Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Martin Dougan and Leah Gooding took part in a live webchat last Tuesday afternoon. One of the questioners asked: Is it hard to tell the news when you don't agree with it? How do you get through the situation?

Leah replied: My job is to tell you guys the news. My opinion doesn't count, I have to be fair and unbiased.

Martin responded: I still have to be professional and cover every story the same. I might personally have opinions, but when it comes to working at the BBC, You have to be impartial.

The reality is this ... some stories - the approved ones - get loads of coverage, but as soon as CBBC has any reservations, censorship creeps in.

The start of this morning's bulletin at 7.40am -

Ricky: First up, it's a story that's all over the front and back pages of this morning's papers ...

Ricky's story was about the future of David Moyes.

Another, more relevant, story about the South Korean ferry disaster has still not even been mentioned by Newsround. Perhaps it's been censored because Newsround presenters or their bosses think the news would upset children too much. But there's a very important lesson to be learnt from that story: Should people always do what those in authority say, or should they think for themselves?

When the ferry disaster occurred the captain told passengers to stay in their rooms. Many just took that advice and ended up getting drowned. But others ignored the advice and survived the ordeal.

If News has any real value, surely it's to help us learn from other people's experiences. By failing to report the Ferry story Newsround has done its young viewers a disservice.

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)

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.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The treatment of gay people in Russia was very briefly mentioned by Newsround on Monday morning's TV bulletins (7.40am and 8.20am ) - the day after the Sochi Olympics closing ceremony. Nothing had been said previously.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

In one of his rare TV appearances Lord Hall, the person in day-to-day charge of the BBC said it is "an organisation which increasingly people want to feel involved in, and they should feel involved in, and we should explain ourselves." (Lord Hall - Points of View on Sunday 24th November 2013) But when push comes to shove, neither Lord Hall himself nor other BBC employees seem very happy to do that.

My previous blog as well as my blog on 10th February 2014 illustrate how the BBC has tried to avoid discussion of human rights abuses.

In this interview with IOC president Thomas Bach, BBC Sports correspondent David Bond criticises David Cameron's decision not to attend the Sochi Games - hardly exactly an impartial position for a BBC journalist to take, especially given the circumstances of which we are all aware. But then, as I've noted before in this Blog, David Bond has never really shown any significant interest in the human rights of LGBT people. In this tweet he sneers at AT&T for being one of the few sponsor companies to show support. And a couple of weeks ago he suggested, in an interview with UK Government minister Maria Miller, that Britain helping gay rights organisations "could be seen as quite incendiary."

For those who don't know, BBC Director General, Lord Hall, is a member of the Organising Committee for UK/Russia Year of Culture 2014. Could that be the reason why the BBC's coverage of the Sochi Olympics has been presented in such a positive light? Tony Hall's empathy with Russia might partly explain the bias, but there's also the TV licence fee to consider. Having forked out for the Sochi Games coverage, the BBC wouldn't want viewers to question whether it was right to participate. The answer, therefore, was to show the event in a good light and minimise the issue of human rights abuse.

There are, of course, thousands of other questions that could be asked about BBC's coverage, but why bother? The pusillanimous athletes and Britain's national broadcaster gave Putin exactly the propaganda victory he'd hoped for from the start. Perhaps Channel 4 and the Paralympians will do better?

Martin Luther King Jr, once said "In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Whilst news of the brutal treatment of feminist punk group Pussy Riot was spreading quickly on Twitter yesterday afternoon, the BBC's News channel remained strangely muted on the story. There was, however, a short report on BBC One's flagship News at Six.

George Alagiah: Members of the Russian protest group Pussy Riot have been attacked by Cossack patrolmen at the Winter Olympics in Sochi. The group said they were attacked with pepper spray and beaten as they tried to perform a song. Yesterday two of the group were released after being held on suspicion of theft. They have previously served prison sentences for an anti-government protest in a church in Moscow.

The report lasted 22 seconds in total, of which the last 15 seconds included footage of the incident.

Of particular interest in the way this story was handled on the News at Six is that the most brutal behaviour on the part of the authorities, including the use of horsewhips against the women, were not shown at all. Instead the BBC seemed intent on drawing attention to Pussy Riot's alleged crimes.

The BBC said nothing about this story on its main News at Ten programme last night. Most other UK broadcasters, including Sky News, ITV and Channel 4 reported the story fairly. The video on Sky News' website begins with the warning: Video contains violent images. And Jon Snow warned Channel 4 News viewers about the graphic violence.

