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."