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.

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