So far none of the athletes at the Sochi Games has made a stand against the homophobia and lack of gay rights in Russia. Newsround, too, has yet to mention the issue.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Clare Balding is one of the BBC's best sports presenters.

Last summer there were calls for the Winter Olympics to be moved from Russia to another country which better upholds human rights. Clare Balding was not amongst those calling for the change of venue. In late July, amid the controversy, Ms Balding tweeted "I'll probably get arrested but yes, I'll be there - best way to enlighten them." Her reply appeared to satisfy some, but Newsround Blog was not at all convinced, believing Ms Balding to be mistaken about the likelihood of arrest. After all, why would the Russians want to squander their big propaganda opportunity by causing what would possibly have resulted in a diplomatic incident?

More recently Clare tweeted "... I’d make more at home, be safer and have an easier life. The reason I’m here is to do my job. Visibility before avoidance #pride"

What has the BBC done in terms of "visibility" to enlighten the Russians? Well the main obstacle, of course, is that Russians are quite unlikely to see BBC TV coverage. So this visibility would have to be achieved by other means, such as messages via the social media. Perhaps Clare, David Bond and other BBC employees in Sochi could tweet messages of support to Russian LGBT youth - that might just give them a glimmer of hope.

Lizzy Yarnold is chuffed to win gold on Valentine's Day

Now I stand to be corrected, but recently I don't believe we've even seen those employees mention LGBT rights and equality on Twitter - unless maybe this tweet about Channel 4 counts. And when Lizzy Yarnold said ".. It's lovely that it's Valentine's Day today ... There's lots of romance in the air .." what better opportunity could there have been for Clare to remind everyone about, and hopefully garner some words of support for, those who are no longer free to express their feelings publicly?

What makes everything worse is the extremely positive and enthusiastic reporting of the Sochi Games by CBBC Newsround. Nothing has ever been said about the cruel discrimination directed against LGBT Russians. Without fair coverage of the facts, Newsround gives its young audience the impression that Russia is an OK kind of country - in other words an unquestioned propaganda victory for Putin.

If Russia treated black people or disabled people in the same way that it treats its gay population, there's no way Newsround would have avoided telling kids the truth. Maybe homophobia in Russia is something they should interview Clare about upon her return to Britain.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

From BBC Two Olympic Coverage yesterday (Wed 12th Feb 2014 at about 4.30pm GMT)

Clare Balding: Now it's Day 5 of these Winter Olympics and touch wood, so far, everything is going pretty smoothly. But as you well know, the build-up was dominated by talk of corruption, by talk of security issues, and by talk of gay rights and the attitude of Russians to those in what President Putin calls "non-traditional relationships." He said everyone would be welcome. But he also said there is a ban in this country on homosexual propaganda and paedophilia - and he put them in the same sentence as if, somehow, they are both linked. So what do gay athletes, who are competing here, and indeed those who've come to spectate make of it all? The BBC's news correspondent, David Bond, has this -

The BBC then screened the video on this webpage.

Clare Balding: .. And Belle Brockhoff, goes on Sunday in the Snowboard Cross. We have, in fact already had two openly gay medalists - gold medalist in speed skating - that's Holland's Ireen Wüst and silver in the women's ski jumping yesterday for Daniela Iraschko-Stolz who married her partner and took her partner's surname and that's why it's double barrelled. Our sports editor, David Bond, joins me live now. You've been here for about a week, you've talked to a lot of people, you've been to a lot of places around Sochi. What is your view here of the attitude towards homosexuality?

David Bond: Well so far it's the dog that hasn't barked. Because we were led to believe there would be all sorts of protests, a great deal of controversy in the build-up, and yet I don't think we've really seen anything from any athlete, we haven't seen protests from anyone. There's a protest park about ten miles down the coast where we thought we'd see lots of action. In fact the only people that have been down there have been the Communist Party handing out a few leaflets. So far we haven't had anyone making any sort of overt political statement of any sort. Now that may change in the coming days when athletes start to finish their events and they feel that they're a bit freer to speak. But so far it just hasn't materialised.

Clare Balding: It is very rare at an Olympics for anyone to make a political protest - and in fact I think it is under the IOC rules banned on the podium or though they can make political statements in press conferences afterwards. And the '68 Mexico Olympics was a very very powerful sign on the podium from Tommie Smith and John Carlos. I think Tommie said afterwards in his autobiography - it wasn't a black power salute, it was a human rights salute that he was making.

