Thursday, January 24, 2008

Guardian interview with Scott Mills

Last year BBC Radio 1'd DJ Scott Mills, along with other celebrities, spoke out against bullying in a video for anti-bullying week.

At one point in the video (1'45") Scott said: Calling something you think is a bit rubbish 'gay' is just like calling a gay person rubbish, so don't do that either. Newsround missed an opportunity, as it left out what Scott said. (see blog 25 November 2007)

In a recent Guardian interview, which took place in the presence of a BBC press officer, Scott was more equivocal about using 'gay' that way. In fact he defended Chris Moyles for doing exactly what he had previously condemned. The BBC press officer's attitude is very revealing.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Any real change?

Evidence that Newsround has been discarding feedback from older kids was first discovered and mentioned here in September 2006. At present it's not clear whether or not the 'policy' has been abandoned, though some messages from 14 and 15 year olds have made their way to Newsround's website since 11 January 2008. However, a study of 2007 press packers' TV reports confirms that Newsround is unwilling to give an equal voice to teenagers. It happens that today's press pack reporter, Laura from Gateshead, is 10.

The fact that teens felt completely let down was made abundantly clear to CBBC following a Newsround broadcast in May 2006 (See blog 13 May 2006).

Will the Corporation change its attitude? After all, it aims to reflect the population of modern Britain - through gender, age, ethnicity and cultural diversity, disability, faith and social background, and sexual orientation. Or so it says.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Last Friday's Newsround at 5.25pm began with an item all about Liverpool:-

Ellie: First to Liverpool, where a yearlong party is about to kick off. Thousands of people are on their way to the city, so we sent Helen to find out what's going on.

Helen: If you're in Liverpool tonight expect to go home with a stiff neck. There's a massive performance, and a lot of it is taking place on the rooftops. There'll be people up there, people behind me, thirteen hundred performers in all. And this is just the start of a yearlong festival event designed to show off Liverpool's best bits. Owen, Nicole and Harriet showed me some of them.

Phil Redmond, TV producer and creator of Grange Hill, was questioned recently by The Guardian about his role in Liverpool's City of Culture celebrations. When asked what he would be doing if he wasn't working on this, Phil responded: I was going to say I'd be driving through Grange Hill's 30th anniversary celebrations, but that wouldn't be true. The BBC has abandoned what Grange Hill was about in order to attract viewers aged six to 12 rather than its traditional 13-plus constituency, so there's nothing to celebrate.

Phil went on to agree that he felt the BBC had strangled his baby.

Phil Redmond's words don't just apply to Grange Hill, but to CBBC generally. There are virtually no programmes aimed at older kids, even taking into account the derisory amount of TV airtime on the new teen brand - BBC Switch.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Readers of this blog will probably know that Jana Bennett expressed unease about children knowing the word lesbian. But that type of attitude, invisibilising LGBT people, can lead to prejudice and ultimately result in homophobic bullying.

A few days ago a 14 year-old girl, Belinda Allen, committed suicide. Last year an 11 year-old boy at the same school hanged himself as a result of bullying.

The BBC's purpose, it says, is "to enrich people's lives with programmes and services that inform, educate and entertain." So rather than keeping silent about LGBT news and issues, Newsround could help inform kids before all the playground gossip develops into prejudice. It will soon be LGBT History Month - an ideal opportunity for CBBC to grasp the nettle.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The BBC has sent in a response to Ofcom's discussion paper on the future of children's television programming. They welcome the opportunity to engage in debate around the importance of provision of UK-originated television programming for children.

The BBC says it plays a unique and central role in the provision of Children’s TV programming in the UK. Newsround is the first programme mentioned in the BBC's response:

Through a unique range of UK-produced output, BBC Children’s contributes to all the BBC’s public purposes, providing dedicated programmes which engage and inspire children and encourage them to participate and interact with broadcast content. The output provides positive role models of children for children, and through programmes like Newsround, opens children’s eyes and minds to the world around them. Television can help children to understand themselves and their role in the world, and through moments of silliness and humour help children to relax and laugh out loud. In these ways, BBC children’s television is a unique and hugely valuable contribution, directly touching and enhancing the lives of people aged 12 and under ..

But what about older children? Is the BBC meeting its public purpose in respect of teens? The BBC have never explained why older children have been effectively abandoned. And although they've admitted to me that CBBC discriminates, they haven't actually made that clear to their audience.

The BBC claims it will increase investment in content for the young teens audience via their new brand, BBC Switch, available on TV, on radio and online.(blog 25 October 2007) But anyone with a reasonable memory will recall that the BBC actually cut the budget (pdf) for BBC Switch even before the first programmes were screened.

Over the Christmas holidays CBBC programmes accounted for about 100 hours per week of BBC TV airtime. BBC Switch normally broadcasts for a total of 1 hour and 20 minutes TV programmes per week, but in the last week of 2007 there weren't any TV programmes broadcast under the Switch brand. So overall it looks like the BBC's commitment to teens is a very low priority for the Corporation.

Ofcom's October 2007 discussion paper on children's TV wasn't even given a mention by Newsround or on its website (see blog entry 6 October 2007) Now the BBC says it's also focusing on the "traditionally underserved younger teen audience." First they axe the last vestige of services for teens (blog 13 May 2006) and then they worry about what to do. Newsround seems to have ended its wobble (blog 28 December 2007) and is again discarding feedback from anyone aged 14 or more.


Stonewall's Workplace Equality Index was published this morning. WEI 2008 (pdf)

Sunday, January 06, 2008

The extent to which Newsround has become inclusive was underlined at the start of this year when their website covered a report from press packer Jenny, who is proud that her family don't have a television.

Newsround's willingness to represent the diversity of Britain's population is serving to highlight the fact that LGBT kids are not getting fair treatment from the programme, or from CBBC generally.

LGBT History Month begins on 1 February - less than four weeks away.