Monday, December 29, 2014

Complaints closed at stage 1b and complainants subject to the Expedited Complaints Procedure

That's the title of a recently produced document now available for download on the BBC Trust website. It appears from the BBC's lack of publicity they are ashamed of the document's contents - and with very good reason, as you can see in this extract from the opening paragraph:

".. new procedures put in place the right for the BBC to end correspondence on trivial, misconceived, hypothetical, repetitious or otherwise vexatious complaints .."

What exactly is a "misconceived" complaint? Apparently that is something decided by the BBC. So what, in effect, has happened here is that the BBC has set itself up as a arbiter of what is right and what is wrong - and the public just have to accept their ruling.

Last year Graham Norton wore a ribbon to raise awareness of World AIDS Day. The BBC's Deputy Director of Television, Mark Linsey, ordered Graham not to wear the ribbon again, and the BBC subsequently received thousands of complaints about the ban. Nevertheless, the BBC presumably decided that those complaints fell into one of the above categories, and the Trust has not looked into the issue. Nor, it seems are they happy to discuss it further.

The BBC Trust's document ends with a list of "expedited" complainants. Correspondence from "expedited" complainants must, according to the BBC, be read but not acknowledged.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Hogwarts, according to J.K. Rowling, is a safe place for LGBT students. In a pointed allusion to her Harry Potter books, Ms Rowling said no one should live in a closet.

Author Jeff Kinney has been answering questions about his Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. Nine-year-old Emma won a competition and was given the opportunity to interview Mr Kinney. She asked Jeff what inspired his 'Wimpy Kid' books -


Jeff Kinney: My own childhood was the inspiration, and continues to be the inspiration for the Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. I think that so many funny things happen to all of us. If you just thought about your day today, I bet you could find five things that would end up in a wimpy-kid-like book. ...

Jeff Kinney has also answered questions for CBBC Newsround. So far, though, he's not been asked much about diversity. Apart from in tweets by Newsround Blog, which weren't responded to.

Wimpy Kid's protagonist, Greg Heffley, has a crush on Holly Hills - so presumably he's not gay. Seems Jeff Kinney has wimped out of including any lesbian or gay characters in his books. That's unfortunate because Jeff's not yet made a stand on behalf of kids who don't want to live their whole lives in a closet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Many important news stories don't get reported by Newsround, or they get reported a long time afterwards. The siege in Sydney is one story which hasn't yet been reported, though of course it did get a lot of coverage on the main TV news channels.

Katrina Dawson, 38, and cafe manager Tori Johnson, 34, both died as heroes.

Katrina Dawson, who was married to Paul Smith, with three children, is reported to have shielded a pregnant friend and colleague Julie Taylor, whom she had been meeting for a coffee.

Tori Johnson was killed as he attempted to wrest the gun from the hostage-taker.

As a gay man living in Australia Tori Johnson was, in effect, a second class citizen without the right to marry afforded to other people in that country. His life partner, who isn't mentioned in this BBC news webpage, was Thomas Zinn. They'd been together for 14 years.

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Mario Balotelli's recent controversial tweet was reported by Newsround.

Yesterday BBC's Director of Television, Danny Cohen, said the footballer should be sanctioned. Some suggested the same should apply to Jeremy Clarkson, but Mr Cohen failed to answer that point. He was also asked about the suitability of broadcasting ".. get out, you're not welcome here, you're gay" on children's TV. So far he's failed to answer that question too. But he has been pretty busy defending the BBC and its licence fee.

BBC Director General: ".. we should own up to things we don't get right"

Sunday, November 30, 2014

This year the BBC's Children in Need appeal took place on Friday 14th November 2014. A strange thing happened on CBBC that evening. Shortly before the channel closed at 7pm, Pudsey Bear went into the presentation studio where Katie Thistleton and CBBC's resident bully, Hacker T Dog were on air. Hacker shouted at the top of his voice: "Pudsey, get out, you're not welcome here, you're gay."
-
Katie, Pudsey and Hacker in presentation studio (14/11/2014)

Monday, November 24, 2014

Having just read a Commentary piece by Jack Andraka in Advocate.com I thought some people would be interested in an email sent by myself to the Controller of CBBC, Cheryl Taylor, on 11th August 2014. I have not received a reply from Ms Taylor -
To Cheryl Taylor, Head of CBBC 

Dear Cheryl, 
I'm not sure if CBBC will be making any more series of Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom, but there are quite a lot of scientific geniuses who haven't yet had their own programmes, and I had an idea which you might like to consider. 
Some of the featured scientists seem to have been selected to help promote equality - for example Caroline Herschel instead of her more illustrious older brother, or Elsie Widdowson rather than her colleague Robert McCance. To my mind that's a perfectly reasonable policy considering the discrimination women have had to put up with over the years. And there are still some very important women who shouldn't continue to be overlooked; most especially the extremely significant contribution Rosalind Franklin made to the discovery of DNA. Many feel Rosalind was treated unfairly by the male-dominated scientific elite. 
However, it's not only women who've suffered discrimination. Alan Turing was a gay man whose contribution to the world could hardly be underestimated. Alan might have achieved even more had his life not been cut short on account of persecution by the authorities. It's regrettable that the Absolute Genius programme about him failed to tell kids that he was gay. And in the context of CBBC promoting equality, it just seemed like anti-gay bigotry hasn't yet been overcome. 
So here is my idea: Over the weekend I was watching speakers at the Wikimania Conference in London. One of the more inspiring speakers was a young man called Jack Andraka. He is 17 now, but about three years ago he developed a brilliant and inexpensive method of detecting pancreatic cancer at an early stage. He is now working on two or three new projects, including making the test work with other forms of cancer. Up till now the Absolute Genius series has only included scientists who are no longer alive but, as far as I know, there is no reason not to include a living genius. In fact it might well inspire more young people to get involved. And there's one more thing about Jack Andraka - he is an out gay man, so a programme about him could help put right the failure to mention that Alan Turing was gay in series 2. 
Thanks for reading. 
Kind regards,

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Last week's CBBC programme about 13-year-old Leo was introduced by Katie and Dodge T Dog. -

Katie: Now, as part of our 'Bye Bye to Bullying' week on CBBC, we have a brand new episode of My Life coming up next. It's all about Leo, who was born a girl, but lives his life as a boy. We follow the highs and lows of his journey as he tries to apply for a new passport - one which may officially recognise him as a boy. Here's Leo's story.

There's a brief summary of the programme in my previous blog entry. The documentary makers went to some considerable trouble to explain the concept of transgenderism, using coloured graphics to illustrate the points being made. We were shown pink figures wearing dresses but with blue-coloured brains, and blue figures with pink-coloured brains.

Trans people in diagrammatic form

Some very important issues were omitted - in particular the documentary failed, as CBBC usually does, to consider the issue of sexual orientation. Bearing in mind that the number of young people who are LGB is somewhat greater than the number of trans people, it was unfortunate that the producers didn't appreciate the need to carefully explain the difference between being gay/bisexual and being trans. I have attempted to raise this issue with Kez Margrie but, as yet, haven't heard back.

On Wednesday 19th November Katie was joined in the CBBC presentation studio by Tallulah Greive, who plays Lauren on Millie Inbetween, and by CBBC bully, Hacker T Dog, ironically wearing a 'Bye Bye to Bullying' T-shirt -

Tallulah Greive and Hacker (19/11/2014)

Katie introduced Our School as part of CBBC's anti-bullying campaign. Approximately five minutes of the programme dealt with homophobic bullying - an issue also covered on the previous evening's Newsround bulletin.

In the Our School episode Jessica and classmate Libby have been called names by an older boy at Conyers School. They report the incident to Year 7 Manager, Mr Livesey. Apparently the boy had tried to insult Jessica by calling her a lesbian.

