Friday, April 29, 2011

I can't track down the section of Sentamu's interview which Newsround broadcast on Wednesday afternoon, but it seems the clip (see yesterday's blog) was most likely taken from his recent pronouncements about the Royal Wedding, and the benefits of marriage as against just living together. That particular bit isn't included in the Archbishop's own edited recording of the interview and accompanying transcript. Also missing from Archbishop Sentamu's edit is his comment about some people wanting to taste the milk before buying the cow.

The Archbishop of York's objections to gay equality are well known and on record. However Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who Newsround confused with John Sentamu, has very different views.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Archbishop Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu wrote
A student once asked me if I could have one wish granted to reverse an injustice, what would it be? I had to ask for two. One is for world leaders to forgive the debts of developing nations which hold them in such thrall. The other is for the world to end the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation, which is every bit as unjust as that crime against humanity, apartheid.

Archbishop Tutu says that a parent who teaches a child that there is only one sexual orientation and that anything else is evil denies our humanity and their own too.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu would, no doubt, be disdainful of any school or public institution that tolerated homophobia. CBBC has, in recent years, gone out of its way to invisibilise lesbian and gay people and issues. Which is a total disgrace.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Over the years Newsround Blog has pointed out numerous errors, editorial misjudgements and bloopers. So here's another from yesterday's programme at 3.30pm. Notice the caption when the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, speaks.

Sonali: Hey guys, Sonali here with all your top stories from Newsround. First to a big dress rehearsal for the Royal Wedding - and it happened overnight. Members of the armed forces marched through the streets of London very early this morning to make sure they get it right on Friday. Leah's got the pictures.

(video) Leah: Lit up. Westminster Abbey. In the middle of the night the military were rehearsing. It's their last chance before the big day, and they needed the streets to be quiet to make sure no-one got in their way. The army, the navy and the RAF will all take part in the ceremony. And they need to make sure no-one puts a foot wrong. As well as lining the way from Buckingham Palace to the Church, some of them will be escorting the royal carriage as it makes its way along the route. Outside the Abbey people have already begun camping out so they can get a front row seat on all the action. Yesterday work began on preparing the inside of the Church - trees and flowers were moved in.

Newsround 27th April 2011 @ 3.30pm on CBBC
John Sentamu: The moment, you know, when William answers the question, Do you take Kate to be your wife? and he says I do, almost all the lights will go out of London, because he's no longer a bachelor.

Leah: Later this afternoon there'll be a full music rehearsal. With just two days to go it's no wonder people are working through the night to get everything right.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

As Andrew Marr has been in the news recently accused of hypocrisy, and as he's been mentioned many times on this blog in relation to the BBC's so-called Impartiality Summit and the resultant From Seesaw to Wagon Wheel, and as Andrew Marr has a high opinion of BBC journalists, I've decided to publish my email to him dated 6th July 2008.
Dear Andrew,

I believe you told people at the BBC's Impartiality Summit, amongst other things, that there is almost certainly an abnormally large proportion of gay people working for the BBC compared with the general population.

Please could you advise me why you believe that statement to be true?

Also why do you believe that there is an innate liberal bias at the BBC, and why do you think that gay people necessarily add to any liberal bias?

I look forward to hearing from you.

Andrew Marr has never replied to my enquiries.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Openness and transparency

The BBC Trust has taken a lot of stick, not least from Newsround Blog, which realised that the Trust is far too close to BBC management well before most of the press and politicians created a brouhaha.

Sir Michael Lyons, who is leaving his post as Chairman of the Trust, believed a low point at the BBC was being part of their 'ship of fools' election night coverage.

Chris Patten takes over as Chairman on 1st May.

In spite of the BBC Trust's many faults, its Strategy Review did include some very important and progressive key objective statements, particularly in regard to the need for openness and transparency and the need to do more to serve all audiences.

My blog dated 20 April 2011 demonstrates Corporation malfeasance, even at the higher levels. If the BBC's Head of Information Policy & Compliance can't be trusted, who can?

At the time of writing, several links on Richard Deverell's page and the last link on Joe Godwin's page - supposedly his declaration of personal interests - still aren't working.