David Bond talking to Clare Balding in Sochi on 12th Feb 2014

David Bond: Yeah, I think the fact that that is the only one we're still talking about all these years later - and of course things may change here in the coming days - I think that tells you that most athletes come here wanting to just concentrate on their performance. I mean if you look at the comments that Daniela Iraschko-Stolz, who won silver in the women's Ski Jump yesterday made, she said 'look there's no point in making any protests here because no-one in Russia is actually listening, no-one cares.' Now that might be the case but one senses there's a bit of pragmatism around now - that athletes just want to come here and they want to do well.

Clare Balding: But I quite liked Ireen Wüst's take on it. She said that President Putin came to say congratulations to her and she gave him a big cuddle and she made a point of saying two or three times 'he was happy to see me, he had to leave again, but I cuddled him.' And there she is (video clip) winning her gold medal which is in the 3000 metres Speedskating. Now it was very interesting though what Thomas Bach said his speech at the opening ceremony. He's the new president of the IOC. He seemed to deliberately use words that he knew would connect with the rest of the world - the more liberal world one might say. He used words like tolerance, he said we need to live in harmony and that he would not abide discrimination.

David Bond: Yeah, absolutely. I think that's probably the most politically loaded statement we've ever heard from an IOC president in an Opening Ceremony speech. Clearly still very carefully worded - you know the IOC have to be so diplomatic, especially when they come to countries like Russia. But nevertheless it was a very clear message to Russia and the rest of the world that discrimination won't be tolerated. The problem for the IOC president and the IOC is that they only have a very small window to apply any pressure. You know, while the games are on, Russia and Vladimir Putin will listen to the IOC. But the question is 'what happens once the Games are over, and this circus moves on.'

Clare Balding: Sport will come back here. There's gonna be a Formula One Grand Prix here in October. Obviously the Football World Cup is coming to Moscow. Whether any of those other organising bodies will apply anything like the pressure the IOC has done is a moot point.

David Bond: Well I think it's very helpful that the 2018 World Cup is coming to Russia, because clearly it will bring with it the same level of international media attention that the Olympics always brings with it. And I think that the key question is what the IOC does in future about trying to deal with this conundrum which it has. Because on the one hand it is just a sports body and says 'look we can't get involved in politics.' And yet they are a body with ethical and social values as laid down in the Olympic Charter. The problem is those worlds collide and I think these problems are going to continue coming back when they try and take the Games to places with difficult regimes.

Clare Balding: And that is a really interesting point, and I think generally speaking people are divided into two camps - either that the IOC should not choose countries in which human rights are an issue. But as we know from Beijing and obviously from here that's not the case - or whether they do pick the countries that bid and they pick the best bid, and they take the Games into those countries and try to influence through positive imagery, through sport, you know purity of sport. People will fall into two camps in terms of what they think about it. David, thank you so much for now.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Do you remember Thursday 16th May 2013? It was by and large a pretty ordinary day with nothing much happening. In the evening the same old programmes on TV, including of course Question Time. But apparently this was no ordinary Question Time - oh no! For this was the programme when, not for the first time, Philip Hammond chose to voice his opposition to "gay marriage." It turned out that this was such a monumental piece of news that his comments were endlessly being reported the following day on the BBC News channel - and even after 24 hours it was still getting coverage on BBC One's News at Ten.

Clearly BBC news bosses believe that a few words on a late night current affairs panel discussion merit hours of coverage.

However, last Wednesday evening Channel 4 screened an enormously significant investigation into the shocking treatment of gay people in Russia. You would be right to expect that information to receive at least as much coverage as Philip Hammond's negative views on marriage equality. But you'd be very mistaken, because Liz MacKean's documentary was ignored by the Corporation.

Newsround, the following morning -

Newsround on Thursday 6th February 2014 at 7.40am

Perhaps the BBC didn't fancy licence-payers asking how much of our money is being spent on the Sochi games coverage. Because you can be certain that some of that money is finding its way to help prop up the Putin regime and, in so doing, is helping to brutalise Russia's LGBT population.

Did I mention that the Philip Hammond news was broadcast on 17th May - i.e. International Day Against Homophobia?

Friday, February 07, 2014

The BBC's Sochi winter games mountain

Channel 4's Sochi winter games anthem: Gay Mountain

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The first LGBT-relevant story on Newsround this LGBT History Month was about Scotland passing marriage equality legislation. This was how it was reported by Ayshah on the 6.55pm TV bulletin this evening-

Ayshah on Newsround - 4th February 2014 at 6.55pm

Ayshah: First, in the past few minutes Scotland's parliament has voted to allow same sex couples to marry. The final vote passed by 105 votes to 18. But religious groups will be able to opt out of marrying gay couples if they don't agree with it. Same sex marriage became legal in England and Wales in July last year, with the first marriages able to take place from next month. But in Northern Ireland there are no plans to allow it.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Matt Baker and Alex Jones began The One Show last Thursday by giving viewers a few clues about who their first guest was. Apparently the guest had just celebrated her birthday, and one of her birthday presents was a somewhat dated book called "Clare in Television" by Pamela Hawken.

