Saturday, March 15, 2014

BBC Three discussion programme Free Speech drew criticism this week after the live show on Wednesday evening pulled a debate about "when will it be right to be Muslim and gay?" BBC Three denied it was censorship.

According to a statement from the programme's makers "Discussions took place within two hours of the programme being broadcast live as to the best way to proceed, bearing in mind the security of the mosque and respect for their concerns over offending their community."

Obviously concerns about security would be a police matter, but BBC Three also referred to offending a community. So rather than just simply pull the whole programme, BBC Three chose instead to disaffirm free speech and, at the same time, ignore the potential offence caused to LGBT people, particularly to LGBT Muslims.

A BBC children's programme, that same evening, about the life and work of Alan Turing omitted to mention that Turing was gay. Whereas other episodes in the "Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom" series might perhaps legitimately ignore the sexuality of the featured genius - for example Isaac Newton - in the case of Alan Turing, being gay certainly played a crucial role in his life.

Jean Valentine (right) explains the Turing Bombe to Dick & Dom

However justified or otherwise was the decision by BBC Three, there can be no doubt that BBC children's TV was wrong not to tell kids the truth about Alan Turing. Only one week earlier an episode about Charles Darwin had talked about Darwin's married life and the fact that the couple had ten children.

So why the markedly different biographical treatment? It seems clear that, even now in 2014, some people at the BBC still do not appreciate that being lesbian, gay or bisexual is nothing to be ashamed of. Unfortunately, by omitting reference to Turing's sexuality the BBC is sending out the wrong message to kids.

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