Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Is the job of a BBC journalist to investigate and report news in an impartial manner, or is it their job to disseminate a point of view without question?

Last Sunday, Catholic church opposition to marriage equality was given a great deal of air time on the BBC News channel. Presumably BBC religious affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, had decided that the latest attempt to prevent equal marriage rights in Scotland actually constituted an important news story. (see previous blog)

Of course this was not the first time that a letter about same-sex marriage had been read out in Catholic churches. So how many letters and other anti-gay publicity stunts can they get away? Mr Pigott knows very well that Sunday-morning congregations are dwindling away and that without mass media help, the church leadership would simply be wasting its time opposing 'gay marriage' legislation.

Now look at how the Bishops' message began:

In all things, we as Catholics look to Jesus Christ as our model and teacher. When asked about marriage He gave a profound and rich reply: “Have you not read that the Creator, from the beginning, ‘made them male and female’, and said: ‘This is why a man must leave father and mother and cling to his wife and the two become one body’.”
In actual fact the quotes from Matthew are Jesus' response to a question about divorce, not marriage. His "profound and rich reply" is a taken from Genesis. Incidentally Jesus goes on to seemingly contradict Genesis by suggesting that people are not required to marry.

Had Mr Pigott been doing his job properly, he would have immediately recognised the true significance of the Biblical verses upon which the Bishops' message is based. From there Robert might go on to ask why Catholic church leaders are not railing against divorce.

But, instead, the BBC simply acts as a mouthpiece for the church position.

All this gives rise to a very worrying possibility: Maybe Mr Pigott is sympathetic to anti-gay bigotry, and not acting as a responsible and impartial journalist.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Robert Pigott puts the Catholic church leadership perspective on the Scottish Government's plans for marriage equality.
Above - 3 stills from Mr Pigott's report yesterday

Sunday, August 26, 2012

BBC Media Centre reports a new CBBC commission in which Dick and Dom will turn their attention to the world of inventions, celebrating some of the world’s most important inventors and scientists in Absolute Genius

Key CBBC talent Dick and Dom will host a brand new format, Dick And Dom’s Absolute Genius, a 10x30-minute series executive produced by Newsround editor Owenna Griffiths, in which they investigate the work of important inventors and scientists in history.

According to the BBC, the show takes viewers on a fun, irreverent, fact-laden, explosion filled journey into our past and future. From Da Vinci to Galileo, from Brunel to Stephenson, this series will explore their amazing work and conduct experiments on inventions and scientific theories that have shaped the world we live in.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

BBC Sports Editor, David Bond, interviewed Sepp Blatter last year after a series of controversial comments, including a suggestion that racism wasn't a problem in football. Even though the interview went on for over 20 minutes David Bond did not ask the FIFA boss any questions about homophobia in football, nor on the consequence for LGBT people of choosing Russia and Qatar to host the World Cup. Was this omission merely an oversight - or was it symptomatic of a more serious problem within the Corporation?

Well, thanks to Google it is quite easy to find an answer. Because, if Google's search results are to be believed, Bond has frequently dealt with the issue of racism in football, but steers clear of news about prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. For instance, in this blog and accompanying 17 minute interview, David Bond completely ignores the issue.

In an email dated 1st March 2010 I mentioned to Joe Godwin that the BBC Diversity Strategy, adopted in 2005, says that BBC leaders across the organisation are to be held accountable for making diversity happen.

Although Newsround and MOTD Kickabout have covered the topics of racism and sexism, so far there's been nothing specifically dealing with homophobia, either in school or in football.

Last month Mark Thompson acknowledged the Corporation's "shortcomings."

Of course, one of those shortcomings was the total failure of Newsound to report on LGBT human rights issues. However, shortly after Mr Thompson's speech, the programme did briefly mention the Scottish Government's intention to legislate for "gay marriage."

But look more closely at the Director-General's speech. He said the BBC has a "duty to take lesbian, gay and bisexual people as seriously as any other part of our audience and to portray them and convey their experiences and perspectives with as much conviction and fairness as we would anyone else." He said, George Entwistle, is every bit committed as himself towards that aim.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Newsround report earlier today (5pm on BBC One)

During the Olympics, athletes who won gold medals each got one of these - their own stamp. But until today Paralympians weren't going to get the same special treatment. Royal Mail had said it wouldn't paint postboxes gold, or create stamps for the athletes, but now they've changed their minds. So it looks like we could be seeing a few more of these [gold postboxes] before the end of the summer.

There were a couple of slight errors in Newsround's report, the main one being that Royal Mail agreed to paint the postboxes gold some days ago.

ParalympicsGB tweet at 7pm on 7th August 2012 -

Note the tweet includes a link to this press release.

But slightly later that same evening, at 8.32pm, ParalympicsGB tweeted a link to a further press release, which now mentioned "a gold post box in the home town of every gold medallist."

