Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Royal Television Society, according to its current CEO, Theresa Wise, has a strong orientation towards young people, particularly students and those endeavouring to get into and get on in television.

The RTS is clearly set on its members' interests and helping people get jobs in TV. High-quality TV seems to be a lesser priority. Take, for example, the RTS Programme Awards, announced at a ceremony last Tuesday.

The three programmes nominated for Best Children's Programme were

Lily's Driftwood Bay: Goodbye Seabird
The Dumping Ground
My Life: I Am Leo

Lily's Driftwood Bay is a series of colourful 7-minute long animated stories featuring Lily and her friends. It is aimed at young children, and the nominated episode, Goodbye Seabird broaches the topic of bereavement in an age-appropriate and entirely sensitive way. Of the three nominations, Lily's Driftwood Bay was by far the most deserving of the RTS award. It ill-behoves the Royal Television Society that Lily's Driftwood Bay was not awarded the prize.

Second in line should surely have been The Dumping Ground. The CBBC series is well-meaning and reasonably inclusive, though, as yet, none of the resident kids has identified as lesbian or gay.

The winner of the RTS award went to CBBC's My Life: I Am Leo. The documentary is about a child who was born as a girl, and originally named Lily, but who wants to live as a male called Leo.

CBBC's documentary is, according to RTS, an uplifting piece of TV, but the programme has been criticised by many on the internet and social media. The documentary was problematic, and shouldn't have been nominated for any awards.

One of the main issues is that the programme, with its irresponsible use of pseudoscience, might easily impose or reinforce gender stereotypes on potentially vulnerable gender-non-conforming children, some of whom will be lesbian, gay or bisexual.

A better approach would be to let kids know that gender equality means they don't need to look or behave in any particular way. Gender pigeonholing is anti-diversity and exactly NOT the message BBC children's TV should be promoting.

Leo: "I think I might be in love with Holly Willoughby"

Lastly it's worth pointing out the role of Leo's mum in what is going on. ITV's This Morning has been intent on promoting Leo's story for a while now. In this interview Leo's mum, Hayley, says "If Leo could have had those [hormone blockers] at [age] 9, I would have happily let him have them. As it happened, because he had to start into puberty, I mean he will still have to face a certain amount of surgery ..."

So it seems that, hormone blockers or not, Leo's mum already had her child's future mapped out: He will face surgery when he's older. Anyone could be forgiven for questioning whether that mother really has her child's best interests at heart.

See also: UK CBBC Children’s TV: I Am Leo

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