Of course it shouldn't always be necessary to go through the formality of a 'Freedom of Information' enquiry. You'd think that when a programme invites viewers to contact them with "Email us now!" they'd be more than happy to receive and answer emails.

Email us now!
But I contacted MOTD Kickabout in January asking about the Fantasy Football Leaderboard, and I still haven't been given the details I asked for.

MOTD Kickabout Leaderboard on 29th Jan 2011
More recently I asked BBC Children's about another programme, Project Parent, and I'm still waiting for a reply to that question as well. I hope to write a review of Project Parent, or 'Attack of the Matchmakers' as it was originally to be titled, when I hear back.

An Easter Egg

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

New standards of openness and transparency

The BBC has today published its latest set of disclosures, which for the first time, includes some salary and expenses data relating to the current BBC Director of Children's. A mystery surrounds why Mr Godwin's data were not published previously, and it's is an issue which I originally took up with the BBC in February 2010.

There is still an outstanding disclosure enquiry relating to Mr Godwin which has been dealt with by the BBC in a less than honest manner. This is how I put it to James Leaton Gray, BBC Head of Information Policy & Compliance, on Monday:

The BBC Trust recently indicated that it wished the BBC to set new standards of openness and transparency. Members of the public are entitled to expect you to fulfil your role in a professional and impartial manner. However I suspect your department's misleading responses (see attached screencapture) have set a new low standard for the Corporation.

Anyone who carefully checks out the BBC's "disclosures" will notice that a substantial number of links are broken or never worked in the first place. One example of the latter is Joe Godwin's Declaration of Personal Interests link which, at the time of writing, returns "Error 404 - Page not found"

BBC expenses
screencapture from 'About the BBC' website

This following email was sent to the BBC at 10.46am today -

FAO: James Leaton Gray, Head of Information Policy & Compliance

Dear Mr Gray,

In reply to your email yesterday, I still believe that my FOI enquiry has been dealt with improperly.

The sequence of events was as follows:

My original request (see below) was emailed on 9th March 2011, and acknowledged by your department on 10th March. The enquiry was given a reference number RFI20110305.

The subject of my email was: Freedom of Information Enquiry re BBC Director of Children's

The BBC's FOI acknowledgement was titled: RFI20110305 - BBC Director of Children's salary

It did, however, quote my enquiry in full.

The BBC response was sent on Thursday 7th April 2011, just outside the time limit, for which an apology was given. Two documents were attached. The first (RFI20110305 - final response.pdf) included a detailed explanation as to why Mr Godwin's salary details had been withheld, as well as the following two sentences under the heading of 'Expenses' -

"Please find enclosed a schedule of Joe Godwin’s expenses from 1st October 2009 – 30th September 2010. For a small number of entries, we have added some additional notes for context."

The document ended with a paragraph explaining my rights of appeal.

The other attached document (RFI20110305 - Disclosure document - Joe Godwin expenses data.pdf) was the said list of expenses.

Being surprised to note that there were apparently no expenses in relation to Mr Godwin's attendance at last year's Children's Media Conference, I followed up the next day, 8th April 2011, asking if you would recheck to see if more details were available.

No reply was received.

Six days later, on 14th April 2011, I emailed again repeating the request. Your department replied the same day mentioning that they had contacted the BBC's Finance department. I was informed that the data provided constitutes details of all claims paid to Joe Godwin in the period specified. I then enquired once again (at 2.23pm) whether there might indeed have been other expenses.

The next morning, Friday 15th April 2011 at 11.10am I emailed again asking for an adequate response by 6pm. Your department's reply then stated for the first time that requests for expenses are treated as requests for expenses paid to the claimant. No reason was given for not having informed me of this in reply to my emails of 8th and 14th April 2011, neither was there any apology for what might well be reasonably characterised as a misleading and possibly dishonest response. Instead I was issued with a different reference number for what was termed my "new request."

I wrote back at 5.30pm: "This is not a new request. I did not limit my original request in any way. This gives the clear impression that the BBC is deliberately withholding information."

I wrote again on Monday 18th April 2011 pointing out what the BBC Trust had to say about new standards of openness and transparency which I felt had not been met in your handling of this case. I attached a JPEG of the 'About the BBC' website which seems to back up my view that your department should have been forthcoming on all expenses from the start.

