Friday, December 29, 2006

For the record

Very recently this message was posted to Newsround's In The News messageboard:

Gay rights. Messages 1 - 1 of 1

Message 1 - posted by MzKiedis (U6934819) **, Yesterday
I know this can be a sensitive subject and i'm probably not going to be allowed to post this thread here, but we were discussing this the other day so i thought i'd see what all you lot think.
I thought our society was pretty laid back and accepting of these people, but then i heard that apparently ours is one of the worst for this kind of thing. Even the ancient greeks and many other countries learnt to embrace the minority. I know things have changed since the war etc. when it was a punishable crime, but what do you think?
Also what about the meaning of the word changing so much? being used as an insult etc.

Would like to hear your views.

Hours later, by Thursday evening, the message had been removed along with replies. This is all that remains of the thread.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Dressing up news

It's that time of year again - panto season - when it's okay to dress up in a lot of weird outfits and just have fun.

When Little Britain's Matt Lucas tied the knot with his long-term partner Kevin McGee a few days ago (see blog 17 December) he chose a pantomime theme for the reception. Matt was dressed as Aladdin and Kevin was dressed as Prince Charming. Other celebrity guests turned up in a variety of panto outfits and with hundreds of guests there was bound to be some duplication. Dozens of pictures were taken and appeared in the next day's press.

Look what Newsround reported - nothing. A few days earlier, on 8 December, there was a short news story about Matt on the celeb gossip page, but that was only about the possibility of him playing Friar Tuck in the second series of Robin Hood.

On Monday 18 December, the day after Matt and Kevin's happy event, Newsround's celeb gossip page reported this story:

Soup-er work, Justin

Justin Timberlake's been dressing up in a lot of weird outfits, all for charity. The singer sported a number of strange costumes, including dressing like 1980s-style singers and even a giant cup of soup.

What have you done for charity?

Newsround Bias blog has always been doubtful of Newsround's integrity so we did a little bit of investigating for ourselves. It turns out that Justin Timberlake had hosted and appeared in some comedy skits on NBC's Saturday Night Live programme on 16 December. One of his skits was Dick in a box. In another he dresses up as 1980's pop singer Barry Gibb.

On the same programme Justin Timberlake dressed up as a cup of soup and was successfully collecting a lot of money from passers-by for a nonexistent charity called "Homelessville" whilst the Santa Claus next to him was making almost no money for the Salvation Army.

I have asked Tim Levell for more details about what seems to be a misreported story. I want to find out if Justin's fee was donated to charity (for example the Justin Timberlake Foundation) as implied in the Newsround story. No reply so far.

Good luck to John Barrowman and Scott Gill who tied the knot in Cardiff yesterday. After the ceremony John had to change quickly for his panto performance in Jack and the Beanstalk at New Theatre, Cardiff.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Distressing news and Difficult stories

Newsround's editor, Tim Levell, says that there are four key principles to consider when deciding which distressing news stories they cover. Firstly, he considers whether the story should be covered at all. He says "If we don't think an upsetting story has registered with most children, we don't want to bring it to their attention."

So it's interesting to note that within hours of a gunman breaking into an American school and killing some of the children, Newsround's website had wasted no time reporting the news. And the very next day it was Newsround's lead story.

Another series of murders two months later has been making the top headlines in Britain. Although this was a very important and distressing story, especially to people in Suffolk, Newsround failed to report the news for several days, until on 12 December this report (revised Wednesday) appeared on their website.

The programme on Tuesday led with Lydia's press pack film review of Eragon. Eventually on 13 December Newsround led with the murder story, and included a live report from Adam in Ipswich.

It's obvious that the story had registered with most children days beforehand. Tim Levell says "Once we are sure the story has registered with children, we believe our job is to cover the story accurately, reliably and without sensationalism... If you add to that the hearsay and half-heard comments that children can pick up in the playground or from friends or parents, and the story can often become far wilder or more scary in their minds than it should be."

So why the delay in reporting it?

Adam writes about covering the "really big story" in the Newsround presenters' blog under the title Difficult stories. He asks "What do you think? Is it too scary or too horrible for us to do on Newsround?"

Newsround was probably more scared of the story because all the women involved worked as prostitutes than because they were murdered. The real world isn't always the simple and straightforward world which CBBC would prefer it to be.

Writing on an altogether different topic Newsround's editor says "Every time I write a letter defending our policy, something in me worries that we are being irresponsible."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Matt ties the knot

Good luck to Matt Lucas and Kevin McGee who became civil partners today. I bet Newsround and its website ignore the happy event, but you never know!

Saturday, December 16, 2006

The BBC broadcasts to all parts of the UK, including Northern Ireland.

The Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain, has decided that the Equality Act (Sexual Orientation) Regulations (Northern Ireland) will come into operation at the beginning of 2007 - just two weeks away. It will then be unlawful to treat people less favourably on account of their sexual orientation. Soon, similar laws will apply in the rest of the UK.

