Friday, June 29, 2007

Homophobia in schools

One of the most senior appointments in the new Cabinet is that of Jacqui Smith - the new Home Secretary.

Newsround failed to report a petition to Jacqui Smith when she was Minister for Schools. The petition was asking for more to be done to stamp out homophobia in schools - (YouTube video) (also see blog 29 December 2005). Let's hope that stories such as this, which are self-evidently relevant, get reported properly on Newsround in future.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Signs of improvement, but could do better

Stonewall's new School Report found that almost two-thirds of lgb pupils have experienced homophobic bullying. Less than a quarter have been told that homophobic bullying is wrong in their school. In schools that have said homophobic bullying is wrong, gay young people are 60 per cent more likely not to have been bullied.

The BBC exists, it says, to enrich people's lives with great programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain. As part of its education remit, BBC children's programmes could do more to combat homophobic bullying and thereby enrich the lives many young people.

Signs of a more inclusive BBC are still apparent on the Your Life CBBC message board (blog 24 May 2007) with some posts which would previously have been censored now passing through the moderation process.

Tim Levell, Newsround's former editor promised changes and I hope that the programme's new editor, Sinéad Rocks will keep to that commitment. There will be quite a lot of opportunities within the next month or so to see whether Newsround really has moved into the 21st century.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Turing 95

Turing statue

On 19 June 2007 Bletchley Park unveiled a statue of Alan Turing. The press release failed to mention that Turing was gay and treated very badly after the war, which led to his suicide at the age of 41. If he had lived he would be 95 today.

[Edit Note: Bletchley Park has now amended the original press release - 27 June]

Friday, June 22, 2007

My blog on 20 May 2007 noted that Newsround's celebrity gossip page is no longer being updated daily. I had been concerned about heterosexist bias of the gossip and asked for the heterosexism to be "toned down a little."

Recent surveys indicate that kids are cynical about celebrities and that, together with cost-cutting, might explain the cutback.

An analysis of celeb goss stories from the beginning of 2007 up to the last daily update on 13 May 2007 was made - some 360 different stories. They were divided into neutral stories (a few examples shown in blue below) and stories with a heterosexist bias - mention of boyfriends / girlfriends / husbands / wives / hetero families (examples in purple below).

5 Jan 2007
Mean Girls star Lindsay Lohan has had to put her partying on hold to have an operation to remove her appendix. Get well soon Lindsay!

Is it all over for Justin Timberlake and his girlfriend Cameron Diaz? The couple are rumoured to have split after they spent Christmas apart and the Sexyback singer turned up to the premiere of his new film Alpha Dog alone.

05 Feb 2007
X Factor loser Ray Quinn is apparently recording his debut album - in Los Angeles. The singer is working with TV's Mr Nasty Simon Cowell.

Hubby and wife Vernon Kay and Tess Daly have agreed to be patrons of the kids' hospital Great Ormond Street after spending lots of time visiting sick children.

06 Mar 2007
Rockers Arctic Monkeys are going into the rag trade! Drummer Matt is releasing a limited line of t-shirts, jackets and hoodies, which are going on sale soon.

Fashion princess Coleen McLoughlin has admitted she asks for fashion tips from an unlikely source - her footballer boyf Wayne Rooney, who's been nicknamed 'Scruffy' in the past! She said he is happy to tell her if he thinks she doesn't look good in something.

04 Apr 2007
Always one to stand out from the crowd, Victoria Beckham decided she'd had enough of skiing down the French Alps on holiday so she decided to go hang-gliding over them instead!

Spare a thought for Noel Gallagher's next child. The Oasis singer songwriter is set to be a dad again later in the year and said if it's a boy he wants to call him Chutney or Gizmo!! We assume he's joking...

04 May 2007
TV star and singer Peter Andre has come out of hospital after suffering from a nasty infection. He started feeling ill on a US tour and spent 12 nights in hospital.

Gavin Henson and pregnant girlfriend Charlotte Church could be quitting the bright lights of Cardiff for a place in the countryside, according to reports.

The analysis found that very nearly 25% (1 in 4) celebrity gossip stories included a some kind of heterosexist content.

There was no lgbt gossip, however on 3 January 2007 the gossip included:-

Celeb Big Brother was kicking off a new series on Wednesday. The final line-up is being kept a secret but the contestants are rumoured to include Ian 'H' Watkins, who used to be in a pop band called Steps.

And on 8 February 2007 this:-

Pop star Mika's already scored a number one hit with his debut single Grace Kelly and now he wants a date. But the cheeky chart-topper reckons he's always struggled to get people to go out with him. Ahhhhhhh.