I advised that you conduct a review of your department's procedures, and requested that my enquiry, with reference number of your choice, be expedited. I said I would be grateful for an answer by 6pm that day.

A reply yesterday (19th April 2011) attempted to defend your position, linking to what seems to be a BBC staff information document.

You said in part:

'the BBC discloses details of expenses once they have been paid as this is the point at which a cost is incurred by the corporation.'

Now I originally wrote:

In respect of the Director of Children's, Joe Godwin, please could the BBC provide details of salary and expenses for

A) The first two quarters (Q1, Q2) of 2010-2011;


B) The last two quarters (Q3, Q4) of 2009-2010.

My request applied to 'expenses' without any distinction, i.e. whether reclaimed by Joe Godwin or otherwise incurred to the BBC, and your most recent message is no excuse for the lack of transparent disclosure - during the quarter they were incurred by the BBC - of all Joe Godwin's expenses.

Nevertheless I was told yesterday to expect a response within an additional 20 working days.

As I may decide to pursue this matter with relevant authorities, it would be most helpful if you could let me know as soon as possible if there is anything in the above with which you take issue. Thank you.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Apparently Rebecca Black took over from Justin Bieber as the most watched star on YouTube last month. The story was trailed at the start of Newsround at 8.25 this morning:

Ricky: ... It is a black day for Bieber as he loses the top spot.

and then a bit later -

Ricky: Right, Bieber breaking news just in - the singer's lost his crown as the king of YouTube ...

Plenty of puns then, but shouldn't Newsround have been wary of beginning its bulletin with an archaic idiom?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

LGBT heroes

What is it about two men or two women kissing in public which causes some people distress? Whether it's in a London pub or whether it's on children's TV there's always the odd bigot trying to keep same-sex relationships out of sight.

Although the My Hero project, mentioned in an earlier blog, was supposedly set up to counter the lack of "positive role models" in the media, it seems the site has never included a feature about LGBT History Month.

But there were plenty of equality champions gathered together in London last night. They'd congregated outside the John Snow pub in Soho to protest at the treatment of a gay couple two days before. The couple, James Bull and Jonathan Williams, had been on a first date when they were asked to leave the pub. Rather than face the music, the cowardly landlord closed the pub early and had nothing to say on camera. (Sky News report)

News about LGBT discrimination and news items about attempts to fight homophobia never make it to CBBC Newsround, though stories about combatting racism are relatively frequent. Only last night, for example, the lead story was about racist chanting in football, and celebrities campaigning to help stamp it out.

Not only is CBBC failing to combat homophobia, it is at the same time responsible for a drama which rewrites history, depicting a prominent LGBT hero as heterosexual. (see previous blog) I've asked Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children's, about Leonardo in that regard.

When another a couple gets thrown out of a pub simply for kissing, the BBC will bear a share of responsibility. Unfortunately the end result of homophobia isn't limited to being ejected from a pub. Michael Causer and Ian Baynham are just two of the many victims who aren't able to testify to that.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Heroes and Superheroes - continued

CBBC's new 13 part historical drama, Leonardo, paints the young Leonardo da Vinci in glowing terms. The series, which was shot in South Africa, is set in 15th century Florence, and stars Jonathan Bailey as the eponymous superhero. It follows the adventures of a teenage Leonardo and his friends.

Historical accuracy is not one of the strengths of the new drama series. In the first episode, for example, we see Leonardo riding a remarkably modern-looking bicycle, which he had supposedly invented and initially termed a velocerotor.

According to a BBC press release the drama series is full of mystery, adventure and an unfolding love story.

Will that love affair be between Leonardo and Lisa? Probably yes. But if there were to be any attempt at a story true to history, we'd be more likely to see a romance develop between Leonardo and one of his mates.

It's about time the people in charge of CBBC grew up and faced the reality of the world as it is and always has been.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Heroes and Superheroes

Who are kids' heroes? Are they reflected in children's media? Can we use attributes that kids respect in building the next generation of media heroes and superheroes? Hear findings from the "My Hero" project, followed by discussion with leading producers.

