Sunday, February 16, 2014

Clare Balding is one of the BBC's best sports presenters.

Last summer there were calls for the Winter Olympics to be moved from Russia to another country which better upholds human rights. Clare Balding was not amongst those calling for the change of venue. In late July, amid the controversy, Ms Balding tweeted "I'll probably get arrested but yes, I'll be there - best way to enlighten them." Her reply appeared to satisfy some, but Newsround Blog was not at all convinced, believing Ms Balding to be mistaken about the likelihood of arrest. After all, why would the Russians want to squander their big propaganda opportunity by causing what would possibly have resulted in a diplomatic incident?

More recently Clare tweeted "... I’d make more at home, be safer and have an easier life. The reason I’m here is to do my job. Visibility before avoidance #pride"

What has the BBC done in terms of "visibility" to enlighten the Russians? Well the main obstacle, of course, is that Russians are quite unlikely to see BBC TV coverage. So this visibility would have to be achieved by other means, such as messages via the social media. Perhaps Clare, David Bond and other BBC employees in Sochi could tweet messages of support to Russian LGBT youth - that might just give them a glimmer of hope.

Lizzy Yarnold is chuffed to win gold on Valentine's Day

Now I stand to be corrected, but recently I don't believe we've even seen those employees mention LGBT rights and equality on Twitter - unless maybe this tweet about Channel 4 counts. And when Lizzy Yarnold said ".. It's lovely that it's Valentine's Day today ... There's lots of romance in the air .." what better opportunity could there have been for Clare to remind everyone about, and hopefully garner some words of support for, those who are no longer free to express their feelings publicly?

What makes everything worse is the extremely positive and enthusiastic reporting of the Sochi Games by CBBC Newsround. Nothing has ever been said about the cruel discrimination directed against LGBT Russians. Without fair coverage of the facts, Newsround gives its young audience the impression that Russia is an OK kind of country - in other words an unquestioned propaganda victory for Putin.

If Russia treated black people or disabled people in the same way that it treats its gay population, there's no way Newsround would have avoided telling kids the truth. Maybe homophobia in Russia is something they should interview Clare about upon her return to Britain.

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