Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Clarity and honesty - Part 1

Mark Thompson, the BBC's director-general, says that in an age of scrutiny the public demands clarity and honesty from the BBC.

So, is EastEnders part of the BBC's new teen 'brand' - BBC Switch?

If it is, will the programme be shown with the BBC Switch logo in future? If it's not part of the teen 'brand' then why is it currently linked to on the BBC Switch webpage ?

Saturday, October 27, 2007

The BBC's derisory teen 'brand' BBC Switch was hardly off the launch pad when it turned out that 'Delivering Creative Future' will result in even less funding. We are told the new plans for the Corporation are to "radically reduce duplication." So what was the point of the BBC inventing a new teen 'brand' in the first place? And why on earth are they so determined to push teens away from a perfectly good existing 'brand' - CBBC ? The answers I've received so far simply don't make sense.

When, last week, Newsround's website reported JK Rowling's comments about the fictional character of Dumbledore, it was the first time in about five and a half years that any lgbt-related news topic had been included. The report was still appearing occasionally in the website's top three 'most popular stories' for several days after its first appearance.

Despite the interest, no web feedback page was started and no discussion of the story appeared on Newsround's In The News messagebaord. Some messages were allowed through by the moderators on the Harry Potter board - quite a few saying how shocked they were.

Of course one of the reasons that children expressed shock is because of a low level of understanding about diversity, sadly made worse by CBBC's reluctance to adhere to the BBC commitment to be inclusive.

Newsround's web report was a small step forward, but a lot more needs to be done to make up for the lost ground of past non-inclusiveness. Their resident Harry Potter expert, Lizo, could have covered the story. Maybe there should be a press pack report from a Harry Potter fan, talking about the way they and their friends and family reacted to the news that Albus Dumbledore is gay.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Eighteen creative future months

There is a special BBC channel aimed for 0-6 year old children. And then there is another BBC channel which the BBC says is intended for 6-12 year olds.

When Richard Deverell was asked on Newsround what the BBC was doing for teens he replied that the BBC would hopefully launch some new services "in the near future." That was almost a year and a half ago.

In the year and a half since 'Creative Future' was unveiled on 25 April 2006, the BBC has done its level best to exclude teens from CBBC - except for those it needs to participate in projects such as the real life Serious series, where the dangers would be too great for under 12 year-olds.

The new BBC teen 'brand' BBC Switch has launched. Jana Bennett, Director BBC Vision, said: "I am incredibly proud of the work being done by Andy Pariftt and his team, it is great to have this project as part of BBC Vision."

So what's to be proud of? A couple of cosmetic changes to Radio 1 and an imported soap (no longer in production) followed by a new music programme on BBC2 on Saturday afternoon. That's basically it.

BBC Switch? BBC Switch-off, more like! Not surprising that the BBC made so little of this teen 'brand' launch.

Monday, October 22, 2007

The truth is coming out

Many children are frightened to 'come out' because they're aware of a pervasive prejudice against lgbt people. And it was probably that same prejudice which prevented JK Rowling making her characters anything other than heterosexual, at least as far as Harry Potter readers were previously aware. But it now seems Albus Dumbledore, in The Deathly Hallows, was alluding to his romantic feelings towards another wizard when he said "You cannot imagine how his ideas caught me, Harry, inflamed me."

JK Rowling told an audience in New York that Dumbledore is gay.

In response to applause from her audience in Carnegie Hall, JK said "I would have told you earlier if I knew it would make you so happy." I wonder whether the entire audience was happy, and I wonder if JK would have really risked writing anything which could have cost a lot of book sales, especially in America.

There have been many negative comments on the internet, asking questions like "do we need to know his sexuality?" or saying "too much information." When the Daily Mail reported JK Rowling's remarks, she received little support from readers. "Time to put the books in the bin," said one.

Of course we don't really need to know a wizard's sexuality, but that's never the reaction to all the straight relationships in children's books and, in fact, on children's television too. And when you ask: why not cover other relationships, the answer is always something like "we don't do sexuality for kids." But you only need to watch, say, the ending of the latest episode of CBBC's The Sarah Jane Adventures (The Warriors of Kudlak - repeated on BBC1 next Monday) to see that this answer is a lie.

Heteronormative attitudes hide the truth about human diversity from young people. This can cause worry and distress about their own feelings. But ultimately these attitudes are destined to founder.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

It seems Dumbledore was gay. What a shame that JK Rowling didn't make that clear in any of her seven Harry Potter books. Better late than never, I suppose. And JK Rowling's remarks were reported on Newsround's website.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Mark Thompson answered questions about his plan called 'Delivering Creative Future' in a live interview on BBC News24 yesterday afternoon. Amongst other things he defended Friday Night With Jonathan Ross, and he ended the interview by saying "my view is we have to be very open, very honest, we have to confront our issues, but we have to live up to the standards of clarity and honesty which the public demand of us."

