is magically deflected from Jane onto Melissa

Aside from Carl's quite sexist attitude towards Jane, it turns out that the magic only works when the two people haven't previously kissed each other. But Carl had kissed Jane once before, in the school play. That made the magic go awry, and his kiss was deflected towards Melissa.

Porter: Carl's kiss enchantment didn't allow Carl to kiss Jane ....

Denise: .... because they already had their first kiss. But Carl hadn't kissed Melissa. And since Melissa was the next girl he saw - smoocho!

Porter: And with that kiss, Carl passed the kiss enchantment onto her.

Denise: And now she's going to kiss somebody.

Denise explains that anyone who's been enchanted can't kiss the same person twice. So Carl won't be able to kiss Jane until the enchantment chain breaks. The spell book also says you can't kiss anyone else who's been enchanted. Worst of all is that the kiss enchantment can't be broken until an enchanted kisser kisses someone they really like. "And," stresses Denise, "I mean like-like."

Later we see how the spell affects other pupils at Bennett High. After each kiss a pink heart shape radiates outwards. Here are just some of the kisses from that episode.

Some of the many boy-girl encounters in Magical Kiss-tery Tour

Wingin' It is marketed by BBC Worldwide Sales & Distribution which, I'm told, as a subsidiary of the BBC is signed up to Creative Diversity Network principles.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Children's Media Conference 2013

The Children's Media Conference begins in Sheffield very shortly. And as well as the usual stuff, this year's Conference will feature a session looking at whether children's media are really reflecting the diversity of society when it comes to the inclusion of gay and lesbian characters. Amongst those taking part in the discussion will be Mark Jennett, author of the influential Stand Up For Us guidance, which tackles homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools. The session's host/moderator is Julian Scott - former BBC Executive Producer and now CEO of Purple Pictures.

So does children's media reflect the diversity of society?

In fact BBC children's TV first included gay characters over 20 years ago. And BBC children's drama was certainly reflecting diversity when Julian Scott was the Executive Producer of Byker Grove. In this clip from Byker Grove (series 16 episode 15 - October 2004) Bradley comes out to Sadie, his long-term girlfriend.

From Byker Grove (S16E15 - October 2004)

Later he has a heart to heart with her about his sexual orientation. He has to endure a certain amount of homophobia from others at the Grove, but eventually is accepted and meets his soulmate, Nathan.

Bradley & Nathan (S17E20 - November 2005)

The BBC axed Byker Grove in 2006, much to the exasperation of its audience. Since then not one single BBC children's drama has featured a specifically teenage lesbian, gay or bisexual character. A recent episode of The Dumping Ground did include a middle-aged lesbian couple, but the two came across as a bit loopy - hardly the sort of portrayal needed when there are no other LGB characters on children's TV.

Significant opportunities have been missed. Why, for example, did CBBC choose to portray Leonardo da Vinci as essentially heterosexual? And why, so close to his centenary, wasn't the brilliant Alan Turing selected to be one of the ten historical individuals featured in the Absolute Genius series?

The sad truth is that, contrary to widespread belief, there is a lot of homophobia in the media/showbiz world and that prejudice has been in the ascendant over the last few years. A determined effort will be needed to turn children's TV around. We've seen plenty of straight heroes. Equity demands that we see realistic and proportionate representation of our diverse society.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Christmas is one of the main religious celebrations in Britain, as well as around the world. But last Christmas, as regular Newsround Blog readers know, the Catholic church and the BBC conspired to misappropriate the festival in order to spread a hateful and deceitful message of discrimination against a minority.

So how did the BBC make up for it? Plenty of coverage of Pride in London yesterday perhaps? Well, actually it wasn't covered on the main BBC One news at all - but there was this ten second report on the BBC One local news in the afternoon. It was the last story before the weather forecast, and looked like it was more or less intended to comply with the recently introduced homophobic laws in Russia -

BBC One (London region) - Pride report on 29th June 2013

ITV London had a much better local news report -

ITV (London region) - Pride report on 29th June 2013

Making children's media inclusive of sexual orientation is one of the themes at this year's Children's Media Conference. And now that BBC Children's TV is based in Salford, there'll be no excuse for Newsround not to cover Pride Manchester in August.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

There were two landmark rulings yesterday in the Supreme Court of the United States. Firstly Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) which declared that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, was ruled unconstitutional. Secondly the Court ruled that the proponents of Prop 8 in California had no legal standing to defend the Proposition. That means that same-sex Californian couples can, once again, marry.