Jessica: .... who cares if I was a lesbian, it wouldn't interfere with my life. I wouldn't be upset about it.

Mr Thoburn (narrating): As Year 7 are about to find out, using "lesbian" or "gay" as an insult is a serious kind of bullying. ... The School have invited Shaun Dellenty, a Deputy Head from another school, to talk to Year 7 about what happened to him when he was their age.

Shaun Dellenty told the Year 7 assembly that he realised he was gay at a fairly young age. And at secondary school he got bullied right from the very first day.

Mr Dellenty: During my time at secondary school I was spat on, laughed at, punched, kicked, hit, pushed, and I was told that I would go to hell. All of that by the time I'm your age. How do you think that might affect somebody - a young person, how do you think that might affect them?

After the assembly the kids talked about what they'd heard.

Shaun Dellenty taking a Year 7 assembly at Conyers School

Mr Thoburn: The assembly has really got the Year 7's thinking, and the discussion carries on in tutor time.

We then saw Class 7AG discuss discrimination and being called names. The teacher, Mr Glendenning, asked the class never to use the term "gay" in a derogatory sense.

Jessica: If you get name-called, that's a sign of bullying. I would just go and see your Deputy or your Head Teacher, tell them what's happening ...

Thursday, November 20, 2014

My Life: I Am Leo is a documentary about the steps Leo Waddell is taking on his journey to be accepted as a boy. It was broadcast on Monday as part of CBBC's contribution to Anti-Bullying Week 2014.

The documentary begins with a 'video diary.' Leo introduces himself and the rest of his family - his mum and his sister, Daisy.

Leo: .... There's something about me that means I haven't always been accepted as Leo. In most ways I'm like an average 13-year-old boy apart from I was born in a girl's body. Although people saw me as a girl, I always knew I was really a boy.

Leo says he wants people to see him, the way he sees himself - as Leo.

We see Leo help his mum make a cake, and chatting about what he remembers from his days as Lily - the name he was given at birth. We're shown old footage and photos. Leo tells his mum that wearing a dress and having long hair didn't feel right. He says he hated looking like a girl so one night, when he was 5-years-old, he cut his own hair short.

Leo: By the time I was nine, I didn't understand why other people couldn't see I was really a boy, and it used to make me very angry. ... Gender, to me, is what you feel inside - not what you were born with like, what you are on the outside. It's what you are on the inside.

The documentary then goes on to talk about boys' and girls' hormones and bodies.

Leo: Our bodies are full of chemicals called hormones. There are some hormones for boys and other hormones for girls. Most people's hormones, brains and bodies all match, so they know they are definitely a girl or a boy. But some people feel they've been born in the wrong body. .... Although I have a girl's body, I know inside I am a boy.

Jack is one of Leo's best mates, who regards Leo as a boy.

Jack: I'll support you, like, whatever you want to do.

But Leo isn't accepted by everyone. He's been taunted by chants of Lily, Lily - which brought back past bad memories.

When someone calls Leo 'she' it upsets him. His mum and dad helped him apply to change his passport to reflect his new name.

Leo goes to meet Stephen Whittle at the House of Commons, because that's where he helped to change the law for transgender people. Stephen was also born a girl, and has worked really hard for trans people to be accepted. He said it was awful at first in the '70s - you were the lowest of the low. They set up 'Press for Change' to lobby parliament to change the law. Stephen wished Leo 'good luck.'

While in London Leo chats with his 10 year-old friend Kai, who was also born a girl. He explains that the only difference between them and a 'born-male boy's life' is that they're trapped in this awful body and they have to go through loads of medical stuff. Kai says it's not just a phase.

Leo's mum has been really busy getting his passport changed so he can get that 'magic M for male.' We see Leo getting new photos for his new passport.

Leo flies to Scotland to meet Natalie. Kai's and Leo's families were accepting, but Natalie's were not so accepting - Natalie was born male but says she was 15 when she knew she was a girl. Her immediate family sent her to counsellors, and thought it was just a phase. So she moved out.

Leo was lucky because both his family and oldest friends were accepting. He's given hormone blockers which he has to inject himself. Knowing that without these injections his body would change into a woman's scared him. Dr Polly explained it -

Dr Polly: The blocker is an injection that someone has every month which pauses the body and stops it from carrying on to grow up into a man or a woman.

The blocker gives Leo and his doctors more time to decide about what he wants for the future. If he stops the blockers his body will continue develop as a woman's body.

Leo: Although I'm pleased to be prescribed the injections, they do really hurt! .. Oh, it's agony.

Leo: Not everyone agrees that the treatment is a good thing. ... Some people think it's not right to give them to children.

The documentary includes some of the ways the press have reported the story, as well as his appearance on This Morning, where he met Phillip Schofield and Holly Willoughby. Leo said he thought he might be in love with Holly.

Leo visited the passport office in Peterborough. He's anxious about his new passport because he wants other people to view him the way he sees himself. The documentary ends with a delighted Leo getting his 'M' for male.

Yesterday's Daily Mirror reported that Leo plans to have his eggs frozen so he can have children even after he has gender reassignment surgery as an adult. According to his mum, Hayley, "at some later date when he’s in a relationship, and they want children, they will use donor sperm to fertilise the eggs then implant them into his partner."

Monday, November 17, 2014

Today is the start of Anti-Bullying Week.

I first raised the issue of homophobic bullying with Joe Godwin in an email on 23rd July 2009: "... A particular concern of mine is that the BBC is not doing enough - or in fact anything at all - to counter the problem of homophobic bullying at school. ..."

On 26th September 2010 Mr Godwin emailed me:

.... Since we last corresponded on the subject of homophobic bullying in schools, you may be interested to know that I've been meeting with senior civil servants and the Children's Commissioners to see what CBBC can do in this area. I have further meetings planned in the coming weeks. ....

However after years' of silence CBBC Newsround has, this morning, finally got round to tackling the problem. And this is the reason they gave -

Martin: .. today we're reporting on homophobic bullying. That's because this year the government is giving £2million to schools to deal with it.

Why was it necessary to give a reason for tackling this form of prejudice? And, as far as I know, receiving a government grant has never been a pretext for CBBC covering any other form of bullying.

The real way CBBC could help is by making children's drama properly inclusive. So far not much has been achieved on that front.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Yesterday, Newsround asked kids what they're you doing for Children in Need. So it was a good opportunity to remind some of the people in charge of CBBC that I'm still waiting to hear back what they, themselves, are doing.

I'd previously asked Sue Nott, whether homophobia in other countries might affect the way British children's programmes are made. Polish TV, for example, seemed unhappy that Benny had come out as gay at the end of series 2 of Wizards vs Aliens. Benny, of course, returned to America at the end of the second story in the series 3, and it's not clear if we'll ever get to see him in romantic situations akin to the hetero relationships Tom has with girlfriends such as Chloe and Katie.

I've also been waiting to hear back from Kez Margrie, executive producer of the My Life: I Am Leo documentary. I mentioned that, although the My Life series has covered trans and gender-nonconformity, it has yet to deal with kids who are lesbian, gay or bisexual. I've asked Kez if that is likely to change.

Anti-Bullying Week starts on Monday, but CBBC got in early with this morning's (Saturday's) Friday Download anti-bullying edition with all sorts of advice on the subject. The show, introduced by three members of One Direction, included this -

Shannon: CBBC is putting on a few different programmes this week that they hope will help. Bullying can take several different forms; one of the most common is name-calling. So in next week's episode of Our School the students discuss how important it is to use the word 'gay' in the right way.