Alex Jones: She's everyone's favourite, and the face of the BBC's Winter Olympics coverage. You've got it, surely. It is, of course, Clare Balding.

Clare Balding: Hello.

Alex Jones: Happy Birthday!

Clare: It was my birthday yesterday. I may mention that many many times. I love my birthday. And therefore I had all my schoolmates and my university friends round for drinks last night to celebrate the very important landmark of 43. So I don't need a special birthday to have a party, I just love my birthday.

Clare Balding on The One Show - 30th January 2014

Matt: Who bought you that book, then?

Clare: Oh Zeb Soanes, who's an announcer on Radio 4. And he found it in an antique bookshop and it's a part of a series that was written in the 1950's about different careers for girls. And so it does all this introduction saying for girls looking for a different career. And this one's all about this girl, Clare, who goes to work - by chance actually - goes to work in television.

Matt: And a similar story to your's actually. When you left university, you didn't want to do this did you?

Clare: No, I didn't Matt! And now I'm so excited. I didn't really know. I wanted to be a writer actually, yeah, in that kind of dreamy way.

Alex: Similar-ish

Clare: Yes, sort of.

Matt: It's happened. You've done a few books, we know that.

Alex: Well we will be quizzing you all about the Winter Olympics very shortly.

Clare: I love a quiz. ....

Later the programme included a recorded item about coming out.

Matt: From March, gay couples in England and Wales will be able to get married, declaring their love, in public, to friends and family.

Alex: But for some people, even choosing to tell loved ones about their sexuality can be a really daunting experience.

We then saw three lesbian and gay people and their mums talk about their experiences. After that Matt and Alex chatted to Clare about what it's like for gay people today.

Clare didn't feel that acceptance is a generational thing. Alice's parents (Clare's father-law and mother-in-law) had been very supportive and accepting. Clare believed, however, that parents sometimes had a sense of shame and were embarrassed on behalf of their kids.

Clare: The great thing about not feeling shame is you have the freedom to really enjoy love as love should be enjoyed. And that is with all your friends, with all your family. You know, being able to talk about it at work - or not - if you don't want to. Because some people don't like talking about, you know, whatever relationship they're in.

Alex: And as a society, generally speaking we've come a pretty long way accepting same sex relationships when you compare it to the 1950's when people were put in jail for being gay.

Clare: Well even 10 years ago ... it was still illegal to be gay in the armed forces. And 10 years ago we still had very stringent restrictions on what teachers could say in schools. And I think there's still a hangover of that that some teachers feel that they have to hide their sexuality.

Alex: But do you think we've come far enough then, Clare?

Clare: Well equal marriage is a very exciting development. And that will come very soon, in March. And that, again, that's just affirmation of couples being able to be the same as everybody else and that is, I think, wonderful and joyful. ...

Matt: But I mean there's been real controversy, hasn't there, over recent Russian laws which are seen as being widely anti-gay? Was there ever a point when you thought to yourself "well I'm not gonna go"

Clare: Well to be honest it would be an awful lot easier to stay at home. I'm in a very lucky position, I'm not short of work at the moment. So I wouldn't have been idle. But I think it's terribly important - I believe in equality and I believe in freedom - and I therefore believe in the right for people to do the job that they do without fear of prejudice, without fear of recrimination on any basis, whether that's race, religion, gender or sexuality. So for me to go to Russia - a country that doesn't yet believe that, and hasn't got there yet, my statement is "Here am I, one of the three main presenters for the BBC on the Winter Olympics. And I am out and I am proud and I am happy and I'm doing my job." And I think that's a stronger statement to make, for me personally, than to stay here. Because frankly if I stayed here no-one in Russia's gonna notice!

Alex: No. It's a protest in itself, isn't it?

Clare: Exactly. And I think President Obama and his delegation, you know, picking very high profile 'out' gay former athletes like Billie Jean King, that's him trying to make the same sort of statement. ... Boycotts have worked effectively in some situations - but you all need to be doing it. It's not just about one individual, and certainly not about the one gay presenter not going. ....

Most of the rest of the chat turned to the games and the chances of Team GB doing well. The BBC's tagline for the Winter Olympics is Nature. Who will conquer it?