Congrats to Sinéad Rocks on becoming Editor of Newsround

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

BBC Impartiality Report (continued)

For a review concerned with the issue of impartiality, it is strange to find that the BBC thinks it institutionally supports equality for gay people (see yesterday's blog). This is especially true when you consider that a report by Stonewall, a major lgb rights organisation, was critical of the BBC's lack of lgb programming (see blogs on 28 February 2006 and 1 March 2006).

The BBC didn't like the message of Stonewall's report, resulting in not even a single mention of it in their own 'impartiality review'

BBC News has had little or no coverage of Pride marches for the past few years and, as regular readers of this blog know, Newsround and CBBC have given no support to lgbt kids - something which is badly needed to help combat homophobia in schools.

I told the BBC that there is a lot of ground to be made up. I hope that Newsround will at last want to cover news relevant to a significant proportion of its target audience - an item about homophobic bullying, or maybe a presspack report from someone with lesbian or gay parents, or a Pride march perhaps.

Mark Byford interviewed about the new impartiality report.

Monday, June 18, 2007

BBC Impartiality Report

From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel: Safeguarding Impartiality in the 21st Century was published this morning.

Impartiality requires the BBC to examine its own institutional values, and to assess the effect they have on its audiences.

The Report asks "Does the BBC’s institutional support for equal rights for women and gay people spill over unthinkingly into the way it makes programmes, and what are the BBC’s assumptions when addressing inequalities of gender and sexuality in societies and cultures of different persuasion?"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007


Last week Lorely Burt MP introduced an EDM noting the life and work of Alan Turing. The motion, marking the anniversary of Turing's death, also calls on the Government to do more to address societal pressures against lgbt people including the need to combat homophobic bullying in schools.

Although Turing is mainly remembered today for his work on computers and on the Enigma Code, he was also an accomplished amateur athlete. The Centenary of his birth occurs on 23 June 2012 which is a short while before the start of the 2012 Olympic games in London. The Olympics would be an ideal opportunity to mark his life and achievements, and at the same time make a clear statement against modern-day homophobia, particularly in sport but also in wider society.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Another Blue Peter controversy

A former Blue Peter editor, Biddy Baxter was interviewed as part of the recent Children's TV on Trial season on BBC4. One of Blue Peter's presenters, Michael Sundin, was gay. He lost his job on the programme because, according to Biddy Baxter, "he was hugely unpopular"

So last night I contacted the BBC to try to find out about the feedback which they received. Watch this space.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Last Tuesday I heard back from Tim Levell about Newsround. Nothing too definite yet, so we'll have to see whether the programme changes in conformity with the BBC Statements of Programme Policy 2007/2008.

Newsround stories

Newsround has covered about 480 stories on the weekday 5.25pm CBBC1 programmes between Tuesday 2 January - Monday 30 April 2007. None mentioned lgbt issues. The stories are broken down into eight categories:

Main news 14.7%
Kids/school news 9.3%
Sports news 19.1%
Celeb,music,films arts 24.4%
Environmental,climate 20.4%
Animals 6.2%
Sci/tech 4.5%
Other 1.5%

Stories and viewers' responses about, or touching on 'bullying':
16 & 17 Jan 2007
5, 15 & 16 February 2007
27 March 2007
10 April 2007

Newsround's In The News web forum has included a small number of lgbt-related items. At present there is a debate about homophobia in moscow.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Children's TV on Trial - Part 3

Kissing a mate on the cheek isn't exactly the best way, or even a sensible way, to come out. But whatever the merits or otherwise of the 1994 Byker Grove storyline, one thing is clear: that CBBC in the 1990's was prepared to accept the existence of gay people.

Brett Adams, who played Noddy Fishwick in Byker Grove, said:

The reaction to the gay kiss was, I think Mary Whitehouse was sitting somewhere banging a stick on something yeah. A few people weren't happy - a few people were happy. A lot of people were shocked. Noddy was really - he was confused, read signals wrong, ended up getting hurt, ended up seeking help and advice. We actually did put a help and advice number on the show. I did receive a lot of letters from kids who had actually gone and got help and they were thankful - so I'd helped one person, that was fine.

Apart from Byker Grove another popular children's programme, Grange Hill, was also making an effort to be inclusive - there was a gay teacher on the staff until the end of 1999. Since 2000 Grange Hill has had two gay-related storylines, the last of which was very negative, especially in the way homophobic bullying was handled, and the way Miss Dyson treated Emma when she most needed support.

As for Newsround, the last gay news story (reported on their website) was about Will Young in 2002.

It's not surprising that today's 21st-century kids on the BBC4 documentary were very unsure how to react.