A short clip from next Wednesday's Our School was played in which Mr Glendenning from Conyers School asked his class if they'd ever been called names - everyone in the class put up their hands. He asked the class to promise never to use the term 'gay' in a derogatory sense. The Friday Download anti-bullying Special also included a clip from the previously mentioned My Life: I Am Leo documentary, which goes out this Monday, 17th November.

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Some excerpts from this morning's Andrew Marr Show, in which Benedict Cumberbatch talked to Marr about his acting roles - including that of Alan Turing in The Imitation Game (12A) which is on general release in the UK from 14th November 2014


Andrew Marr: .. during the Second World War vital work was done behind the scenes by those who decoded intelligence on German military plans. The mathematician Alan Turing was at the nerve-centre of the codebreaking operation at Bletchley Park. And a thrilling new film charts how he broke the German Enigma codes. Recently I asked the film's lead, Benedict Cumberbatch, before he announced his marriage engagement, if he agreed that Turing was one of the most important men of the 20th century.

Benedict Cumberbatch: I really do agree. The father of the modern computer age, a man of brilliant theoretical thinking. Somebody who thought philosophically about maths, and the application of machines beyond just his Universal Machine but into the world of full artificial intelligence.

Andrew Marr: And he broke the German codes, and it said at the end of this film that he ended the war two years before it would otherwise have ended and saved 14 million lives by doing that. What's the basis of truth in that?

Benedict Cumberbatch: I think huge. I think the rate the war was going and the amount of fatalities and waste of life was on the increase. It was a siege in this country at that time. What it meant by cracking the code was then being able to place all of the shipping movements, all of the planned attacks, and be able to span that out. Whether it be Luftwaffe raids, whether it would be a U-boat raid, and basically to be able to see on a map the reality of what the Germans were planning to do ahead of when they were going to do it. And then, of course you can't act on all that information without giving the game away that you've cracked the codes. But they then had this onerous task of feeding the information through certain channels to therefore, who knows, supply some people with the truth and keep some hidden. And as we now know, Coventry, which was rumoured at the time and until very recently rumoured to be known of, was definitely known about.

Andrew Marr: And they let it burn because the alternative would be letting the Germans ..

Benedict Cumberbatch: We let the entire city burn with thousands, hundreds of thousands of people dying in order to win the war. Which is just an unfathomable moral conundrum.

........

Andrew Marr: And Turing himself - now it has been said by some critics of this film, that the gayness has been glossed over in some way - that he's not gay enough in the film.

Benedict Cumberbatch: I don't quite know what that means, because to me, you know, his sexuality is very very clear in the film. We don't show him in bed with anybody - we don't show anyone who's heterosexual having a moment of sexual intimacy in the film.

...

Benedict Cumberbatch: The specific importance of his sexuality in both history and in the film is the fact that it was denied. That it was criminal - criminalised by that society at that time. And that he was punished, after saving the democracy and government that was in power by that democracy, for his identity. And I just hope that, you know, this film is about his achievements, about his life, it's about his loves as well, and it is about his sexuality. And it's a very very strong part of his identity ...

Saturday, November 08, 2014

Anyone wanting to be the next Director of BBC Children's only has until 25th November to apply for the job. The current Director, Joe Godwin, has often described being in charge of the BBC children's department as "the best job in the world," so why would anyone voluntarily relinquish that position in favour of what is likely to be a boring and dull desk job as head of the BBC Academy?

What qualities will the BBC be looking for in their next Director of BBC Children's?

I imagine they would want someone who is prepared to discuss ideas with colleagues and the public and not be too bossy or secretive. But equally important will be a willingness to move with the times and accept the full diversity of the audience - not just some aspects of diversity. At the present time, it might also be advisable to look for a person who does not have a long history working for the corporation.

Director of Children's - job application at BBC's Career Search website

Monday, November 03, 2014

Anthony Horowitz is doing the media rounds again, probably with the intention of promoting his latest book. He's popped up on Question Time, CBBC Newsround and Radio 2's Book Club.

Horowitz has been accused of being a homophobe and a right-wing bigot, both of which he's denied. But with regards to the former accusation, let's look at the evidence.

In 2007 he wrote a piece for the Daily Mail in which he lamented "political correctness" had made it difficult for him to create new villains. It seems Horowitz thought that a villain, in order to convince, has to be gay or from some other traditionally disadvantaged group. As far back as the mid-1980's one of his nastier characters in an episode from Robin of Sherwood, Philip Mark, is gay.

But despite his obvious awareness that some people are gay, when he took part in a Q & A session for Newsround in 2010, his response implicitly denies the possibility that gay or bisexual people exist.

The final, and most convincing evidence comes from a 2013 TV debate about equal marriage. Horowitz appeared strongly opposed to marriage equality, stating that "a marriage involves man, woman and God." He claimed that wasn't his own view, but immediately went on to state that that is what it is. Just as confusing was his comment about tolerance; he took the view that we have forgotten how to tolerate intolerance.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

The Imitation Game (12A) will be in UK cinemas from 14th November. The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing. One of the film's supporting actors, Keira Knightley, appeared as a guest on last night's Jonathan Ross Show (ITV1) -

Keira Knightley on The Jonathan Ross Show - 1st November 2014


Jonathan Ross: ... OK, so let's talk about The Imitation Game. Cos you've got two films out - one is out this Friday; one's out the week after. And this couldn't be a more different kind of film, could it?

Keira Knightley: No. It's about Alan Turing. So it's the story of the breaking of the Enigma Code, and Alan Turing and Bletchley Park. So yeah, it's very different and obviously with what happened to Alan Turing - I didn't know any of this. I sort of, I'd read articles about him about five years ago when they tried to get him a pardon. But he was a very brilliant mathematician who came up with theories that broke the Enigma Code in the Second World War, but was prosecuted for being gay and chemically castrated by the British government, which then led to his suicide. That doesn't give anything away. Well it does - kind of, doesn't it.

Jonathan Ross: But it doesn't really ..

Keira Knightley: It's kind of a story that's very much out there. So, yeah, it's very different from ...

Jonathan Ross: What's remarkable, though, when you think about it, cos you know that is shocking and it's a horrible story to hear happened. But it happened not that long ago in the grand scheme of things.

Keira Knightley: No, not that long ago.

Jonathan Ross: That's what's remarkable.

Keira Knightley: Yeah, and I think, you know, particularly because of the secrecy that's still around what happened, or well was around Bletchley Park until very recently, his place in history as far as one of the grandfathers of the Computer, as far as his place in the history of the Second World War, and in gay rights, you know, been has sort of lost. So I think everybody involved certainly wanted to be a part of trying to get that story to a wider public.

Jonathan Ross: It's a remarkable story from our comparatively recent history. But it's also a story which, I think, everyone should know - everyone should know about this man and what happened. ....

The Imitation Game - IMDb

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wizards vs Aliens - the (coming out) story so far

First let's take a closer look at what happened when Benny came out in series 2 episode: All Out War!

When Tom mentions that he'll need phone Katie to cancel his date with her on Saturday, this leads to more talk of dating. Tom mentions that Benny's never had a date and suggests he should ask out Tamsin Kuthu from Year 10. Benny responds by alluding to Newton's 3rd law of motion -

Benny: I'm the equal and opposite of you. In every way. Do you get it?

Benny: Equal and opposite, Tom. I'll go on a date, one day. Just not with her. Not with a girl. [In Poland the words "Not with a girl" were censored out in the dubbing]

Tom twigs what Benny has been trying to say, and takes the news very well. He seems pleased for Benny, but asks why he'd never mentioned it before.

Benny: It's the sort of thing you say at the end of the world.

Tom: No, it's not Benny .... You can say that sort of thing any day of the week!

