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."