Saturday, January 30, 2010

My end of year blog wish about Jonathan Ross has more or less come true. Just a few more months and Ross will be gone for good. It seems that most people who bothered to contact the BBC are not sad to see the back of him.

News about Ross leaving the BBC came on 7 January 2010, the same day as my blog about the BBC Three show Most Annoying People 2009. I wondered why Jonathan Ross wasn't included anywhere on their list. So I had contacted Shine, who made the programme, to ask how they compiled the list and why it was that virtual unknowns such as Speidi and Sliimy made the top 100 but Jonathan Ross didn't.

It seems that the selection process is decided between Shine and the BBC, in conjunction with input and opinion from over 100 celebrities, journalists and cultural commentators, most of whom appear in the show. It is designed to reflect the views and interests of the BBC Three viewer and cover all areas of news and celebrity.

I also wanted to know why Ross wasn't on the 2008 list, especially considering there were thousands of complaints about his treatment of Andrew Sachs. I was told that in 2008 Shine "did indeed cover the ‘Sachsgate’ scandal. Russell Brand, who made the comments and on whose show the remarks were broadcast, appeared on the list at number 13 in a package about the scandal. Jonathan Ross did not make the list this year as there was no particularly strong reason for his inclusion in 2009."

Now to two people who were included on the 2009 list. Making an appearance at Number 89 were John Terry's mum and mum-in-law, both of whom are called Sue, and were cautioned for shoplifting.

Richard Bacon (narrator): All-in-all John Terry's not had a bad old year. He's signed a new multi-million pound deal with his club Chelsea, and saw England qualify for the World Cup. But according to the Sun newspaper his mum and mum-in-law almost managed to ruin it for him. And that's why they're on this year's most annoying list.

Journalists then gave their take on the story.

One guest, Martin Deeson of Square Mile:
Well you can imagine being John Terry - you must think life is about as good as it gets. You come from a normal background to making up to over a hundred grand a week to play the sport you love. And then come a Friday night and you get a phone call from your mum saying don't buy the paper on Sunday, there might be something in there you don't like. ....... I think John Terry's a great role model for kids. It's his mum you've got to worry about isn't it.

Richard began the Number 89 segment with: "Next up - a story almost too good to be true." The video is on YouTube, with the John Terry bit starting at 6minutes 50seconds.

Newsround generally has excellent sports coverage. They're always letting kids know when a new manager takes over a football club and such. And Newsround rarely misses the opportunity to play short interviews with sports personalities. So I wonder if they'll say anything about the England captain (YouTube) this weekend. Plenty of footie news today, but no mention of Capello's dilemma on the 12.55pm and 2.55pm programmes, or on their website.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Equality Bill: possible opt-out for broadcasters (continued)

My blog on 21 August 2009 included the DCMS response to my question about an opt-out from the Equality Bill for the BBC and Channel 4. I followed up this response and this evening received the following:

Response from DCMS on 26 January 2010

Thank you for your request for information regarding the Equality Bill, which was received in DCMS on 24 December 2009 and has been treated under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act 2000.

Your request read as follows:

“Could I ask if the DCMS holds any information which would indicate whether it was the BBC or Channel 4 which instigated the request for an opt-out from the Equality Bill?

Were people from the DCMS in communication with Channel 4 or with the BBC prior to the formal request for an opt-out?”

As you may be aware, the Freedom of Information Act enables requesters to access information that is held on record within a public body, provided that the information is not exempt under the legislation.

I am sorry to inform you that on this occasion we do not hold any information on either of the questions within the parameters of your request. I would like to explain that:

  • There was no single formal ‘opt out’ request. It arose, during discussions with the BBC and Channel 4 about what the Bill would cover and the risks it might pose, that the broadcasters’ would prefer certain exemptions, there was no formal approach.

  • DCMS and the BBC and Channel 4 engage in many discussions cutting across a wide range of issues. The question of how best to promote equality is likely to have been discussed on many occasions.

  • The BBC and Channel 4 also engage in many bi-lateral discussions without DCMS being present. These meetings will cut across a variety of subjects that concern both organisations. We do not hold details of discussions between Channel 4 and the BBC unless this department was part of the discussion. It would, therefore, be impossible for us to state conclusively whether there were discussions between the two broadcasters prior to discussions with DCMS or which of the two organisations may have been the first to raise concerns about the Equality Bill to the other.

