Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ofcom has decided that the Top Gear Burma Special (BBC Two on 16 March 2014 at 8pm) was a breach of its Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context .....

The BBC had defended use of the term 'slope' as follows:

When we used the word ‘slope’ in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it.

We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word ‘slope’ is considered by some to be offensive and although it might not be widely recognised in the UK, we appreciate that it can be considered offensive to some here and overseas, for example in Australia and the USA.

If we had known that at the time we would not have broadcast the word in this context and regret any offence caused.


The 'joke' went like this (YouTube) -

Jeremy Clarkson: “That is a proud moment…but…there is a slope on it.”

Richard Hammond picked up from there: “You are right…[pointing]…it is definitely higher on that side.”

Hammond's barely stifled amusement reveals he was working in cahoots with Clarkson, and was equally culpable. As far as I know, he's escaped criticism.

Common sense, you would think, dictates that any word, whether or not pejorative, used to describe the race or other characteristic of a human being was inappropriate in this context. For example "there is a Muslim on it" or "there is an African on it." The BBC admitted they were aware that 'slope' referred to an Asian man.

To be fair, a few years ago, some of Ofcom's own judgements were no better. Here in a 2007 edition of Broadcast Bulletin, for example, the Regulator cites Friday Night with Jonathan Ross to help invalidate complaints about a homophobic term used on Big Brother.

Guardian (commentisfree - Carmen Fishwick): The BBC not acting on Clarkson’s racist comment shows its disregard for us

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Commonwealth Games are about to start in Glasgow, the home town of Newsround reporter and disability rights campaigner, Martin Dougan.

Martin's report this morning explained what the Commonwealth is supposed to be about.

Martin: .. Many years ago Britain controlled lots of countries as part of something called the British Empire. Although these countries are now independent, they have chosen to become part of the Commonwealth. It's a group of countries across the world which signs up to a set of values including democracy, law and human rights. ..




Martin fails to tell kids that many of those countries breach the human rights of LGBT people.

This morning's 8.55am bulletin also included Martin reporting live from Glasgow. I suspect he would be less enthusiastic about these Games if some of those Commonwealth countries routinely imprisoned disabled people. But then CBBC, like so many Commonwealth countries, seems to have little time for the equal rights of LGBT people.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Does Disney's animated film Frozen have a pro-gay agenda? That topic was widely discussed elsewhere earlier in the year, including in this BBC blog. Certainly the lyrics from "Let it Go" are about empowerment, and could be seen as referring to the process of coming out. Take a look at these words, for instance:

Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know!

Gold-medal-winning Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe is 31. For half his life he struggled to keep his sexuality secret, and drove himself deeper into depression with every denial. Last week he came out to Michael Parkinson in a TV interview. He said he'd been concerned about the reaction from his friends and family.

Well, now they know!

Ian said he doesn't want other young people to feel the same way that he did.

So has CBBC now come round to supporting and empowering ALL kids regardless of sexual orientation? Was Ian Thorpe's disclosure just the spur CBBC needed to change? Could it explain why Newsround has spent time publicising the Disney animation, Frozen? It's been mentioned in all Friday's and all Saturday's TV bulletins.

Regrettably the truth is less encouraging: BBC Children's has symbiotic relationships with various media groups and/or personnel. Frozen is still being shown in lots of UK cinemas, and, with school holidays approaching, what better way to increase box office receipts than to promote it on children's TV?

Working hand in glove with commercial organisations is rarely consistent with the best interests of children, but perhaps promoting Frozen is the exception.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The British Dance Council is considering banning same sex couples from competing in some ballroom dancing competitions. I wrote to the BBC about Strictly Come Dancing in November 2010. Moira Ross was the programme's Executive Producer. Below is the substantive part of correspondence -

Email to Moira Ross dated 12th November 2010

Hello Moira,

Yesterday I read a story on Pink News about the possibility of a TV dance programme in the United States including same-sex couples. I commented that I couldn't imagine seeing that happen on Strictly Come Dancing, and then it dawned on me that I could ask the BBC what they thought about the idea.

Look forward to your views on the prospect of including same-sex couples on SCD. Many thanks.

A response from Stuart Macdonald on 24th November 2010:

I'm publicist for Strictly Come Dancing - I understand you were keen to discuss same-sex couples in Strictly. If you'd like to give me a bell I'd be happy to chew the cud with you!

My reply to Stuart the same day, with Cc to Moira Ross:

Rather than discussing the issue I was just curious to find out where the BBC stands. I imagine that there's a certain reluctance to include same sex dance partners because the BBC would be worried that audience reaction to this could be quite negative. But I guess the same would have been true thirty or forty years ago when mixed-race couples first started making an appearance on TV dramas etc.

Earlier in the year Prime Minister David Cameron said: ".. we'll never really tackle homophobic bullying in schools, we'll never tackle homophobic issues in the workplace just by passing laws. It's culture change and behavioural change that is needed as well." So really, as I see it, the ball is in the BBC's court.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Children's Media Conference 2014

The Conference begins this Wednesday, 2nd July.