Tom says he's now got a good reason to save the world - it's so that Benny can go on his first date.

The interesting thing here is that although Tom insists it's OK to talk about "that sort of thing any day of the week," neither Tom nor Benny actually use the word "gay" in their conversation. It's as if BBC Children's, in reality, still have issues about that particular word. Children, all too frequently, hear "gay" used in a pejorative context. But the opportunity to use "gay" in a positive way was, unfortunately, missed.

Towards the end of that episode Tom drinks magic from the "Salute" and, in doing so, attains great powers to change almost anything. He offers to change Benny, but the offer is turned down -

Benny: I'm happy as I am. I'm going to stay exactly like this.

It would be nice to think Wizards vs Aliens was always intended as part of a long-term diversity strategy on BBC children's TV. So far, though, it is the only CBBC drama in recent times to portray a gay teenager. And it's not yet clear whether Benny, despite the worthy equality message, will actually be treated as Tom's equal in series 3. Will CBBC viewers ever see Benny kissing a boyfriend in a scene which challenges this sort of heteronormativity?

At the start series 3 Tom & Benny return to school after the summer break which Benny has spent visiting the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The first series 3 episode, The Secret of Room 12, gives little cause for optimism on the inclusion front. But, of course, we could be in for a surprise.

Tom's dad: Maybe Benny can put you back on the straight and narrow, now he's back from America.

Quinn (right) greets Benny on his return from MIT in the United States

Saturday, October 25, 2014

It's all out war between the mainstream media (MSM) and the social media.

Mainstream media - all TV news channels in the UK, as well as the press - are generally content to toe the line of those in government and authority. Opinion on the social media is a lot more wide-ranging. Nowhere is this divide more evident than in the case of Madeleine McCann, the girl who went missing in Portugal in May 2007.

By and large, MSM accept the McCanns' version - that Madeleine was abducted by a stranger, and that they, the parents, were falsely accused of any involvement.

Most views expressed on Twitter and other social media take the opposite position, namely that Kate and Gerry McCann were responsible for their daughter's predicament. A smaller body of social media opinion supports the parents.

On 2nd October 2014 Sky News repeatedly broadcast a report throughout the day in which a 63-year-old lady, Brenda Leyland, was accused of "trolling" the McCanns. Reporter Martin Brunt said a dossier with her name, and the names of other McCann "trolls" was in the possession of the police. BBC News sensibly ignored the story, though it was briefly referenced in John Humphrys' interview with Gerry McCann on the Radio 4 Today programme which took place the following morning.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Normally BBC One's Rip Off Britain starts something like this -

Julia Somerville: We asked you to tell us who has left you feeling ripped off. And you contacted us in your thousands, by post, email, even stopping us on the street. And the message could NOT be clearer.

Person 1: There's too much focus on profit, and less on customer care.

Person 2: It's so hard to complain. Companies make it so difficult to complain.

Angela Rippon: You told us that with money tighter than ever, you need to be sure every pound you spend is worth it.

Person 3: All my money is very hard-earned. So when I go to spend it, I expect value for money.

Gloria Hunniford: So whether it's a deliberate rip-off, a simple mistake, or a catch in the small-print, we'll find out why you're out of pocket, and what you can do about it. Your stories, your money - This is Rip Off Britain.


This coming week the BBC will be doing a series of LIVE Rip Off Britain programmes from the Broadcasting House in London. And they've been asking viewers for stories to investigate.

Not sure if this is the sort of story they want to hear, but nevertheless they could try checking out some BBC staff expense claims. If, for example, a BBC employee claimed a train fare to attend a board meeting in Liverpool, you would naturally expect that the board meeting was with BBC colleagues to discuss BBC-related matters. But evidence unearthed by Newsround Blog suggests that you, the licence fee payer, might be mistaken in that belief.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What do education campaigner Malala Yousafzai and music sensation Lorde have in common? Well, according to Ricky on this morning's Newsround, the answer is that they've just be named on a list of the world's most influential teenagers. President Obama's two daughters, Malia and Sasha, are also on the list.

In May 2012 the President cited his daughters' views as a factor in the decision to abandon his opposition to same-sex marriage. That story was widely reported, but not by CBBC Newsround.

Monday, October 13, 2014

One of Newsround's reports on Friday related to protest by young people in Hong Kong -

Hayley: ... but one place where people haven't heard much about it is next door in China, where people don't get the same information. ...

Newsround had a similar report about news censorship back in 2006. At that time this Blog suggested that people in glasshouses shouldn't throw stones. It was clear, then, that CBBC Newsround was censoring gay-related stories.

Despite substantial advances in British equality legislation since 2006, there have been only been minimal signs of Newsround moving towards a more inclusive approach as regards LGBT people. That is in very marked contrast to the excellent amount of coverage of stories about other minorities, in particular, the disabled. Here, for example, Ricky speaks to Sir Philip Craven about the way things have improved in sports.

Martin Dougan also frequently looks into what is being done to help make life better for people with disabilities, sometimes mentioning his own cerebral palsy as part of the report.

Whilst there's clearly still a problem with CBBC Newsround and LGBT information, the rest of the BBC and the UK's mainstream media have other unrelated censorship and news manipulation issues.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

It's National Coming Out Day, and CBBC Newsround is asking kids to say what rights they should have. They're told to ask permission before replying via email.

In my last blog I showed that the programme has often looked at animal rights. Now, if you want to know how much they've reported on gay rights, check out this Newsround website search.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Newsround this morning at 7.40am -

Ayshah: First to a big court case in America today that will decide if chimpanzees should have the same legal rights as people. An animal rights group in the US have brought the case because, they say, a 26 year-old chimp called Tommy is being unlawfully imprisoned by his owner in New York. It's believed to be the first case of its kind in the world. If they win it, it could lead to other cases being brought on behalf of animals.

Comments: Should animals have the same rights as people?

In fact the legal case is in a local court, so the outcome will not have as much impact as Newsround suggests. The programme frequently considers animal rights, as can be seen from a quick search of their website.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Same-sex dancing has been in the news this year, mainly as a result of the British Dance Council's proposal to change its rules. Their decision is expected towards the end of this month.

When the BBC announced that Scott Mills would be in this year's Strictly Come Dancing celebrity line-up, some people speculated that he might be paired with another male dancer - possibly Anton du Beke. But in the event it turned out the programme's producers chose Joanne Clifton as his dance partner.

According to Digital Spy, Scott said "Other gay people have done the show, like Julien Macdonald last year, and no-one said he should have a male dancer.

"I don't know why it's happened with me. I'll do what the producers want me to do. You don't have to dance with a man because you're gay."

Strictly is sometimes quite sexually charged as was evident on last night's show - in particular during Alison Hammond's dance routine. And as part of Scott and Joanne's dance, Joanne planted a great big smacker on his face.

Judging time, and Scott has telltale lipstick marks on his right cheek

Scott is reportedly content that the programme is not homophobic, though, of course, as a BBC employee he might not be totally impartial.

In July 2014 I was advised that there were no immediate plans for including same-sex pairings, but that the idea had not been ruled out for future shows. Viewers might have noticed a nod towards a more inclusive approach when the judges were introduced last night, as well as at the very end of the show.

Whereas BBC children's TV has been making determined efforts to become more diverse, for example with this report yesterday, it seems there is still one area of diversity that bosses are less happy about covering; when Newsround interviewed Scott Mills about Strictly any reference to the same-sex dancing issue, or even to his sexuality, was strictly off-limits!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

The BBC's mission of enriching people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain took another knock yesterday when CBBC broadcast episode 18 of The Next Step. Newsround Blog is looking into the controversial circumstances surrounding acquisition of that dire Canadian TV series.