  • You may be interested to know that there was, in April 2009, joint representation from the Broadcasters discussing the Equality Bill in general terms and setting out certain concerns. We do not consider this a formal ‘opt out’, and for this reason it has not been included as part of the consideration of your request. It remains part of the policy development of the Bill.

    If there is a specific issue you are concerned about regarding the extent to which broadcasters are bound to take account of or actively promote equality, I would be happy to facilitate a response from the Department. Please do let me know if I can assist further on this issue.

    Yours sincerely,

    Monday, January 25, 2010

    The BBC doesn't like independent-minded people. That's probably why, for example, Grange Hill was axed so soon after Phil Redmond criticised the Corporation (see blog 13 November 2009) - Newsround Blog surmises that the BBC wanted to show who's in charge.

    If the Daily Mail is to be believed, BBC bosses are none too pleased that weatherman Tomasz Schafernaker posed for Attitude magazine's new fitness supplement called Active. A lot of what gets printed in the press is nonsense, but my guess is that the bosses are genuinely annoyed about what Tomasz did.

    Is it really a coincidence that the BBC immediately started putting it about that the Met Office and its presenters could be dropped? Ostensibly the reason given is that the Met Office got too many forecasts wrong.

    Saturday, January 23, 2010

    LGBT History Month is fast approaching, and this year rugby player Gareth Thomas will be a new patron. Sue Sanders of Schools Out told Pink News: "We're going to be focussing in 2011 and 2012 on sport in the run-up to the Olympics. It's just wonderful that Gareth is going to be there. ... We feel passionately that there's a lot of work to be done around the whole issue in sport so it's great that Gareth is going to be there supporting us."

    Last month, neither CBBC's Newsround nor Sportsround reported the news of Gareth Thomas coming out as gay, although it was widely reported elsewhere, including on the BBC. LGBT History Month will be an ideal opportunity for CBBC to make amends for the omission. Let's hope they do so.

    On Friday the BBC announced a new consultation into how the lesbian, gay and bisexual community is portrayed across all the BBC's services.

    Wednesday, January 20, 2010

    Newsround seems a bit confusing about US politics. Today at 5pm Leah told viewers that President Obama has finished his first term.

    Leah: Now it's a year today that Barack Obama first stepped into The White House as President of the United States of America. That means he's finished his first term in the job, but he's still got three more years until the US can vote on whether he carries on as President. And that hasn't stopped people giving their opinion on how they think he's done so far. Here's how some kids in the American state of Virginia think he's doing.

    We then saw three kids from a school in Virginia give their views on Obama's first year.

    Girl: I think that Obama has been as good for America as people thought when they elected him. I'm giving Obama 7 marks out of 10 because he's done so much for America, but there's still a lot that needs to be done.

    Girl-2: I'm giving Obama 5 marks out of 10 because he has promised a lot. I think Obama had a great year - NOT. He needs to get in business.

    Boy: I'm giving Obama 9 marks out of 10 because he's done a lot of things people thought he couldn't do. I think Obama's had a great year.

    Newsround didn't report the result of the Senate special election in Massachusetts.

    What do US kids think of Obama? - more opinions from a school in Culpeper, Virginia.

    Monday, January 18, 2010

    The BBC, as I've said previously, has good science coverage.

    One programme, recently broadcast on BBC Four, was called The Secret Life of Chaos. It was presented by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, who suggests a way that intelligent life could arise out of chaos.

    Excerpt of programme description from BBC iPlayer: "Professor Al-Khalili reveals the science behind much of beauty and structure in the natural world and discovers that far from it being magic or an act of God, it is in fact an intrinsic part of the laws of physics."

    Radio Times reviewer, Geoff Ellis: Jim Al-Khalili delivers a mind-blowing examination of the weird relationship between order and chaos in the natural world. It's a terrific mix of vivid storytelling, big ideas and stunning visuals. For it seems that even simple rules can create very complex and unpredictable systems, like the weather. Al-Khalili presents a gripping narrative starting with code-breaker Alan Turing, moving on through the butterfly effect to evolution and fractal geometry - which creates some extraordinarily beautiful images here. It's a compelling and brilliantly clear explanation of how chaos and the spontaneous formation of patterns are built into nature. And even if this comes from cutting edge maths, there's hardly an equation to be seen. It's only the second week of January and already here's a candidate for science documentary of the year.

    The Representation of Chaos (Haydn's Creation)

    Thursday, January 14, 2010

    Newsround's first report on Tuesday at 5pm was about problems some people are having watching 3D films. Sonali, introducing the item, said that the England vs Wales 6 Nations rugby match will be the first sporting event in Europe to be screened in 3D.