BAFTA Award winning drama, ‘The Dumping Ground’, continues to resonate with its young audience. Or at least that's what the website says about a conference session entitled BAFTA Creative Masterclass: Laying Foundations for The Dumping Ground. The panel have been asked to examine the programme's "winning formula" by talking about emotional truth, moral and editorial responsibility, and on screen diversity, with reference to specific case studies, including gay adoption and racism.

Presumably the "gay adoption" case study will look at episode 5 from the first series: What Would Gus Want? The episode has been discussed by Newsround Blog on a few occasions, including 26th, 29th and 30th January 2013.

Lesbian couple Ronnie and Dawn (foreground)

Some points the CMC panel might like to consider:

1) Children's programmes which deal with gay themes are extremely rare.

2) The words 'gay' and 'lesbian' were used more than a dozen times in that episode. Those words are never heard on other kids' dramas or, for that matter, on other episodes of The Dumping Ground.

3) It was quite unfortunate that such 'loopy' lesbian characters were portrayed in the episode - all the more so in view of the scarcity of other lesbian and gay portrayal on kids' TV.

4) The arguments against prejudice were made by children, none of whom identified as gay. The result is that, in contrast to the racism storyline, we didn't get to see the hurt caused to children themselves as a result of homophobic attitudes.

5) The BBC children's department is refusing to converse on matters of fair portrayal and representation.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Hundreds of thousands of children grow up in Britain with the realisation they're not primarily attracted to the opposite sex. Such kids might well feel bad about themselves, especially if they're bullied, or if they hear homophobic language at school.

The BBC used to state its purpose is "to enrich the life of every person in the UK with programmes that inform, educate and entertain." That purpose is all very well. But the aim is not achievable unless people see their own lives and feelings represented. And that is something the BBC's children's department has failed to do. In fact CBBC's overwhelmingly heteronormative programming could easily alienate gay kids and do more harm than good.

From The Next Step - kids being fed a diet of heteronomativity

Thankfully some people are making a stand.

Despite the CBBC reality series School for Stars only mentioning straight relationships, former pupil of the Italia Conti Academy of Theatre Arts, Layton Williams, believes a substantial number of kids at the school are gay. He bravely spoke about his experiences at last year's Stonewall Education for All conference.


Layton Williams gives a keynote address at Stonewall's 2013 Education for All conference

Another hopeful sign was Children's Media Conference debate on the need for inclusion.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Alan Turing was born on 23rd June 1912, exactly 102 years ago today. He died from cyanide poisoning at the age of 41. Whether he committed suicide or was murdered is, today, the subject of some speculation. One thing is for sure, though: Turing was a victim of homophobia. Sixty years later, and with gay people now allowed to get married, it would be nice to think the kind of anti-gay prejudice which led to Turing's death was a thing of the past. But unfortunately that's not the case.

In early 2011 I suggested BBC Children's should do something in time for Turing's centenary year. My email to Joe Godwin dated 10th January 2011 was answered on 24th January 2011 but with no reference to the Turing idea. The Centenary year came and went without any mention of Turing on the CBBC channel or on Newsround's website.

For a while it seemed Turing was persona non grata on CBBC. Then, this year, Absolute Genius with Dick and Dom devoted an entire episode to Alan Turing. But the failure to say anything about his sexuality gives every impression that someone at BBC Children's doesn't believe in equality for lesbian and gay people.

Many biographies of scientists in other episodes from the Absolute Genius series had references to (heterosexual) family relationships, so I asked a few CBBC executives including channel controller, Cheryl Taylor, whether they thought children might benefit from the knowledge that one of Britain's great geniuses and heroes was gay. No-one has ventured to answer that question. To do so would risk the ire of the department boss, whose discriminatory attitude was clear from a quote published in "Portrayal of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual People" (November 2012)

Sunday, June 22, 2014

When the first civil partnerships took place in the UK back in 2005 they were seen by many as a big step in the right direction towards equality. It took BBC children's TV many years to catch up and acknowledge the change, but eventually that happened in a Valentine's Day edition of 12 Again, by which time Parliament had begun legislation to allow same sex couples to marry in England and Wales. By summer 2013 that legislation had been completed and received Royal Assent.

The civil partnership episode of Marrying Mum and Dad was repeated again last Sunday, presumably in recognition of Fathers' Day. In relation to a previous repeat of the programme I'd been told (on 3rd April 2014) "For clarity to the audience we will include around that transmission the information that the episode was filmed before the change in law on same sex marriages in England and Wales."

There was no such announcement last Sunday. It seems the BBC children's department is now content to, in effect, tell audiences that gay couples are not entitled to get married.

Tomorrow marks 102 years since the birth of mathematician, WWII codebreaker and computer pioneer Alan Turing. Dr Turing was also an early advocate for the rights of 'homosexuals'.

Sunday, June 08, 2014

The Banff World Media Festival begins in Canada in just a few hours. One regular attendee from Britain is the BBC's Director of Children's - Joe Godwin. Very few other BBC staff go, though it is by no means clear from his expenses records whether his attendance is actually on behalf of the UK television licence-payer or for some other reason.