Despite this significant human rights victory, the situation for LGBT people in a number of other countries continues to deteriorate. So how, for example, will western media organisations deal with recent homophobic legislation in Russia? Even before the law was passed, Anton Krasovsky, a former Russian TV presenter was sacked for outing himself on TV. Russia has shown an alarming increase in homophobia and physical violence against LGBT people.

The Children's Media Conference begins next week in Sheffield. This year the Conference is due to hold a session on something never discussed in the past - making programmes relevant to LGBT kids. The session, next Thursday, is called "Come Out and Play," and according to the CMC website "most children know their sexual orientation by the age of 12." The session is scheduled to take place on Thursday 4th July 2013 at 5.10pm in Showroom Cinema 2.

Does children’s media really reflect the diversity of society?

For a detailed answer to the question you can look back on more than 7 years of Newsround Blog posts. But the simple answer is an emphatic NO.

Carl Montclaire gets to kiss Jane Casey in Wingin It (series 1)

Wingin' It is a Canadian TV series. The series was selected as a finalist for the Shaw Rocket Prize 2011 when the BBC's own Director of Children's, Joe Godwin was one of the five international jury members. Canadian kids then chose Wingin' It as the winner.

Clip from this morning's episode of Wingin' It - Carl thinks Bianca is really hot

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky has iconic status in Russia. A number of his compositions are associated with unrequited love - Eugene Onegin being a notable example. But despite his importance, it seems that Russians under the age of 18 will not be able to learn the full truth about one of their national heroes. Because about two weeks ago Russia's parliament approved a law that, in effect, bans the dissemination of information to young people about non-traditional relationships. And it just so happens that Russia's most famous composer did have "non-traditional" relationships - as well as a "traditional" marriage which, by the way, ended in disaster. Now I doubt any Russian bloggers would still be allowed to be this explicit, but the truth is that Tchaikovsky was gay.

Britain, too, has its share of heroes. In fact one such, Alan Turing, was born exactly 101 years ago today. Turing was a key figure in the development of computers. But last year, Turing's centenary year, passed without his name even being mentioned on BBC children's TV. Very odd, especially when you consider how much time Newsround has devoted to covering stories about Steve Jobs, computers and gadgets. Perhaps CBBC bosses wanted to avoid celebrating Turing because, as with Tchaikovsky, he was gay. Prejudice against LGBT people would also explain why Newsround has never specifically reported on the problem of homophobia and homophobic bullying.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Although the same-sex marriage debate isn't making the headlines at the moment, there is nevertheless a lot still to do before equal marriage becomes a reality. The main battle, now, seems to be whether an opponent - for instance a registrar who is opposed to same-sex marriage on conscientious grounds - should have special exemptions. This was one of the issues considered in Committee at the House of Lords last night. Of course, if such conscientious objections were to be enshrined in law registrars should also have the right to e.g. refuse to marry divorcees. For some reason, though, religious exemptions are only ever sought when they would result in discrimination against LGBT people.

Lillian Ladele exemplifies this religious hypocrisy. Ms Ladele is an unmarried mother who worked as a registrar for Islington Borough Council. Despite having a child out-of-wedlock Ms Ladele saw fit to use her strongly-held "Christian" beliefs to refuse to carry out civil partnership registrations.

Ms Ladele lost her job and appealed to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in September last year. She lost her appeal in January 2013. The outcome of her case and its implications for equal rights was not reported by Newsround.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Danny Alexander says tax transparency is 'critically important' and David Cameron says the government will sweep away secrecy. All this should be good news, and it would be nice to see somewhat more transparency of the links between the BBC and its commercial partner, BBC Worldwide.

Thankfully some people at the BBC are still quite helpful with transparency issues, so I was eventually able to find out a bit more about the BBC policy relating to the Gifts and Hospitality Register (see blog dated 4th June 2013) - more precisely what is and what isn't acceptable

Here is a quote from the BBC Policy, as it affects senior managers:-

Receiving hospitality or gifts from organisations or individuals

39. Whilst modest hospitality is an accepted courtesy of a business relationship, the recipient should not allow a position to be reached whereby its acceptance might be deemed by others to have influenced a decision or lead to potential allegations of conflict of interest. Invitations to modest corporate entertainment events may be accepted if there is clear benefit to the BBC e.g. to build supplier relationships or to network with other customers / contacts. Invitations should not be accepted if the event is overseas or includes an overnight stay. Invitations which include partners may be accepted, with line manager approval, and provided they meet the above criteria, if there is no cost to the BBC.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Story on Newsround this morning at 7.40am

Joe: The president of South Africa says the whole nation is praying for the health of former leader, Nelson Mandela. He's currently in intensive care, being treated for a lung infection. He's considered one of the most inspirational and remarkable people in history, having helped rid South Africa of a racist system that kept black and white people separate. Current president, Jacob Zuma, says everyone's thoughts are with him. ..

