Sunday, March 30, 2014

Last year the BBC Trust carried out its Children's Service Review. Part of my response was as follows -

Marrying Mum & Dad is a reality TV series in which children help to plan their parents' marriage or civil partnership. The first series, which did not include any civil partnerships, was transmitted last August. A second series was commissioned a few months afterwards - an insensitive and crass thing to do, with equal marriage rights so much in the spotlight.

CBBC has, it seems, now pulled tomorrow's scheduled 'civil partnership' episode of Marrying Mum and Dad, and replaced it with an episode from the first series.

I am still awaiting answers to my enquiries relating to the very early deadline which was imposed on applications to take part in the third series. Series 3 is being filmed at the moment.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Gay couples were legally entitled to marry in England and Wales from 00:00am on Saturday 29th March 2014. The story was reported on Friday evening's Newsround bulletin (4.20pm) -

Martin Dougan: From tomorrow same-sex couples will be able to get married for the first time in England and Wales. Up until now gay couples have been able to have a civil partnership, which is similar to marriage but doesn't give all the same rights. Some religious groups say they're not happy with the changes, and will not carry out gay weddings. Scotland's also announced plans to make same-sex marriage legal too in the future, but there are no such plans in Northern Ireland.

Currently there is no later bulletin on Friday evenings. News of the first same-sex marriages was also reported on Saturday 29th March 2014 on all three bulletins. It was the second item at 8.55am -

Ricky Boleto: A big change to laws in England and Wales came in overnight. Same-sex couples are now allowed to get married. Martin has been looking into the change, which has sparked some strong views.

(recorded report) Martin Dougan: Just after midnight these people were celebrating getting married. Up until now, two men or two women have not been allowed to marry each other. But now the law has changed. But while there were celebrations for those getting married, not everyone is happy with the change. Those against it, including many religious groups, say that marriage has been between a man and woman for hundreds of years and shouldn't be altered. Up until today same-sex couples could only have a civil partnership which gives similar rights but isn't exactly the same rights as marriage. But despite the change in the law, it will be up to the individual religious organisations to choose whether or not they want to hold ceremonies for gay people. Some, like the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church, say they will not marry gay couples. Attitudes to gay people vary across the world. Sixteen countries currently allow same-sex marriage, but in others such as Iran and Nigeria it's illegal for a man to have a relationship with a man, or a woman with a woman. Scotland has also passed a law to make gay marriage legal, but there are no plans to do the same in Northern Ireland.

Gay marriage was reported as the first story on both the midday and 2pm Saturday editions of Newsround. The midday & 2pm reports were both introduced as follows -

Ricky Boleto: First to a big change to the law in England and Wales that came in overnight. Same-sex couples are now allowed to get married. Martin has been looking into the change, which has sparked some strong views from people on both sides of the argument.

Martin's report is also on the website.

Monday, March 24, 2014

This is a momentous week for celebrating equality and human rights. Because on Saturday we will see the first ever same sex marriages take place in Britain.

It is interesting to note that CBBC has scheduled repeats of Marrying Mum and Dad (series 2) on weekdays at 2.15pm, and that the episode featuring a civil partnership is due to be screened on Monday 31st March, by which time LGB same-sex couples in England and Wales will be legally entitled to marry.

On 28th July 2013, some two weeks before its first transmission, I advised CBBC's Creative Director to ensure the civil partnership episode would be relevant : ".. I'm sure you're aware that new legislation in England and Wales will mean that same-sex couples will actually be allowed to marry next year. Scotland is almost certain to follow suit. .."

Hopefully the Stonewall-award-winning episode, if shown again, will be, or has already been updated to take account of marriage equality advances.

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.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

A statue of Alan Turing was unveiled by Bletchley Park in 2007 shortly before what would have been his 95th birthday. A press release was issued, but there was no mention of the fact that Turing was gay.

Bletchley Park's director at the time, Simon Greenish, explained "the press release relates entirely to his invaluable work during the war years and is not in any way an attempt to whitewash his sexuality. This isn’t to say that his sexuality isn’t important in the overall story of the man and that he wasn’t treated abominably in later years. However, with very limited funds and resources, the Park is not able to tell the full life stories of the many heroes and heroines who made such a difference to the outcome of the war."