The screengrabs below include the broadcast subtitles.

James tells viewers that his "mom" has taken him out of the studio because she wants him to focus on his "math." His maths grades were slipping.

We then see him chatting to Riley and Chloe via webcam. Chloe explains that "everyone who's a part of A-Troupe has been taking shifts to help James with his math."

Chloe: (via webcam): What is cosecant?

James: Um, the inverse of cosine.

Chloe: Yes

Riley: Good

Chloe: Good job

In fact the correct answer is that cosecant is the inverse of sine - not cosine.

James says "It's important to pass, because if I pass it I get to go back to the studio. And I get a date with Riley."

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Being the Boss

Episode 2 of The Dumping Ground Survival Files is about being the boss. Like other programmes in the Survival Files series, it uses examples from CBBC's Tracy Beaker to illustrate the points being made.



Faith: "On The Dumping Ground Survival Files this time ... what it takes to be the boss ... the problems and pitfalls of being in charge ... and when being a leader becomes being a bully. Today we're gonna be talking about power and leadership .."

Faith suggests viewers look at some examples of leadership. "What makes Mike such a good care worker?" We hear about some of Mike's good qualities, and then, in contrast, about how bad Dennis was as the person in charge.

Faith: "Tell me about this Dennis guy. What made him such a bad boss?"

Rick: "Well, he's Dennis in't he - loves power, but hates people."
.
.
.

Faith: "Dennis was a bad leader ... he was power-mad, cruel and corrupt."

The episode goes on to give more examples of good and bad leadership, though one important issue was barely considered. True, many leaders are power-mad and corrupt, but the smarter ones aren't necessarily cruel at all - they might even come across as quite beneficent. And they've gradually built themselves up into such a powerful position that none of their subordinates dare question their authority. In fact, more often than not, employees feel honoured just to work for a seemingly untouchable boss.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Some people expressed concern when Newsround ended its forty-year run on BBC One. After December 2012, Newsround TV bulletins were confined to the digital CBBC channel. The BBC defended the decision, arguing that five times more kids watched Newsround on CBBC than watched it on BBC One. The Director of BBC Children's said it felt like the right time to stop the regular blocks of children's programming on BBC One and Two. He added: “We have no doubt that children will continue to access daily news - including through regular five-minute bulletins at 4.25 and 6.55pm every day.”

For reasons yet to be explained, the Friday 6.55pm edition of Newsround was removed from CBBC schedules ages ago. But then, more recently, 6.55pm editions began to disappear on other weekdays too - mainly during sports events such as Wimbledon, the World Cup and the Commonwealth Games. It looks like the last 6.55pm Newsround edition was broadcast on 24th July 2014, although there's been no official announcement to the effect that the late bulletin has been axed.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

The Next Step, CBBC's dire acquisition from Canada, returns to our screens on Wednesday afternoon at 5.30pm. Backers of the mockumentary, as well as its creator/writer, Frank van Keekan, have declined to answer any questions about diversity in the current or future episodes. Newsround Blog readers may recall one episode in which some of the characters are seen laughing at the "funny" British accent.

A somewhat more worthy children's series starts on Wednesday at 5.55pm. Unlike The Next Step, CBBC's documentary, Our School, is real and unscripted. It follows a group of children, in 2013, as they stepped up from various primary schools to their new secondary school, Conyers School in Yarm, Stockton-on-Tees. The first episode of Our School was originally broadcast last week but is being re-screened, and is on the iPlayer. Conyers allowed CBBC to rig the school with "loads of cameras" in the classrooms, corridors and the playground:

Camera being installed in a Conyers School classroom

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Harriet's Army

This excellent CBBC mini-series continued the theme of last Monday's special Newsround programme about how World War 1 changed attitudes to women (see previous blog). Below is a synopsis of the story, with spoilers.

(Spoiler alert)

Harriet Grange lives with her dad and brothers Edward and Sam. Harriet, a feisty girl, is forced to leave the Girl Guides after fighting with some boys. War is declared and most of the local men are anxious to sign up. Edward is too young to join, but is pleased that the government has agreed to allow Scouts and Girl Guides to act as a second line of defence. Harriet, although kicked out of the Girl Guides, still wants to help the war effort.

The Brown family moved to the town two months earlier and people start to gossip when neighbours discover that the Mrs Brown's daughter is living in Germany and is married to a German. A lot of hostility gets directed towards the Brown family.

Harriet's young brother, Sam, gets his foot trapped between railway points, but is rescued by Thomas Brown just before a train passes. Thomas and Harriet gradually get to know each other better and Harriet realises Thomas and his family are being treated unfairly. Harriet enthusiastically adopts Thomas's suggestion of starting her own vigilante kids' army, and goes out in the streets to recruit volunteers.

Thomas's autistic younger brother, Lewis, is bullied by the other kids, but Harriet rebukes them for their cowardly behaviour. Life becomes intolerable for the Browns, so Harriet and her best friend, Violet Croft, help them to escape to a secret hideout in the countryside. Harriet's older brother, Edward, still doesn't trust the Browns, and is really angry when he finds out that she's helped them escape. He tells her she's helped the enemy - it's treason. She convinces Edward that he's wrong about the Browns.

It's April 1915, and Mrs Brown has gone to Whitby looking for work, leaving Thomas and Lewis in the hideout. Harriet and her 'army' have kept the two brothers supplied with food purloined from the allotments.

Lewis has noticed flashing lights in the distance, which he believes represent numbers. Harriet tells Edward she thinks the lights are coded spy messages.

Violet receives a letter from brother, Stephen, describing the unpleasant conditions on the front line. She's been knitting him a pair of wooly socks.

Harriet persuades her volunteer army to help track down the spies. They will need to triangulate the light source in order to determine its precise location.

Violet is devastated to hear that Stephen was killed when the ship he was returning on was sunk with the loss of all on board. But in the course of the search for spies it turns out that Stephen did return safely to Britain on a cargo boat, and was living in the woods, stealing supplies in order to survive. Stephen tells Harriet that every one of his mates had been killed on the front lines and, as the sole survivor, he'd been too ashamed to go back to his family.

Harriet realises that her army still need to find out who's responsible for the light signals. Edward, meanwhile, has discovered a piece of paper with Lewis's decoded numbers. It dawns on him that the numbers match the dates on which British ships were torpedoed. Edward is quick to conclude that Thomas Brown is spying for the Germans, but when confronted with evidence, he's persuaded that his suspicions were unfounded.

The signals are tracked to some old ruins, and Harriet's army catch the harbourmaster red-handed, signaling messages to U-Boats out at sea. British army soldiers arrive at the scene in time to apprehend the culprit. That evening Mr Grange tells his family how proud he is of them. Harriet was, in some ways, a reminder of his late wife.

The series ends on a romantic note with Harriet and Thomas walking hand in hand through the woods.

Monday, August 04, 2014

Today's Newsround at 10.10am looked at the significance WWI had on women's lives; how the war changed attitudes and eventually led to a more equal society.

Ricky reporting for Newsround on 4th August 2014

Ricky Boleto: Good morning, I'm Ricky with a very special Newsround coming to you from these trenches here in northern France. It's here where some of the most important battles took place over the four years of World War 1 - a war which began on this day, exactly one hundred years ago. While men were fighting in places like this, women's lives were changing forever, like Nellie Spindler - and this is her story.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ofcom has decided that the Top Gear Burma Special (BBC Two on 16 March 2014 at 8pm) was a breach of its Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context .....

The BBC had defended use of the term 'slope' as follows:

When we used the word ‘slope’ in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it.