Web report: Nelson Mandela remains in hospital in South Africa

Thursday, June 06, 2013

The House of Lords voted on same-sex marriage on Tuesday evening. Ricky Boleto reported on the vote for yesterday's Newsround bulletins at 4.25pm and 6.50pm.

This was how the Lords vote was reported at 4.25pm -

Ricky: Next, to an issue that's divided politicians and people across the country - the question of whether two men or two women should be able to marry each other. Last night the House of Lords voted 'Yes' to plans to change the law in England and Wales, meaning that same-sex marriage is closer to becoming a reality. - (followed by pre-recorded video)

With 'gay' being heard all too frequently in schools as a term of abuse, it was good to see Ricky use the word in a somewhat more affirmative way during his carefully balanced report for Newsround.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Patrick Mercer resigned the Tory whip on Friday in order, he said, to save the party embarrassment. His resignation came following claims that he broke Parliament's lobbying rules.

Of course, Mr Mercer, is hardly the first Parliamentarian to find himself accused of impropriety, and won't be the last either, as we've seen this week.

It's not just politicians who've been caught out. Fortunately, though, we all have a right to know about how publicly-funded bodies and employees make use of the authority entrusted to them.

There are a couple of obstacles to finding out the truth: Certain organisations, including the BBC enjoy substantial and frequently unwarranted exemptions from the need to be open and transparent. The exemptions are bad enough, but the problem is obviously made worse when the public body, itself, cannot be trusted - as happened about two years ago when there was an attempt to deceive me about expenses. At the time I suggested to the BBC's Information Policy & Compliance Department that "a root-and-branch review of procedures" be undertaken.

For a while, things seemed to improve, with staff being generally very helpful and polite. However my more recent impression is that the Corporation is reverting to type, and not being honest and transparent. Certainly some of the things they've said recently don't quite add up, and they appear to have a totally unsatisfactory policy in respect of the Gifts and Hospitality Register. The Register is particularly important because it can shed light on whether an employee might possibly be putting their own interests above those of the public's.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on Monday and Tuesday this week.

Given the amount of time BBC children's department boss, Joe Godwin, spends visiting North American media conferences every year, it's quite annoying that not one single LGBT equality landmark in either Canada or the United States has been reported by Newsround.

Marriage equality happened in Canada a few years ago, but things are a bit different in the US where, until quite recently, most Americans were opposed. However early in May 2012 President Obama was interviewed on TV and he said that his two daughters couldn't understand reasons for the discrimination against gay couples. He said: "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 ..."

President Obama, of course, went on to win a second term in office. And Newsround's Ricky Boleto was there to report on Obama's victory. But, typically for Newsround, Ricky avoided any mention of gay rights issues, including the four ballots about marriage equality which coincided with the Presidential election. All four ballots resulted in victories for equality. Previous similar public votes in the US had always gone against equal rights.

Three of those ballots asked voters whether they wanted equal marriage, but one of the ballots - the one in Minnesota - was intended by its proponents to ban "gay marriage" altogether by adding a clause to the State Constitution: "Only a union of one man and one woman shall be valid or recognized as a marriage in Minnesota." Things in Minnesota didn't go as anticipated by the homophobes and, within months of the constitutional ban having been rejected by the electorate, same-sex marriage was debated in the newly Democrat-controlled Minnesota legislature.

Rather than accept defeat graciously, opponents of equality still wanted the State to continue its discriminatory policies. Minority Leader of the Minnesota House of Representatives, Kurt Daudt, pleaded for discrimination in marriage to remain in place. Here are some quotes from his speech last month :-

"A couple of words come to mind during this particular debate. And one of those, in particular, I think has improved all of us - and that's our ability to disagree. But one of the words that sounds pretty similar, that I absolutely can't tolerate, is disrespect."