Shortly afterwards Greenish apologised and acknowledged that it was a missed opportunity. The original press release was then amended to include the relevant information.

Alan Turing was the subject of yesterday's episode of CBBC's Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom. There was no mention of Turing's sexual orientation which, of course, played such an important role throughout much of his teenage and adult life.

Newsround Blog may review CBBC's Alan Turing progamme in more detail at a later date.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Tony Hall has decided that BBC Three will become an online service only, in one of the most significant decisions he's made since taking over as director general almost a year ago. The change is designed to make cost savings which, he says, can be used to help fund drama on BBC One.

True to form, Lord Hall avoided the tough scrutiny of programmes such as Newsnight, preferring instead to subject himself to interviews by the likes of BBC media correspondent David Sillito and Radio 1 Newsbeat presenter Chris Smith.

Evening Standard journalist Nick Curtis was also granted an interview. Mr Curtis said that it was "either bravery or folly" that Tony Hall had agreed to talk to him. Mr Curtis concluded his piece with the belief that Tony Hall was "more brave than foolish."

Whilst this was undoubtedly one of Lord Hall's more difficult times, a far more demanding test will be the publication of Dame Janet Smith's Report later in the year. Any attempt to avoid the thorough scrutiny needed for that would make the DG look enervated.

Monday, March 03, 2014

The latest episode of The Dumping Ground, 'Sticks and Stones' was about the distress caused by racial abuse. Two of the show's stars were interviewed by Newsround on Friday morning at 7.40am, and the subject of racism in football also featured in the 8.20am bulletin.

Story outline

Although the central theme of this episode is 'racism' it is seen against a backdrop of career prospects and other aims in life. Bailey clearly wants to be a professional footballer, whilst Carmen aims to set herself up in the nail salon business. Johnny has no idea what he wants to do. And Rick's aim is to find himself a girlfriend.

Racism plot

Bailey is preparing for a football match which could help him start on the long road to becoming a professional footballer. May-Li is keen to take Bailey to the training match because she wants to get Viv Anderson's autograph. Viv, played by himself, is at the match to talent-scout.

At the start of the football match the coach, Mr Jenkins, tells the players they are there to be assessed. But Bailey just wants to get on with the game and asks Mr Jenkins why he's still talking. Viv Anderson then makes a short speech of his own, but Bailey walks away as if not interested. Viv tells Bailey that he needs to learn some manners, and also rebukes Mike for not teaching Bailey to respect others.

Bailey does quite well in the match but makes one slip-up allowing the opposing team to score a goal. Jenkins walks on to the pitch, determined to chide Bailey for the error.

Jenkins: What is your problem?

Bailey: I scored four goals, man

Jenkins: Yeah, and you let them score five in return

Bailey: It's not my fault the defenders are rubbish

Jenkins: Nothing's ever your fault, is it?!

Bailey: Why are you always on my case?

Jenkins: I'm on your case because you're wasting your talent. You've got bags of ability but you haven't got it up here (points to head)

Jenkins: I've seen it with your type before - a million times.

Jenkins moves over to Bailey and whispers something in his ear. Viv suspects, and asks Bailey if he's OK. Bailey replies, unconvincingly "Yeah, why wouldn't I be?"

Shortly afterwards one of the other boys taunts Bailey by suggesting that he's not a team player: "It's called a team game for a reason. Saying that, your type doesn't care about that."

Bailey angrily replies "What's 'my type' ?" and a brief altercation ensues and Jenkins tells Bailey to go.

Back home, Bailey is reluctant to talk about what happened, but Faith insists he tell her the truth - "It's what he called me ..." sobs Bailey

We then see a brief animation with Bailey on the football pitch as a huge foot comes from above. A giant Mr Jenkins stamps on him, crushing him into the ground.

Bailey is persuaded to explain what happened to Mike and May-li. He confirms the racist remark, but adds "I'm black, and this stuff happens." Bailey admits that he can wind people up sometimes. Mike and the others emphasise that does not in any way justify what Mr Jenkins said.

Mike confronts Mr Jenkins, who eventually fesses up.

Bailey is downhearted thinking he's blown his chance to become a professional footballer. But then Viv turns up with Mike. Viv says "Remember, Bailey, the moment you quit, the bigots and the racists win. I went through this many many years ago."

So Bailey is given another chance to prove himself.