We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word ‘slope’ is considered by some to be offensive and although it might not be widely recognised in the UK, we appreciate that it can be considered offensive to some here and overseas, for example in Australia and the USA.

If we had known that at the time we would not have broadcast the word in this context and regret any offence caused.


The 'joke' went like this (YouTube) -

Jeremy Clarkson: “That is a proud moment…but…there is a slope on it.”

Richard Hammond picked up from there: “You are right…[pointing]…it is definitely higher on that side.”

Hammond's barely stifled amusement reveals he was working in cahoots with Clarkson, and was equally culpable. As far as I know, he's escaped criticism.

Common sense, you would think, dictates that any word, whether or not pejorative, used to describe the race or other characteristic of a human being was inappropriate in this context. For example "there is a Muslim on it" or "there is an African on it." The BBC admitted they were aware that 'slope' referred to an Asian man.

To be fair, a few years ago, some of Ofcom's own judgements were no better. Here in a 2007 edition of Broadcast Bulletin, for example, the Regulator cites Friday Night with Jonathan Ross to help invalidate complaints about a homophobic term used on Big Brother.

Guardian (commentisfree - Carmen Fishwick): The BBC not acting on Clarkson’s racist comment shows its disregard for us

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Commonwealth Games are about to start in Glasgow, the home town of Newsround reporter and disability rights campaigner, Martin Dougan.

Martin's report this morning explained what the Commonwealth is supposed to be about.

Martin: .. Many years ago Britain controlled lots of countries as part of something called the British Empire. Although these countries are now independent, they have chosen to become part of the Commonwealth. It's a group of countries across the world which signs up to a set of values including democracy, law and human rights. ..




Martin fails to tell kids that many of those countries breach the human rights of LGBT people.

This morning's 8.55am bulletin also included Martin reporting live from Glasgow. I suspect he would be less enthusiastic about these Games if some of those Commonwealth countries routinely imprisoned disabled people. But then CBBC, like so many Commonwealth countries, seems to have little time for the equal rights of LGBT people.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Does Disney's animated film Frozen have a pro-gay agenda? That topic was widely discussed elsewhere earlier in the year, including in this BBC blog. Certainly the lyrics from "Let it Go" are about empowerment, and could be seen as referring to the process of coming out. Take a look at these words, for instance:

Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know!

Gold-medal-winning Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe is 31. For half his life he struggled to keep his sexuality secret, and drove himself deeper into depression with every denial. Last week he came out to Michael Parkinson in a TV interview. He said he'd been concerned about the reaction from his friends and family.

Well, now they know!

Ian said he doesn't want other young people to feel the same way that he did.

So has CBBC now come round to supporting and empowering ALL kids regardless of sexual orientation? Was Ian Thorpe's disclosure just the spur CBBC needed to change? Could it explain why Newsround has spent time publicising the Disney animation, Frozen? It's been mentioned in all Friday's and all Saturday's TV bulletins.

Regrettably the truth is less encouraging: BBC Children's has symbiotic relationships with various media groups and/or personnel. Frozen is still being shown in lots of UK cinemas, and, with school holidays approaching, what better way to increase box office receipts than to promote it on children's TV?

Working hand in glove with commercial organisations is rarely consistent with the best interests of children, but perhaps promoting Frozen is the exception.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The British Dance Council is considering banning same sex couples from competing in some ballroom dancing competitions. I wrote to the BBC about Strictly Come Dancing in November 2010. Moira Ross was the programme's Executive Producer. Below is the substantive part of correspondence -

Email to Moira Ross dated 12th November 2010

Hello Moira,

Yesterday I read a story on Pink News about the possibility of a TV dance programme in the United States including same-sex couples. I commented that I couldn't imagine seeing that happen on Strictly Come Dancing, and then it dawned on me that I could ask the BBC what they thought about the idea.

Look forward to your views on the prospect of including same-sex couples on SCD. Many thanks.

A response from Stuart Macdonald on 24th November 2010:

I'm publicist for Strictly Come Dancing - I understand you were keen to discuss same-sex couples in Strictly. If you'd like to give me a bell I'd be happy to chew the cud with you!

My reply to Stuart the same day, with Cc to Moira Ross:

Rather than discussing the issue I was just curious to find out where the BBC stands. I imagine that there's a certain reluctance to include same sex dance partners because the BBC would be worried that audience reaction to this could be quite negative. But I guess the same would have been true thirty or forty years ago when mixed-race couples first started making an appearance on TV dramas etc.

Earlier in the year Prime Minister David Cameron said: ".. we'll never really tackle homophobic bullying in schools, we'll never tackle homophobic issues in the workplace just by passing laws. It's culture change and behavioural change that is needed as well." So really, as I see it, the ball is in the BBC's court.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Children's Media Conference 2014

The Conference begins this Wednesday, 2nd July.

BAFTA Award winning drama, ‘The Dumping Ground’, continues to resonate with its young audience. Or at least that's what the website says about a conference session entitled BAFTA Creative Masterclass: Laying Foundations for The Dumping Ground. The panel have been asked to examine the programme's "winning formula" by talking about emotional truth, moral and editorial responsibility, and on screen diversity, with reference to specific case studies, including gay adoption and racism.

Presumably the "gay adoption" case study will look at episode 5 from the first series: What Would Gus Want? The episode has been discussed by Newsround Blog on a few occasions, including 26th, 29th and 30th January 2013.

Lesbian couple Ronnie and Dawn (foreground)

Some points the CMC panel might like to consider:

1) Children's programmes which deal with gay themes are extremely rare.

2) The words 'gay' and 'lesbian' were used more than a dozen times in that episode. Those words are never heard on other kids' dramas or, for that matter, on other episodes of The Dumping Ground.

3) It was quite unfortunate that such 'loopy' lesbian characters were portrayed in the episode - all the more so in view of the scarcity of other lesbian and gay portrayal on kids' TV.

4) The arguments against prejudice were made by children, none of whom identified as gay. The result is that, in contrast to the racism storyline, we didn't get to see the hurt caused to children themselves as a result of homophobic attitudes.

5) The BBC children's department is refusing to converse on matters of fair portrayal and representation.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of children grow up in Britain with the realisation they're not primarily attracted to the opposite sex. Such kids might well feel bad about themselves, especially if they're bullied, or if they hear homophobic language at school.

The BBC used to state its purpose is "to enrich the life of every person in the UK with programmes that inform, educate and entertain." That purpose is all very well. But the aim is not achievable unless people see their own lives and feelings represented. And that is something the BBC's children's department has failed to do. In fact CBBC's overwhelmingly heteronormative programming could easily alienate gay kids and do more harm than good.

From The Next Step - kids being fed a diet of heteronomativity

Thankfully some people are making a stand.

Despite the CBBC reality series School for Stars only mentioning straight relationships, former pupil of the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Layton Williams, believes a substantial number of kids at the school are gay. He bravely spoke about his experiences at last year's Stonewall Education for All conference.


Layton Williams gives a keynote address at Stonewall's 2013 Education for All conference

Another hopeful sign was Children's Media Conference debate on the need for inclusion.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Alan Turing was born on 23rd June 1912, exactly 102 years ago today. He died from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41. Whether he committed suicide or was murdered is, today, the subject of some speculation. One thing is for sure, though: Turing was a victim of homophobia. Sixty years later, and with gay people now allowed to get married, it would be nice to think the kind of anti-gay prejudice which led to Turing's death was a thing of the past. But unfortunately that's not the case.

In early 2011 I suggested BBC Children's should do something in time for Turing's centenary year. My email to Joe Godwin dated 10th January 2011 was answered on 24th January 2011 but with no reference to the Turing idea. The Centenary year came and went without any mention of Turing on the CBBC channel or on Newsround's website.