Mr Godwin has an important position within the BBC, and few, if any, people in the children's department are prepared to question his authority. Such unbridled power is not necessarily a good thing.

Take, for instance, the issue of diversity.

Most are in favour of treating people of different races as equals. Few programmes shown on the BBC's children's channels ignore the need to represent the racial diversity of this country. But, as we saw in yesterday's blog, things are quite different when it comes to fair treatment of LGBT people. A whole children's programme about the life and work of Alan Turing - and not even a suggestion that he was gay.

Who was responsible for that omission, and was it justified?

Newsround Blog is clear that telling the whole truth about Alan Turing would help thousands of kids who are subjected to homophobic bullying or who are just finding difficulty coming to terms with their sexuality. Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was one of the guests on Dateline London yesterday morning (BBC News channel.) Ms Alibhai-Brown had received an email from one such schoolchild.

One of the problems with the BBC children's department is that once you start asking anyone about LGBT diversity it's not long before you hit the buffers. Staff seem scared to show support for LGBT equality. That's why, perhaps, I haven't heard back from Helen Bullough, and why Sarah Muller, Head of CBBC Drama Development and Acquisitions, and Cheryl Taylor, Controller of CBBC, are reluctant to answer my questions. In fact I'm aware that the former Controller of CBBC - now Controller of BBC Daytime - Damian Kavanagh, had been given specific instructions not to answer my enquiries.

According to their website, this year is the 35th Anniversary of the Banff World Media Festival. Joe Godwin is on the Advisory Board for "Kids and Animation" as is Agnes Augustin, CEO of the Shaw Rocket Fund, which as we've seen has little or no interest in supporting LGBT equality. At the time of writing, Joe Godwin's bio on the website states that "As Director of BBC Children's, Joe Godwin is responsible for all of the BBC's services for children on BBC One and BBC Two as well as the dedicated CBBC and CBeebies channels and websites. .." Joe should now advise the Banff people that there aren't any children's services on BBC One and BBC Two.

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.

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 of 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)

Monday, April 28, 2014

One of Newsround's main stories yesterday was about the canonisation of two popes. It was reported like this at 9.04am

Jenny: Hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in Rome this morning to witness history being made. It's the very first time two popes will be made saints at the same time. Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be honoured in an open-air ceremony in Vatican City. Up to a million people are expected at the event, with hundreds of millions more watching on TV around the world.

Alan Johnston: Well the Catholic Church has simply never seen a day quite like this in all its 2000 years of history: Two much-loved popes being recognised as saints in the same ceremony, and extraordinarily two living popes presiding over that ceremony. But this is a really huge religious event.

Fairly positive reporting, then, with not even a hint that the canonisation was controversial because of the young people who suffered abuse whilst John Paul II was still in charge, and the fact that he did not act strongly enough to stamp it out.

The two other Newsround reports yesterday were no better -


Alan Johnson explained the ceremony like this - We've just witnessed a hugely important religious event here at the Vatican: Two former popes being made saints. Now to become a saint the Church has to believe not only that you're in heaven, it has to believe also that you're so important there that you can actually persuade God to deliver miracles. In the case of one of these popes - the former Polish pope John Paul II - the Church believes that two women, who were very very ill, prayed to him and were miraculously cured. The Church believes John Paul II cured two women miraculously, and that qualifies him to be a saint ........

Johnston went into quite a lot of detail on the religious beliefs surrounding canonisation, but he failed to tell Newsround viewers that, only days beforehand, a young man named Marco Gusmini was killed when a giant crucifix collapsed on top of him. The really spooky thing about Marco's death is that the crucifix which killed him had been dedicated to John Paul II. So wasn't the Catholic Church worried that Marco dying in those circumstances might cancel out the other miracles? I suspect that neither Alan Johnston, nor any other BBC journalist made enquiries to the Vatican on that score.

Newsround stressed the bit about history being made yesterday. Unfortunately it was nowhere near as positive about another historical event last month - the first same-sex marriages ever to take place in Britain. People might wonder whether the BBC holds its LGBT viewers in lower esteem than those of faith.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

CBBC has been asking kids to send in feedback about what makes them livid -

Saturday, April 26, 2014

If the recent BBC adaption of Jamaica Inn deserved any prizes for lack of intelligibility, then surely The Next Step must surely also be up for an award.

The Next Step is a fictional drama made in the style of a documentary. The series comes from Canada and follows a group of teens who supposedly attend a dance studio called The Next Step. The diction is often unclear, with many actors hurriedly mumbling their lines. It was first broadcast in Britain on 7 April 2014, and the first 5 episodes were shown on successive weekdays.

Despite having been given a great deal of publicity on the CBBC channel, including three of the actors being invited on more than one occasion to the presentation studio as well as to Blue Peter on 10th April, viewing figures were not good - being significantly below 200,000 all week (BARB w/e 13 April)

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)