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)