For a while it seemed Turing was persona non grata on CBBC. Then, this year, Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom devoted an entire episode to Alan Turing. But the failure to say anything about his sexuality gives every impression that someone at BBC Children's doesn't believe in equality for lesbian and gay people.

Many biographies of scientists in other episodes from the Absolute Genius series had references to (heterosexual) family relationships, so I asked a few CBBC executives including channel controller, Cheryl Taylor, whether they thought children might benefit from the knowledge that one of Britain's great geniuses and heroes was gay. No-one has ventured to answer that question. To do so would risk the ire of the department boss, whose discriminatory attitude was clear from a quote published in "Portrayal of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People" (November 2012)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

When the first civil partnerships took place in the UK back in 2005 they were seen by many as a big step in the right direction towards equality. It took BBC children's TV many years to catch up and acknowledge the change, but eventually that happened in a Valentine's Day edition of 12 Again, by which time Parliament had begun legislation to allow same sex couples to marry in England and Wales. By summer 2013 that legislation had been completed and received Royal Assent.

The civil partnership episode of Marrying Mum and Dad was repeated again last Sunday, presumably in recognition of Fathers' Day. In relation to a previous repeat of the programme I'd been told (on 3rd April 2014) "For clarity to the audience we will include around that transmission the information that the episode was filmed before the change in law on same sex marriages in England and Wales."

There was no such announcement last Sunday. It seems the BBC children's department is now content to, in effect, tell audiences that gay couples are not entitled to get married.

Tomorrow marks 102 years since the birth of mathematician, WWII codebreaker and computer pioneer Alan Turing. Dr Turing was also an early advocate for the rights of 'homosexuals'.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Banff World Media Festival begins in Canada in just a few hours. One regular attendee from Britain is the BBC's Director of Children's - Joe Godwin. Very few other BBC staff go, though it is by no means clear from his expenses records whether his attendance is actually on behalf of the UK television licence-payer or for some other reason.

Mr Godwin has an important position within the BBC, and few, if any, people in the children's department are prepared to question his authority. Such unbridled power is not necessarily a good thing.

Take, for instance, the issue of diversity.

Most are in favour of treating people of different races as equals. Few programmes shown on the BBC's children's channels ignore the need to represent the racial diversity of this country. But, as we saw in yesterday's blog, things are quite different when it comes to fair treatment of LGBT people. A whole children's programme about the life and work of Alan Turing - and not even a suggestion that he was gay.

Who was responsible for that omission, and was it justified?

Newsround Blog is clear that telling the whole truth about Alan Turing would help thousands of kids who are subjected to homophobic bullying or who are just finding difficulty coming to terms with their sexuality. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was one of the guests on Dateline London yesterday morning (BBC News channel.) Ms Alibhai-Brown had received an email from one such schoolchild.

One of the problems with the BBC children's department is that once you start asking anyone about LGBT diversity it's not long before you hit the buffers. Staff seem scared to show support for LGBT equality. That's why, perhaps, I haven't heard back from Helen Bullough, and why Sarah Muller, Head of CBBC Drama Development and Acquisitions, and Cheryl Taylor, Controller of CBBC, are reluctant to answer my questions. In fact I'm aware that the former Controller of CBBC - now Controller of BBC Daytime - Damian Kavanagh, had been given specific instructions not to answer my enquiries.

According to their website, this year is the 35th Anniversary of the Banff World Media Festival. Joe Godwin is on the Advisory Board for "Kids and Animation" as is Agnes Augustin, CEO of the Shaw Rocket Fund, which as we've seen has little or no interest in supporting LGBT equality. At the time of writing, Joe Godwin's bio on the website states that "As Director of BBC Children's, Joe Godwin is responsible for all of the BBC's services for children on BBC One and BBC Two as well as the dedicated CBBC and CBeebies channels and websites. .." Joe should now advise the Banff people that there aren't any children's services on BBC One and BBC Two.

Saturday, June 07, 2014

Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings. Commemorations of the anniversary took place in France and were widely reported, including by CBBC Newsround. Today is another anniversary - the 60th anniversary of the death of Alan Turing who, together with his colleagues at Bletchley Park, was responsible for the wartime codebreaking work without which more allied troops would have lost their lives.

So what has CBBC Newsround done to honour the work of Turing? The answer is absolutely nothing. Even the 30th anniversary of Tetris has received more coverage. Turing's centenary in 2012 passed without his name being mentioned.

But in March this year Alan Turing was the subject of one episode of a CBBC series about the lives and work of various scientific geniuses. Only, in the case of the programme about Alan Turing, it seems that someone thought kids should not be told that Turing was gay.

Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom - series 2 episode 8 - Alan Turing

Over the last few months Newsround Blog has been investigating why the fact of Alan Turing's sexual orientation was censored. After all it's no secret that black people suffered discrimination and prejudice, so why shouldn't CBBC have mentioned anything about the kind of injustice Alan Turing had to endure?

A good starting point, you might think, would be to ask the series executive producer, Daniel Clarke. Mr Clarke now works with Ian Katz as an assistant editor on BBC2's Newsnight. I emailed Daniel on 17th March 2014 -
As you may already be aware, Alan Turing's sexuality played a significant part in his life, from the inspiration of Christopher Morcom during his teenage years through to the persecution he suffered after the war.

Please could you let me know why last week's edition of Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom, omitted to even mention that Turing was gay? Thanks.

I didn't hear back from Mr Clarke directly, but I did instead get a reply from the Head of CBBC Productions in Salford, Helen Bullough.

I emailed Mr Clarke again on 3rd April 2014 -

I have now heard back from CBBC in respect of the Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom episode which featured Alan Turing. I'm sorry that you did not feel able to respond in person, but assure you that I do understand the difficulties.

The gist of Ms Bullough's reply was that Alan Turing's sexuality wasn't relevant to the story they were telling about coding and computing.

My detailed response on 7th April ended with these points -

.... in relation to the programme about Alan Turing, you say Turing's sexuality wasn't relevant to the particular story you were telling about coding and computing. Surely it was no less significant to the life and work of Turing than was, for example, Henry Fox Talbot's sexuality, implicitly mentioned in last week's episode? But anyway don't you feel that children might perhaps have benefited from the knowledge that one of Britain's great geniuses and heroes was gay?

Ms Bullough has so far declined to answer the questions despite a further request to do so on 30th April 2014.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

My previous blog looked into some of the dubious circumstances behind the BBC's acquisition of The Next Step for showing in the UK.

Yesterday CBBC broadcast episode 12 - "Get It Together" - which gave kids some insight into what the Canadian programme makers think of people here in Britain. At one point Daniel mentioned that he'd watched a YouTube video. He tells viewers: "We're sitting around, um, talking and doing funny accents .."

Daniel talks about doing funny accents

West and James go on to explain the reasons. We then see the dancers' attempts at imitating the "funny" British accent. Riley kicks off with "Allo, allo" and they start laughing -


Next Michelle tries with "Crumpets and tea" which results in further amusement. Riley, possibly mocking polite British manners, or maybe in a nod to Oliver Twist, tries again with "May I please have some more?"

The Next Step dancers laugh at the funny accents

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

It's Not Rocket Science

Did Rocket turn down the chance of dating Bethany Summer solely out of loyalty to his best mate, Dibber? Or was there perhaps some other reason? Time will tell.

But if Rocket doesn't want a relationship with Bethany, another Rocket - the Shaw Rocket Fund - does seem to be in close relationship with some senior people in the BBC children's department. The Shaw Rocket Fund exists to help Canadian TV companies. This is from their website -

The Shaw Rocket Fund is constantly on the lookout for investment opportunities in great television and digital programs that will fuel the imagination and intelligence of Canadian children, youth and families.