Clare Balding has a presence on Twitter, and six months ago she was asked whether shd'd be going to Russia. Clare suggested her attendance would be the best way to enlighten the Russians. Yesterday, the start of LGBT History Month, Clare confirmed her decision in a tweeted reply to Newsround Blog.

Whether or not Clare's method of protest changes the minds of Russians remains to be seen. Some programmes, such as BBC Panorama and Dispatches on Channel 4 - but regrettably not CBBC Newsround - are presenting viewers with a fuller picture of what these games are really about.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Given the significant number of Newsround reports relating to the forthcoming winter games in Sochi, it is quite disappointing to note that the programme has been almost completely silent about homophobia - and not just in Russia.

The issue is, however, concerning the UK Government, as was clear from a report last night on the BBC's News at Ten.

Huw Edwards on BBC News at Ten

Huw Edwards: The Government is to give extra funding to gay rights groups, including Stonewall, operating in Russia. The Winter Olympics start next Friday in the Russian resort of Sochi. But the hostile attitude of the authorities, including a law against the promotion of homosexuality, has overshadowed much of the lead-up to the games. The BBC has learned that the Culture Secretary is to step up British support for gay campaigners amid concerns that homophobic attacks are increasing. This report by our sports editor, David Bond, does contain some images of violence.

David Bond: It was hardly the sort of day for an outdoor performance of Swan Lake. But these ballet dancers outside the Russian Embassy in West London this morning were part of a demonstration against the law which they say oppresses gay people. Today the minister representing the UK Government in Sochi said they wanted to do more to help those calling for change.

Maria Miller: We're already putting in place additional support to make sure that gay rights organisations have got the sort of support and expertise that I think can make a real difference in the work that they're doing on the ground in Russia.

David Bond: This could be seen as quite incendiary though, couldn't it?

David Bond with Maria Miller -Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Maria Miller: I think it's important that we state very clearly that as a country we believe in freedom of speech. We believe in the importance of universal human rights.

Video of protest being violently suppressed by Russian ОМОН police (Отряд мобильный особого назначения)

David Bond: The British Government is channeling funds and support for protests like this through action groups like Stonewall. Activists in Russia welcomed the UK's move.

Nikolai Bayev: The more countries like the United Kingdom provide us with such support the better our fight against homophobia will be here in Russia.

David Bond's report went on to show extremist video footage posted online of gay people being tortured.

David Bond: The Russian president, Vladimir Putin sees the Sochi games as an opportunity to impose Russia on the world stage, projecting him as a leader of a modern and powerful nation. But the very public debate about gay rights has left many wondering whether Putin's Russia is actually going backwards.

Australian snowboarder, Belle Brockhoff, said she wanted to go to Sochi to show that she wasn't intimidated.

David Bond: All Olympics come with political noise. Sochi has had more than most. And how Russia tackles this question of gay rights will have a big bearing on whether the games are seen as a success.

Monday, January 27, 2014

One of today's main stories on Newsround was about Holocaust Memorial Day.

From the 7.40am bulletin -

Leah: Today people in the UK will remember the six million Jews and other people killed by the German Nazi Party during the second world war. Services are taking place all around the country as part of National Holocaust Memorial Day. And I've been looking at what it means.

Leah explained the significance of Holocaust Memorial Day and talked to two refugees, Henry and Ingrid, who, along with a few thousand other children left Nazi Germany as refugees before the war. Henry and Ingrid spoke of their experiences to kids at a school assembly in South Lanarkshire. And afterwards Newsround interviewed some of the kids -

"It was really eye-opening hearing Ingrid's and Henry's story"

"Quite emotional when you saw how important this was to them, and how they thought it was important to spread the message"

".. it was real life, and real people."

From the 4.20pm bulletin -

Ricky: Services have been taking place across the world today as part of the National Holocaust Day memorial day. It's to remember the six million Jews and other people killed by the German Nazi Party during the second world war, over 70 years ago. Ayshah's been finding out what it all means.

Ayshah: It's never easy to think about World War II, but it's important to understand what happened and make sure it's never forgotten. During the war Germany was ruled by the Nazis - a racist government led by Adolf Hitler. He believed people from certain religions or races were inferior, and wanted to get rid of them. ...

Ayshah said that learning about the terrible things that happened in history can help us try and prevent them from happening again.

Perhaps it would have been a good idea for Newsround to include a bit more about the ideology which led to the terrible events of the Holocaust - the demonisation of certain groups in society, and the failure to stand up to racism and other forms of prejudice.