"Disagreeing with each other, in a civil way, does make us better people. But we need to do it without any sort of disrespect. "

"If I made a mistake, two years ago, in the approach that I took, it was that I didn't consider both sides of an issue. I thought about what one side wanted, but I didn't fully consider and take into account, in the solution I put forward, what the other side wanted."

Now, of course, had the vote gone the other way, Minnesota's constitution would have been amended and, in effect, an entire group would have been marked out as second-class citizens. Kurt Daudt and his ilk wouldn't have thought twice about the disrespect involved in the wording of the amendment they'd sought.

Finally one more quote from Kurt Daudt's speech - and this time, it's a classic :-

"Some of my best friends are gay."

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Children's Media Conference programme has now been published. The session on LGBT-inclusion, mentioned in my blog last Sunday, has been scheduled to take place on Day 2 - Thursday 4th July 2013 at 5.10pm

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Newsround Blog may well, at some future date, look at BBC news reporting in the lead-up to the House of Commons marriage equality votes on 20th May. For now though, here is a short excerpt from the Prime Minister's live interview, this morning, on Radio 4's Today programme.

James Naughtie: ... You said at the time of your election as leader in 2005 in Blackpool that (this is a quote) We have to change and modernise our culture and attitudes and identity. When I say change, I'm not talking about some slick re-branding exercise. (You're nodding, you remember this) What I'm talking about is fundamental change .. Now, for many people in your party, absolutely determined to stick to their convictions - they're just not willing to go with you there.

David Cameron: Well I don't accept that. I think the Conservative Party has made some enormous changes since I became leader in 2005. We've changed the party. We had 19 women MPs. We now have over 50. We're a party that campaigns on poverty, justice, the environment, as well as the economy and Europe. We've championed and argued about the importance of international aid. To argue that the Conservative Party hasn't changed, I think, is just not right.

James Naughtie: But you know that a lot of your MPs, and a lot of people - activists and so on - party members who tramp the streets in your interest, who say listen, same-sex marriage was not in the manifesto. We didn't know it was coming along. He's just charging on. He's surrounded by a metropolitan clique who don't know what we think. And now you're saying to them there's more on the way.

David Cameron: No, I'm not saying that. I think, you know, the same sex marriage issue, I think it's important. Every country across the world is having to address this. In New Zealand the centre-right government has just legalised gay marriage. Eleven states, I think there are twelve states in the US have done the same thing. I think it's important that we have this degree of equality. And I say that as someone who's a massive supporter of marriage. I think marriage is a wonderful institution. It helps people to commit to each other. I think it's such a good institution that it should be available to gay people as well as to heterosexuals.

James Naughtie: Are you relaxed about the fact that most of your MPs don't agree with you on that?

David Cameron: Well the fact is that this is a free vote issue, that parliaments have to determine. Our House of Commons has just determined that. And I think we should think about it like this: that there will be, you know, young boys [and girls*] in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bullied, who are worried about what society thinks of them, who can see that the highest parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anyone else's love, and that we believe in equality. And I think that they'll stand that bit taller today, and I'm proud of the fact that that has happened. ...

* Downing Street clarification

Sunday, May 19, 2013

SadieJ has been mentioned a few times by Newsround Blog, for instance, in this review of the very first episode - Crushamondo

Perhaps as a result of careful planning, or possibly by pure coincidence, viewers of the CBBC channel had another opportunity to watch the third episode from series two of SadieJ last Friday - the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. In fact it was shown twice - first at 9.05am, and then again at 12.55pm

SadieJ was touted as an answer to criticism over the lack of LGBT diversity on children's TV. But despite these concerns, not one single episode ever actually addressed the subject of having same sex attraction, in other words what might generally be thought of as being lesbian, gay or bisexual.

The aforementioned third episode of series 2 is called Gagalicious. The episode seemed to try addressing the issue, but in the end it failed - and failed badly at that.

The theme running through the episode was very clear: that everyone should be proud to be who they really are. But that "proud to be" message did not seem to extend to being gay or bisexual. For example, whilst several characters in the series are either dating or "fancy" someone of the opposite sex, not one single character is either dating or has a crush on someone of the same sex.

Children's TV needs to deal with the full range of issues affecting the lives of 21st century British kids, otherwise it becomes an irrelevance and a waste of money. The Children's Media Conference has promised a session about LGBT inclusion at this year's event. We should have details about the session very shortly. Let's just hope it doesn't end up as just another cop-out which, as we've seen with SadieJ, is an all too easy mistake to make.