Thursday, April 17, 2014

The BBC appears unwilling to explain the reason for having an exceptionally early deadline for applications to take part in series 3 of Marrying Mum and Dad. Here are some possibly relevant details.

Marrying Mum and Dad deadline for applications to take part in series 1 was 29th February 2012. The first series - which did not include any civil partnerships - was recorded over the next four months or so, and screened on weekdays the same year beginning on Monday 13 August 2012.

The Scottish Government had announced its plans to allow same sex marriage on 25th July 2012, and on 11th December 2012 the UK Government confirmed its intention to legislate for marriage equality in England and Wales.

On Christmas Day 2012 BBC News led with an item about religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Marrying Mum and Dad deadline for applications to take part in series 2 was 22nd January 2013. One of the programme's main researchers went to some lengths in order to try and get same-sex couples to apply: "... I’ve been sending out this information to various different organisations, for families to be involved. I’m really keen to have a same sex couple appear on the show as my sisters and I were raised by two mums, and understand the importance of having more diverse families shown on television ..."

CBBC was successful in their aim, and the civil partnership took place on 1st June 2013 - almost two weeks after equal marriage legislation had passed all its stages in the House of Commons and after David Cameron had told the BBC that there will be young children "in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bullied, who are worried about what society thinks of them, who can see that the highest parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anyone else's love, and that we believe in equality. And I think that they'll stand that bit taller today, and I'm proud of the fact that that has happened. ... "

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was given Royal Assent on 17th July 2013 and the Government said marriages for England and Wales would begin in 2014 - the exact start date would be given before the end of 2013.

The civil partnership episode of Marrying Mum and Dad was the last series 2 episode to be recorded, but was broadcast as episode 6 on Monday 12th August 2013.

After series 2 ended CBBC sought out more families to take part in series 3. This time however they seemed somewhat less willing to hear from same sex couples. The "Get Involved" promos didn't even mention civil partnerships. And this time the deadline for taking part was 30th September 2013 - about 4 months earlier than it had been for series 1 & 2, even though filming was scheduled to take place at an equivalent time of year as the previous series.

So the question arises as to whether the BBC was interested in filming same sex-marriages. If they were, then why such an early deadline?

Newsround Blog investigations of this matter have been quite thorough. On 8th October 2013 I enquired as follows -

... I was interested to know whether you were looking for same sex couples to take advantage of the new equality. The deadline for applications for series 3 was some four months earlier than it was for the first two series. Was there any special reason for such an early deadline, and is there any possibility that the deadline could be extended in order to, perhaps, include a same sex marriage? ...

The same researcher who'd previously been so keen on diversity now seemed a lot less interested in the idea of CBBC covering a same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriages took place for the first time in Britain on Saturday 29th March 2014. The repeat of CBBC's civil partnership episode of Marrying Mum and Dad was pulled on 31st March 2014, but was broadcast at 10am and 1.15pm on Monday 14th April 2014. The terms "civil partner" or "civil partnership" are heard no less than eighteen times throughout the episode. A short while after the programme ended on Monday there was a brief announcement that two men or two women can now marry in England and Wales. There was no such announcement before or after Monday's 1.15pm afternoon repeat (which included signing for the deaf)

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