That was the description of a panel discussion in New York's Hilton (see blog on 31 March 2011)

Without having attended the Kidscreen Summit, and without transcripts, I can only speculate on the event. So let's analyse what we have available.

Who are kids' heroes? - That seems a fair enough question.

Are they reflected in children's media? - Another fair question.

Can we use attributes that kids respect in building the next generation of media heroes and superheroes? - Right, this is where things get a bit more complex. Because it looks to me like kids' heroes are actually influenced by people in the media and their perceived financial interests.

Hear findings from the "My Hero" project, followed by discussion with leading producers. - "My Hero" is a US-based organisation set up by parents to offset the lack of "positive role models" in the media. Only a few days ago in Britain BBC newsreader, Jane Hill who is LGB, commented: It’s 2011 – do we not have a right to see ourselves reflected? Stonewall’s Unseen on Screen research showed how little positive representation there is of lesbian, gay and bisexual people.

American attitudes are a world apart from British attitudes, and the "My Hero" project, which claims to "celebrate the best of humanity," is primarily for Americans. Try searching for an American politician - Barack Obama is an obvious choice. Now try searching for David Cameron or Ed Miliband.

So why have UK licence-payers been funding Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children's, to attend the New York Hilton and participate in an event which has little relevance to a British audience? Joe Godwin does check out this blog, so maybe he would like to explain his reasons for attending. I'd be happy to publish Joe's viewpoint should a response be forthcoming.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

New sections of the Equality Act 2010 will come into force very shortly. Regular Newsround Blog readers will know that I've taken a particular interest in equality legislation. It's now almost 2 years since I first contacted the DCMS to ask details of intentions with regard to the legislation. Last year my enquiries led to the Government Equalities Office, and yesterday I received an unexpected email from the GEO Correspondence and Enquiries Manager:-

I am writing in relation to a complaint that you raised with the ICO in the 4th March.

Please find below a reply to your Freedom of Information request and correspondence about the Public Sector Equality Duty.

We are informing the Information Commissioners Office about this response.

There were 2 attachments to the email. The first was a document from Tim Morgan, who was the lead official for the Government's consultation on the Public Sector Equality Duty:-

Ref: GEO/10/FOI/65

I understand that an FOI request you made last year to the Government Equalities Office (GEO) – to which we gave the reference above – was not dealt with properly. Please accept my apologies for this. The GEO aims to respond promptly and fully to all FOI requests.

As you will recall, we exchanged a series of e-mails in the autumn of last year, and I endeavoured to answer the various questions you asked.

In response to the specific question that formed your FOI request, I responded within the necessary timescale, and provided relevant information and context. However, I was not actually aware then that I should have been treating that particular question as an FOI request, and – among other things – failed to use the reference number that we had allocated to it, as you would rightly have expected. For this, I apologise.

Given that response, and the fact that you very helpfully explained in a subsequent e-mail the key information you were after, I recognise now that I should have given a fuller answer. This letter therefore provides further information.

Your original question was:

"Please could you let me know if the Government Equalities Office was involved or contacted in any way whatsoever, either directly or indirectly, in respect of the broadcasters' exemption? I am particularly interested in the details up to, and including, 19th January 2010."

Plainly this was a very broad question, and my response made clear that – as the lead department for the Equality Bill – GEO was of course involved in many discussions about the broadcasters’ exemption.

However, you helpfully narrowed it down to ask, in a follow up question, to focus on your key interest, which was communications with Lord Lester. Your e-mail of 20 September asked:

“Please could you let me know if the GEO had any communications with Lord Lester in connection with the public sector Equality Duty? Thanks again.”

I explained that GEO Lords Ministers were in contact periodically with Lord Lester during the passage of the Bill through the House of Lords, as he was the Liberal Democrat lead on it. But I was not aware if they had discussions about the Equality Duty outside of the House.

In retrospect, both of these answers could have been rather fuller.

In answer to your broader question, much of the involvement and contact that the GEO had regarding the broadcasters’ exemption is already in the public domain. That includes:

• Ministerial responses given to Mark Harper MP and Lord Ouseley, who asked Parliamentary Questions on the subject in June 2009;

• debates between GEO Ministers and the Conservative members of the House of Commons Equality Bill committee, who tabled an amendment to exclude the BBC from the scope of the Equality Duty, in June 2009; and

• formal responses to our first consultation on the shape of specific duties, in the autumn of 2009, from the BBC and the BBC Trust.