    Another interesting report on Tuesday's Newsround was about allergies. Ricky spoke to Professor Adnan Custovic from the University Hospital of South Manchester, who has worked on a new, much more accurate, blood test to determine whether an individual really is allergic to peanuts.

    Tuesday's Newsround also carried a live report about Northern Ireland. Readers will note the pusillanimous language used to describe Iris Robinson and the surrounding circumstances. Someone hearing about this for the first time on Newsround would find great difficulty in making sense of what happened.

    Now take a look at a report by Newsround at 3.55pm yesterday on CBBC -

    Leah: And last up, Dannii Minogue is celebrating. The X-Factor star has announced she's expecting a baby. Dannii and her boyfriend, former rugby player Kris Smith, say they're delighted that they're going to be parents. The baby will be born in July.

    If Newsround is happy to report about Dannii Minogue and her boyfriend, why did they duck the boyfriend issue in the report about Mrs Robinson? Why did they report on Dannii and Kris's delight at the prospect of becoming parents?

    It seems to me that, quite apart from falling foul of BBC Editorial Guidelines on many levels, Newsround is also inconsistent in its stance on morals.

    Tuesday, January 12, 2010

    Newsround at 3.55pm today:-

    Sonali: First to big problems in Northern Ireland. Yesterday we told you how the most important man in politics there has had to take a break from his job as First Minister. It's the first time anything like this has happened, so we sent Hayley to Belfast to get the latest.

    Hayley: Peter Robinson and his wife Iris are both ministers for the Democratic Unionist Party, and have always been a very popular couple. They're almost like celebrities - always being photographed together at big events.
    Peter and Iris RobinsonHayley: But last week it came out they were having relationship problems, and Iris had used her powers to get £50,000 for a friend to start a business. This was against the rules because Iris didn't tell the government about the money. Some people reckon her husband also knew she was doing this, but didn't tell anyone either. But he says that's not the case at all - he only found out later. So Iris has quit her job as a minister, and Mr Robinson has stepped aside for 6 weeks because he says he wants to prove he didn't do anything wrong.

    Hayley: So what do you think will happen next?

    Schoolboy: I think that Peter Robinson will stay as the First Minister after his time off, and that everything will go back to normal.

    Schoolgirl: I hope that the First Minister will be appointed again and I hope that the whole government stays strong.

    Hayley: So maybe you're used to a bit of disruption?

    Schoolboy-2: Yeah we're always used to a bit of disruption here in Northern Ireland, yeah we are.

    Hayley: Nothing like this has ever happened in Northern Ireland before, so people aren't really sure what's going to happen next. One thing is certain though - people in Northern Ireland want all this sorted out soon, so that politicians can get back to running the country.

    Sonali: And Hayley will be live from Belfast with all the very latest in your next Newsround update, that's at 5 o'clock over on CBBC on BBC One.

    Sunday, January 10, 2010

    Are things hotting up?

    On Wednesday Richard Tait of the BBC Trust announced that the Trust will carry out a review to assess the accuracy and impartiality of the BBC's coverage of science. He said: Science is an area of great importance to licence fee payers, which provokes strong reaction and covers some of the most sensitive editorial issues the BBC faces. Heated debate in recent years around topics like climate change, GM crops and the MMR vaccine reflects this, and BBC reporting has to steer a course through these controversial issues while remaining impartial.

    Richard Tait, readers may recall, was responsible for From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel. See my email to Professor Tait about a significant flaw in the BBC's oddly named impartiality report.

    Newsround was back on TV last Monday after its winter break. On Tuesday Ricky reported from Manchester on all the cold weather we've been having.

    Newsround Blog is evidence-based, and therefore accepts the impact of greenhouse gas emissions on climate change as a reality. But despite the evidence, skeptics around the world continue to argue that global warming isn't genuine and, they say, kids are being brainwashed. BBC science reporting is generally (with one or two exceptions) of a very high standard, and the BBC Trust science review is yet one more waste of licence payers' money. Nevertheless a greater degree of caution is called for when looking at alleged methods of combatting global warming (e.g. see blog 13 December 2009).