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Walking with dinosaurs

Mark Thompson is expected to announce job cuts at the BBC. Never mind - there is still a creative future ahead, he says in an Aerial interview reported yesterday.

On 18 July 2007 he told BBC staff I have never been involved in a deception of the public. And the same evening on Newsnight he said Deceiving the public is never the right thing to do. (blog dated 31 July 2007) And now he says RDF behaved "disgracefully" over the Queengate affair.

Mark Thompson is well aware of the surreptitious practice regarding Newsround message feedback. I informed him about it some time ago, and so far he's dithered, seemingly content for it to continue as part of his so-called 'Creative Future' (blog 13 September 2006). Yet he knows that the BBC isn't keeping to its own diversity policy and he's aware that kids are still being treated shabbily.

Jana Bennett the BBC 'Director of Vision' was criticised in Will Wyatt's report into the “A Year with the Queen” documentary, more commonly known as the Crowngate or the Queengate affair.

Ms Bennett has either changed her mind recently and is now in favour of LGBT equality, or she was less than honest when she told a conference in summer - We help children understand themselves and their relationships in all their rich complexity and in particular, understand their world – begin to fathom their navigation of relationships, their situation, through the experience of others whom they can relate to.

In actual fact last month the BBC removed "everything you need to know about growing up" which formed the Your Life section of CBBC's website. Why was the advice removed? Why is the BBC not bothering with children aged 14 and over? Only last week, Ofcom pointed to the fact that pre-school and younger children are better served than older children.

If there are to be any BBC job cuts, why not the talented but vastly overpaid Jonathan Ross along with his utterly hopeless house band - Four Poofs and a Piano.


BBC chief finds there's plenty to celebrate says The Mail:-

As he finalises plans to cut up to 2,800 jobs in a £2billion economy drive, BBC director general Mark Thompson could have found a better time to jet off for a lavish party in Bombay. At an estimated cost of £12,000, I am told Thompson and three of his fellow executives will be among 200 guests at a cocktail party and banquet tonight to celebrate the BBC's success in India. The jaunt is bound to infuriate BBC staff, who are on tenterhooks as they wait for Thompson to say where his axe will fall next week.

"He is getting rid of thousands of staff," says one. "Yet he is swanning off around the world for a party."

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Ofcom's report into children's TV was a useful snapshot of the present situation. Parents, it says, regard public service programming for children as very important, but less than half think it is being delivered satisfactorily, especially in reflecting a range of cultures and opinions from around the UK.

This blog has concentrated on some of those failings. Certainly CBBC is not properly reflecting the reality of UK society, and the fact that CBBC is deliberately alienating some kids is totally unfair. The Ofcom report puts it like this: Parents are relatively content with provision for pre-school and younger children, but want more drama and factual programming for older children and young teenagers.

I discovered proof that the BBC was binning teenagers' feedback just over a year ago and wrote about it in my blog dated 13 September 2006. Despite being brought to the BBC's attention they took no notice.

So the BBC has to explain why, almost as soon as 'Creative Future' was unveiled, did they decide to axe an important contribution to UK children's TV drama - Byker Grove. Richard Deverell went out of his way to explain the decision on Newsround in May last year, but from what he said it seemed that he was not, himself, responsible for the decision.

Newsround, the most watched programme on children's television, didn't give any airtime or web coverage to Ofcom's report.

More on the Ofcom report another time.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Government guidance on bullying

On 21 September 2007 the Government issued new guidance to deal with homophobic bullying and cyberbullying. (see blog 23 September 2007). I asked Newsround why they had only reported on cyberbullying, and they answered that the focus of the guidance was cyberbullying. So they thought "empowering children offering them practical tips how they can combat cyberbullying themselves" was the most responsible way to cover the story.

I pointed out that the BBC is committed to inclusiveness, and that there are special problems associated with homophobic bullying which need to be tackled - otherwise some, but not all kids would be helped. These problems are discussed in a ChildLine Casenote (pdf file), published 29 August 2006. That, too, wasn't properly reported by Newsround at the time (blog 30 August 2006). However the previous Government guidance on cyberbullying was the first item reported on Newsround last year (BBC1, Tuesday 25 July 2006). And whilst their website bullying guidance already covers cyberbullying, there is no mention of homophobia or homophobic bullying.

Recently Newsround has become a more diverse-friendly programme. It is less London-centric, and it seems to be addressing respect for people's differences. But there is still some way to go, and so far they haven't made up for many years of lost ground on reporting relevant lgbt news.