Eligible programs are evaluated on creative quality, financial strength, and the values and benefits they provide to the intended target audience, on all platforms. The strongest proposals, based on the evaluation and discretion of the Shaw Rocket Fund, are considered for investment.
Whereas some programmes backed by the Fund - for example Wingin' It and The Next Step - are, to an extent, racially diverse, the same is less true in respect of gay portrayal.

Newsround Blog has made extensive enquires in order to ascertain whether the Rocket Fund takes account of LGBT diversity when it decides which ideas to back. The Fund's non-response to any correspondence on the matter suggests that diversity has played no role in past decisions, and that it's unlikely to in future decisions.

Bearing in mind that the BBC is signed up to the Creative Diversity Network Pledge, it is difficult to understand why senior staff from the children's department have cooperated with the Canadian organisation. At least two senior BBC personnel have either worked as jurors for the Rocket Fund and/or helped out with mentorship and/or worked in an advisory capacity for the Banff Media Festival.

One of the Rocket Fund's panel of international jurors which, last year, nominated The Next Step for an award was also the person responsible for acquiring the programme for CBBC.

The following is an extract from the BBC's policy on expenses -

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.

The Banff World Media Festival begins on 8th June 2014. As in previous years, the 2014 Festival venue will be the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel

Sunday, May 18, 2014

I emailed the BBC children's media people on 17th May 2012, referring to a UNESCO conference which had just been held in Paris dealing with how education can combat homophobia. I asked CBBC whether there were plans to be more LGBT-inclusive and thereby directly or indirectly address the pernicious problem of homophobic bullying.

The response included the following -

BBC Children’s does a lot of work in the field of inclusive portrayal although, bearing in mind the age of our target audience (6-12), it can be challenging to find the right stories and deal with children and their families appropriately and sensitively.

CBBC accepted they hadn't done anything to cover International Day Against Homophobia (and Transphobia.) In mitigation I was told that we don’t do things to cover most ‘international days of’. CBBC said they were actively working on several programme proposals which directly address these issues.

Anyone who watched Newsround's TV bulletins on Friday 16th May 2014 would have seen quite a lot about Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day. He said that every school in every country should arm their kids with the knowledge of food - where it comes from, and how it affects their body. According to Jamie, it's a human right that every child is taught about food. Today it was revealed that Jamie's wealth had risen by £90 million over the last year. The media world can be very rewarding.

Yesterday was International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Newsround, as in every previous year, ignored the event and said nothing.

If you've ever looked at some Canadian children's programmes like Wingin' It and The Next Step, you might well have noticed that they don't include any lesbian and gay characters. Newsround Blog has been investigating why the BBC children's department has purchased these series with disregard for, and seemingly in contravention of the BBC's CDN pledge.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

17th May is fast approaching. And that means it will soon be International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia - IDAHOT.

There has been an important development since IDAHOT 2013. Marriage equality laws were passed in Britain's parliaments. MPs and MSPs backed the legislation despite opposition from some religious authorities as well as a substantial amount of hostile TV news coverage - mainly on the BBC.

When the first marriages took place on 29th March 2014 the story was reported on Newsround, but it was not presented as something worthy of celebration - a victory for human rights and equality which would benefit thousands of viewers in the years to come. Instead Newsround told kids it was a "big change" that had sparked "strong views" as part of what they described as an "argument."

Yesterday the Church of England published a document called Valuing All God’s Children - Guidance for Church of England Schools on Challenging Homophobic Bullying.

Newsround can often be relied upon to report religion-based news; all the more so, you might expect, when that news is directly relevant to many in its target audience. However there seems to be another rule which overrides that convention: Nothing can be reported by Newsround which might possibly be interpreted as in any way helping or supporting gay kids.

So, little sign of embracing equality on Newsround, but what about other programmes on BBC children's TV?

It would be nice to think that Wizards vs Aliens is part of a new strategy to make CBBC more inclusive. For those who don't know, Benny came out as gay in the last episode of series 2. You will, however, notice here that the word 'gay' was not actually spoken.

Newsround Blog has been unable to ascertain whether the third series of Wizards vs Aliens will see Benny in romantic situations with other boys. Whereas CBBC bosses clearly recognise the obvious importance of BAME outreach, it looks like they see lesbian and gay diversity only in terms of dramatic storylines. There is an unwillingness to answer enquiries about LGBT outreach. This might be down to homophobic prejudice, but as we shall see in a future blog, it is also the result of venality.

Recommended Reading Prep for next blog -

1} GayStarNews article about homophobia in Canada

2} Guardian article about the importance of LGBT visibility

Friday, May 02, 2014

Jeremy Clarkson was uncharacteristically contrite yesterday after it was revealed that he'd used a racist word whilst making an episode of Top Gear. To be fair, this Blog has been unable to discern any offending racist word in the recording.

The BBC issued this statement:

Jeremy Clarkson has set out the background to this regrettable episode.
We have made it absolutely clear to him, the standards the BBC expects on air and off.
We have left him in no doubt about how seriously we view this.


According to his colleague and co-presenter, James May, Jeremy Clarkson is not a racist. Mr May added that he wouldn't work with one.

The Top Gear team has previously been accused of racism, and Clarkson has personally been accused of homophobia on more than one occasion. A few months ago he uploaded a picture which referred to him as a gay **** thereby suggesting that making fun of person's sexuality is an OK thing to do. Soon afterwards he deleted the picture and offered a half-hearted and sarcastic apology. The picture is still widely available on the internet, and the person just behind Clarkson looks suspiciously like James May - the very same man who says he wouldn't work with racists.

The yobbish culture at the heart of the BBC (2008)

Monday, April 28, 2014

One of Newsround's main stories yesterday was about the canonisation of two popes. It was reported like this at 9.04am

Jenny: Hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in Rome this morning to witness history being made. It's the very first time two popes will be made saints at the same time. Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be honoured in an open-air ceremony in Vatican City. Up to a million people are expected at the event, with hundreds of millions more watching on TV around the world.

Alan Johnston: Well the Catholic Church has simply never seen a day quite like this in all its 2000 years of history: Two much-loved popes being recognised as saints in the same ceremony, and extraordinarily two living popes presiding over that ceremony. But this is a really huge religious event.

Fairly positive reporting, then, with not even a hint that the canonisation was controversial because of the young people who suffered abuse whilst John Paul II was still in charge, and the fact that he did not act strongly enough to stamp it out.

The two other Newsround reports yesterday were no better -


Alan Johnson explained the ceremony like this - We've just witnessed a hugely important religious event here at the Vatican: Two former popes being made saints. Now to become a saint the Church has to believe not only that you're in heaven, it has to believe also that you're so important there that you can actually persuade God to deliver miracles. In the case of one of these popes - the former Polish pope John Paul II - the Church believes that two women, who were very very ill, prayed to him and were miraculously cured. The Church believes John Paul II cured two women miraculously, and that qualifies him to be a saint ........

Johnston went into quite a lot of detail on the religious beliefs surrounding canonisation, but he failed to tell Newsround viewers that, only days beforehand, a young man named Marco Gusmini was killed when a giant crucifix collapsed on top of him. The really spooky thing about Marco's death is that the crucifix which killed him had been dedicated to John Paul II. So wasn't the Catholic Church worried that Marco dying in those circumstances might cancel out the other miracles? I suspect that neither Alan Johnston, nor any other BBC journalist made enquiries to the Vatican on that score.

Newsround stressed the bit about history being made yesterday. Unfortunately it was nowhere near as positive about another historical event last month - the first same-sex marriages ever to take place in Britain. People might wonder whether the BBC holds its LGBT viewers in lower esteem than those of faith.