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 The law was repealed about ten years ago, but recently a number of schools were found to still be using Section28-style terminology in their education policies.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.