However, there were also exchanges between GEO officials and those from other relevant Government Departments, such as DWP and DCMS; and a meeting between GEO officials and the BBC and other broadcasters, in October 2009. These discussions focussed on the wording of the exemption to which the Government, both in those Ministerial responses and in the debates in the House of Commons, had given an explicit commitment.

In regard to your more specific question quoted above, my e-mail noted that there may well have been informal involvement and contact between the GEO’s Lords Ministers and Lord Lester. I noted that we do not hold any information on that, and instead flagged for you their formal exchanges in Parliament, which were recorded in Hansard. However, I have found one e-mail exchange between a senior GEO official – Melanie Field – and Lord Lester, which is relevant to your request. It is therefore attached, in a slightly redacted form blocking out material not relevant to the question you asked.

Moving on, you will recall that, in subsequent exchanges, you asked for the GEO's views on the BBC’s exemption – essentially whether we agreed with the Prime Minister and/or with Parliament on this issue.

I noted the difficulty of dealing with that question. GEO has no corporate view, as such, on anything. We take our lead from our Ministers, who are appointed by the PM; and the Government is then collectively accountable to Parliament for its decisions, and ultimately to the electorate.

I have kept you informed about relevant consultations and debates on this issue, and I note that you have responded. I have endeavoured to do this because ultimately – as you’re aware – the partial exemption for the BBC and other broadcasters from parts of the Equality Act were discussed in both Houses of Parliament, and agreed by all the main parties. It is politicians, not GEO officials, who need to be persuaded of the arguments on this issue.

Aside from what was necessary to deal with your FOI request, I see from my notes that I also mailed you to flag the BBC’s consultation on its diversity objectives; the Government’s work to promote LGB&T equality, including their first ever LGB&T Action Plan; and in regard to the roles of Ofcom and the BBC Charter in influencing this debate.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has responsibility within Government for the BBC and the other broadcasters, and I suggest that you should contact them for any further information you require.

If you are dissatisfied with the handling of your request, you have the right to ask for an internal review. You should submit an internal review request within two months of the date of receipt of the response to your original letter and you should address it to: Information Management Services, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF or email

If you are not content with the outcome of the internal review, you have the right to apply directly to the Information Commissioner for a decision. You can contact The Information Commissioner at: Information Commissioner's Office, Wycliffe House, Water Lane, Wilmslow, Cheshire, SK9 5AF

I still take issue with some of the above. As an example, there was no debate in the House of Commons regarding the BBC's partial exemption from the Act. This had been acknowledged in earlier correspondence with Mr Morgan.

The other attachment contained various redacted correspondence between Lord Lester and the GEO. The dates of emails were removed by the GEO:-

From: Anthony Lester
Sent: [ ]
To: Melanie Field
Cc: [ ]

Subject: RE: Broadcasters

Dear Melanie

Thank you very much for taking such trouble to explain. Before you make any more criticism of my own drafting I should like to emphasise that the drafting came from the broadcasters. I know that is no excuse since they are in my name.

Would you like me to forward this to the broadcasters or will you do so?

[ one additional paragraph on unrelated issue ]

Have a relaxed weekend

Best wishes


From: Melanie Field []
To: Anthony Lester
Cc: [ ]
Subject: RE: Broadcasters

Dear Anthony

On the public sector Equality Duty, the plan is to list the public service broadcasters in Schedule 19 except in respect of their broadcasting and output functions.

In case it is helpful, I have set out below further explanation of why we consider Parliamentary Counsel's drafting does the trick, and addressing concerns raised by the BBC.

1. The references to "failing", "refusing" and "omitting" in your version can be dealt with by the word "not" by virtue of clause 204(3) (general interpretation) which provides that a reference to an omission includes a reference to a deliberate omission to do something, a refusal to do it or a failure to do it. However, we have gone for an even simpler formulation which provides that section 20 does not apply to the activities in question.