    Newsround's own commitment to help combat global warming turned out to be rather short-lived. Only last month Leah had told viewers that Newsround wouldn't be sending a reporter to cover the Copenhagen climate change summit because of concerns about increasing the programme's 'carbon footprint' (see blog 11 December 2009) However on Monday 4 January 2010, introducing Newsround on BBC One -

    Sonali: Hey there, I'm Sonali. It's a new year, of course, and 2010 means it's a World Cup year. In June, South Africa will become the first African country to ever host the big footie tournament. And guess who got to jet out there to check out the preparations - only our very own Ore - the lucky boy. Hi Ore. Are things hotting up there?

    Ore: Sonali, I'd love to say they are, but you've just missed a tropical thunder storm. So no, but .....

    Things seem to be hotting up in California. Tomorrow Judge Vaughn R Walker is due to hear a challenge to Proposition 8 (see blog 31 August 2009). Proceedings may be made available on this YouTube channel.

    Thursday, January 07, 2010

    Ageism at the BBC was one of the concerns raised by PD James when she interviewed Mark Thompson at the end of 2009 (see blog 3 January 2010). Another was the poor standard of some BBC output, which Baroness James felt was not as good as that to be expected of a public service broadcaster. As examples, PD James reeled off a long list of (mainly BBC Three) TV programmes, but one not on her list, but equally deserving of scorn, was Most Annoying People 2009, which was peppered through with ageism.

    Recently I've been taking a look at BBC editorial guidelines (see blog 9 December 2009) and it seems the Guidelines are applicable to all of the BBC's output. So, for example, the BBC should be as fair-minded with a programme called Most Annoying People 2009, as it must be with the news or a documentary.

    Anyone who watched Most Annoying People 2009 would have seen criticisms of politicians for the way they used 'our' money. But what about BBC management? How about the £100 of our money spent by Jana Bennett to buy flowers for Jonathan Ross. And that was only one example. Why wasn't Ross himself on the list - especially considering that remark, widely considered homophobic, which went out on Radio 2 last May.

    In last year's MacTaggart Lecture at the Edinburgh International Television Festival, James Murdoch promoted his myopic view that profit is all important in the provision of quality television. Interesting not to see his name on the list. Perhaps it's something to do with his sister, Elisabeth, being chairperson and CEO of Shine Limited - i.e. the company responsible for making Most Annoying People 2009.

    It's just reported that Jonathan Ross will be leaving the BBC in the summer. Very good news, and hopefully this signals that the BBC will now take its core values seriously (blog 30 December 2009)

    Wednesday, January 06, 2010

    Jonathan Ross's car wouldn't start in the cold weather this morning. When asked what car it was, Ross tweeted his reply: "ford thunderbird. Coral pink. I know...."

    Wonder why he mentioned its colour, and what he meant by those last two words?

    Monday, January 04, 2010

    Channel 4 presenter Kirstie Allsopp has tweeted her concern about the anti-gay sentiments expressed on the earlier New Year Day episode of EastEnders. Viewers of the show, including children, would have seen Zainab tell Christian to "Take your perverted obsession elsewhere. What you do makes me feel sick."

    The BBC say "EastEnders has always shown a balance of opinions to ensure that we capture the many different views of the characters involved. ....We have taken great care in portraying this sensitive storyline ..."

    Looks like the BBC are scrupulously 'impartial' when it comes to 'homosexuals' - as we saw not long ago with the online debate "Should homosexuals face execution?" The BBC thought long and hard about using that question, and it prompted a lot of internal debate.

    Sunday, January 03, 2010

    Arlene Phillips, as most know, was removed as a judge on Strictly Come Dancing. Miranda Hart parodied BBC ageist attitudes in an amusing end-of-year comedy sketch (viewable until next week)

    Rumours that Alesha Dixon might replace Arlene were announced by Newsround on 18 June 2009.

    But, in what PD James saw as a damage limitation exercise, Arlene was chosen as one of the judges in a new Saturday night dancing show on BBC One - So You Think You Can Dance. Trouble is that in its vain attempt to wriggle out of ageism accusations the BBC has chosen a programme format involving Nigel Lythgoe. Nigel was accused of homophobia when he told same-sex dance duo Misha Belfer and Mitchel Kibel "I think you probably alienate a lot of our audience," in the American show.

    In last Thursday's interview with Mark Thompson, PD James brought up the problem of ageism and Strictly Come Dancing, which she had previously enjoyed but had given up watching because of the sacking of Arlene Phillips. Mark Thompson said that Arlene would be back in another dancing programme in the new year, but PD James suggested that it was merely a response to criticisms of ageism, and went on to speak of the insult caused by the idea of advertising for a newsreader over 50 years old (see blog on 27 September 2009)