We've seen how CBBC Newsround regularly discriminates. Only last Wednesday my latest survey found that older kids' feedback is discarded. But when you look at Newsround's web feedback pages you see a message telling people under the age of 16 to obtain a parent's or guardian's permission before sending their comment. Under the "Send" button is an assurance stating "We'll try and put up as many e-mails as possible."
We'll try and put up as many e-mails as possible
But this blog deals mainly with the discrimination against lgbt people. When Civil Partnerships were introduced very nearly one year ago, and Elton John and David Furnish became legal partners Newsround kept silent about the news. That was the last straw which brought Newsround blog into existence.

Most UK organisations have welcomed equality. The BBC however boasts that it's a unique institution. Its management do whatever they want. But whether unique or not the BBC must not be allowed to treat some people differently to others.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

On 25 April 2006, Director-General Mark Thompson announced that, as part of "Creative Future," CBBC would be targeted at 7-11 year olds. Tim Levell took over editing Newsround in August, and ever eager to please his employer took immediate action to target a slightly younger audience.

It now seems that Mr Thompson's announcement of a change in the target age range for CBBC viewers was misconceived, and the BBC eventually decided to keep the age range at 6-12 year olds after all.

When I found out in September that Newsround was discarding feedback from older kids (blog 13 September) I contacted the programme to see what they would say about the discrimination (blog 29 September). At least I thought they should warn kids that messages from younger kids get priority on the feedback pages.

Whereas in the past the majority of emails read out on air used to be from over 12 year old kids (blog 13 April), now the majority is from under 12's.

My latest survey of website feedback responses indicates that the age discrimination hasn't stopped there, and has actually got worse. And they still haven't made clear that priority is given to messages from younger viewers. Responses from 14 year olds, many of which were published until September, are now nearly always discarded (see charts below).

Someone should tell Mr Levell and his Newsround team that the BBC abandoned its plan to target younger kids. And anyway, if CBBC Newsround doesn't want to hear from over 13 year olds they should make this clear so that young people stop wasting their time writing in.

December 2006Latest survey (above) - shows almost no feedback from over 13 year olds

September 2006September survey - shows almost no feedback from over 14 year olds

March/April 2006March/April survey - shows 30% of feedback from 14 & 15 year olds

Survey data were taken from these Newsround webpages.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Surveys are flavour of the month at the BBC. Newsround's editor seems to have decided to report survey results on a strictly "need to know basis." So on Thursday there were no details of who carried out this survey about text bullying. And on Friday we were told this survey was carried out by Newsround, but nothing about the methodology and the ages of kids taking part. Newsround's audience still gets a blinkered view of the world.

Comments are requested for Newsround's website:

Biggest problems for kids?
What would you change?
Life in the future?

But only those meeting Newsround's age and acceptable subject criteria are selected. At the moment this means that messages from kids over 13 seem to be discarded, as are responses touching on the subject of homophobia, even though it's almost certain that some of those surveyed have to put up with daily homophobic prejudice.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

More thoughtless BBC insensitivity

Remember those stupid sexist remarks by a football manager last month? His remarks were followed up with a ridiculous question on Newsround's website. (see blogs for 14 & 16 November)

The BBC World Service is no better. It has been asking stupid and insulting questions. They've spent money on a survey of teens in London and other cities around the world, which asked amongst other things whether women should have the same rights as men, and whether homosexuals should have the same rights as heterosexuals.

I won't taint this blog with any survey results. Suffice to say that sexism and heterosexism prevalent on BBC children's programmes may be partly to blame for the apparent less than wholehearted support for equality amongst British teens.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

CBBC has been busy preparing for a few presentation changes. Simon Grant and Angellica Bell left on Friday. Of the remaining continuity presenters Gemma has a boyfriend, Anne is a friend of her local Evangelical Alliance church, and the BBC seems proud to announce that Jake lives with his girlfriend. I think he will enjoy a long career in the Corporation.

Last Friday there was a Newsround Extra programme about child poverty. The programme, called The Wrong Trainers, was made up of six animations of real kids explaining their situations. At times the programme got political as, for instance, when Chris said that "this Government is not spending money as wisely as they should be." The programme received a lot of good comments in Tim Levell's blog, and I think the BBC may enter it into some competitions like the Prix Jeunesse. But however good an example of children's tv The Wrong Trainers might be, Newsround is not inclusive and would still refuse to cover any issues involving gay kids or their families.

The Wrong Trainers was broadcast on the same day as Blue Peter's "Wear Your Wellies Day." The idea was that schools register with the scheme, and then allow kids to wear their wellies providing they donate £1 towards the 'Shoebiz' appeal. Obviously CBBC hadn't considered the pressure on kids from poor families to pay up, whether or not they can afford the money.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Newsround blog readers know I keep a close eye on the daily gossip page.

On 24 November CBBC Newsround's home page included a link to the gossip page titled "Celeb goss: Who has Britney been partying with?" And the story was this:

Back on the town

It seems Britney has been making the most of being a single girl after her split from Kevin Federline. She was snapped out on the the town with Paris Hilton. They partied at a nightclub after the American Music Awards ceremony.

And then yesterday there was this about Britney:

Looking forward to the future

Rumour has it that Britney Spears has already found herself a new fella! The soon-to-be-divorced mum of two was spotted partying with oil heir Brandon Davis.

So Newsround thinks that when Britney is seen partying with Paris Hilton it's just fun, but when she's spotted partying with someone of the opposite sex she's looking to settle down with a fella. This is all so typical of BBC sexism and heterosexism.