2. The references to broadcasting or distributing "particular output at a particular time or in a particular manner" in your version are not necessary: the reference in clause 29(2) to providing the service would, we think, cover all aspects of provision as well as the fact of provision. There is further support for this in clause 31(7) which provides that a reference to a service provider not providing a person with a service (contrary to clause 29(1)) includes the service provider not providing the person with a service of the quality that it usually provides to the public and the manner in which, or the terms on which, the service provider usually provides the service to the public.

3. We do not think that the reference to deciding or failing or omitting to decide to take any of the steps mentioned is necessary. The services provisions in clause 29 hinge on providing or not providing the service in question. In this case, that would be the broadcasting or not broadcasting of a programme. We doubt whether deciding to do something is itself the provision of a service.

4. The reference to "programme" is intended to cover output broadcast on the television, radio or internet. It is not intended to cover, for example, advertisements. We would be happy to hear from the BBC as to why they consider the concept not broad enough, what it does not capture that they would wish to capture and what alternative can be used. We think that "output", undefined, is too vague a concept for the lay reader to understand. The reference to distribution by means of the internet can be added to to include mobile devices. It would be helpful if the BBC could include all of the activities which they think need to be covered.

4. We do not think that the commissioning of a programme is the provision of a service to the public. What matters for the purposes of clause 29 is the broadcasting of a programme rather than how it came to be made or prepared for broadcast (i.e. whether it was commissioned or bought or made in-house). It follows that we also do not think that creating a programme is the provision of a service to the public. We think that scheduling a programme is an aspect of broadcasting and that the manner in which the service is provided would include the time/day on which it is broadcast. In relation to the BBC's example of a complaint by a disabled person in relation to an absence of gardening programmes aimed at disabled people, we do not think that the issue of commissioning would be relevant to such a complaint. Such a complainant would probably have to argue that broadcasting a gardening programme that did not take into account the needs of disabled gardeners amounted to a detriment. As we do not consider that commissioning a programme is the provision of a service to the public, it does not make sense to seek to include it in the exception.

5. We have not included references to "content" or "output", but have preferred to refer to broadcasting a programme or an intem within a programme as more accessible language to the lay person.

6. Sub-paragraph (2) is intended to ensure that broadcasters are not exempt from liability in respect of decisions regarding the transmission of a signal that people receive in their homes, should the term "broadcasting" be interpreted as including that activity. We have done this by trying to exclude the relevant concepts as defined by the Communications Act 2003, but realise that some fine-tuning may be required here. We do not agree with the BBC's view that the effect of sub-paragraph (2) negates the effect of sub-paragraph (1) and would be grateful for an explanation of how they think it does this. As we have already said, the effect of sub-paragraph (2) is to ensure that any discrimination involved in the activity of broadcasting a signal is not exempted from the duties in clause 29. The exception is only intended to apply to the content of programmes broadcast on the television, radio or via the internet (or, as indicated by the BBC, mobile devices).

Best wishes


Melanie Field
Head of Discrimination Law
Government Equalities Office

From: Anthony Lester [ ]

To: Melanie Field
Subject: RE: Broadcasters

Thank you. what about the public sector duty?


From: Melanie Field [ ]
To: Anthony Lester
Subject: Broadcasters

Dear Anthony

I thought you might want to see an amendment Parliamentary Counsel has drafted which would ensure that the broadcasting and output functions of public service broadcasters were not covered by the prohibition on discrimination in Part 3 of the Bill:

Schedule 3

2 Page 145, line 11, at end insert—



(1) Section 29 does not apply to broadcasting, or distributing by means of the internet, a programme or an item forming part of a programme.

(2) Sub-paragraph (1) does not apply to providing an electronic communications network, electronic communications service or associated facility (each of which has the same meaning as in the Communications Act 2003).”

You will note that this exception does not cover the commissioning of programmes. This is because Counsel thinks that commissioning a programme is not the provision of a service to the public. What matters is the broadcasting of a programme, not how it came to be made or ready for broadcast (such as whether it was commissioned or bought). It follows that we also do not think that creating a programme is the provision of a service to the public. However, scheduling a programme is an aspect of broadcasting - the manner in which the service is provided would include the time at which it is broadcast.

Best wishes


Melanie Field
Head of Discrimination Law
Government Equalities Office