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

If London 2012 is intended to inspire a generation, a section of that generation - LGBT youth - have seen less than their fair share of role models. The reason is, at least in part, due to the very small number of sports people willing to self-identify as lesbian or gay.

Ian Thorpe, one of the BBC's commentary team for the Olympics, is occasionally thought to be gay - something he continues to deny. Thorpe is working on an autobiography and was interviewed recently by Daily Telegraph journalist Harry Wallop. Thorpe didn't wish to be questioned about his sexuality, but assures everyone that he isn't gay. Thorpe says he is hurt that people think he is not being honest about the issue.

So what is the truth about Ian Thorpe?

Several Internet sites suggest that Thorpe once claimed a "long-term long-distance relationship" with an American swimmer called Amanda Beard. However Ms Beard acknowledges a "friendship" with Ian, but says it was nothing more. So, is it just possible that Thorpe is gay, but nevertheless providing an honest response to questions about his sexual orientation?

Well maybe it depends on what makes a person gay, straight or bisexual. Is a person's sexuality defined by who they are/aren't sexually attracted to, or is it instead defined by who they're intimate with?

The media world is keen to seek out hetero romance stories, even to the extent, if there's nothing to say, of just making them up. According to Mstarz.com (and many other media sources) Tom Daley and Kassidy Cook are boyfriend and girlfriend. But the Mstarz story is deceitful. It reports Kassidy as having tweeted "Words cannot describe how proud I am of Tom Daley. Literally in tears right now."

However, the actual tweets from Kassidy between 9.43pm and 10.24pm BST on 11th August were:-

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Marrying Mum and Dad is a new reality series, in which children are given a budget of up to £10,000 to plan their parents' wedding day. The series of ten programmes will be aired over the next two weeks, beginning this Monday at 9.30am on the CBBC channel. Applications to participate in the series ended on 29th February.

The Daily Telegraph, in an article dated 18th February, said that the BBC wants to see parents who are cohabiting, those remarrying after divorce, and even homosexual couples taking part, to “reflect modern Britain”

Only last month, Mark Thompson, said the BBC's commitment to portray lesbian, gay and bisexual life in this country was not an afterthought, but a central concern. He said "we have an obligation to serve every section of society fairly and impartially and sensitively."

Now, if the BBC really did want "homosexual couples" to apply to take part, why did they choose a such a discriminatory title for the series? Since when did requiring two mums to pose as a mum and a dad become fair, impartial and sensitive treatment?

You will not be surprised to learn that there no "homosexual couples" took part in the series.

Marrying Mum and Dad - Episodes 1-5

Marrying Mum and Dad - Episodes 6-10

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Royal Mail London2012 stamps featured on TV again yesterday - this time on Channel4 News. Former Newsround presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy reported the story -

Krishnan: Royal Mail has been criticised over plans to celebrate Britain's winning Paralympians differently from Olympic gold medallists. During the Olympic games, Royal Mail is issuing a stamp with the image of each British gold medallist in action. The stamps are available within a day, and the local postbox of each athlete is painted gold. But for next month's Paralympics gold medallists will not get a stamp each. Instead a series of six stamps will be issued to cover them all, after the Games. Well, the decision has been criticised by Paralympic commentators.

James Ballardie talks to Channel4 News (8th August 2012)

James Ballardie: (on video clip) I come at it from the point of view of being the world's greatest Paralympics fan. I just want to celebrate the games, like Olympics fans want to celebrate the games. And when my heroes win a medal I want to see that celebrated in the same way.

Krishnan: Well, earlier I was joined by Tim Cowen from Royal Mail

Tim Cowen talks to Krishnan Guru-Murthy on C4 News (8th August 2012)

Krishnan: Why are you not treating the Paralympians the same way you're treating the Olympians?

Tim: I think we're doing a great deal to celebrate the Paralympic games. We're doing more than any other postal administration ever has to ..

Krishnan: Why aren't you treating them like Olympians?

Tim: We are treating them like Olympians. Every single ParalympicsGB gold medallist will be featured on a Royal Mail stamp, which will be available after the games. We're also making a donation to the British Paralympic Association, which will be shared equally between all the gold medalists. And the British Paralympic Association themselves have gone on record to say they're very pleased with what we've done.

Krishnan: All of which is great. But you are going to do 22 individual stamps for the 22 gold medal winners in the Olympics, and you're gonna bunch the Paralympic winners all together in to a handful of stamps. That is not treating them the same.

Tim: That is correct, but the challenge we've got ..

Krishnan: Why?

Tim: Well the challenge we've got is simply logistics. ParalympicsGB are so successful - or we expect them to be so successful - they'll just get so many gold medals that we won't be able to do an individual stamp for each.

Krishnan: But if you can do 22, why can't you do 45?

Tim: Well I have to say, we've never done 22 before. And the logi..

Krishnan: But you are doing 22

Tim: The logistics of that have just about stretched us to the limit. We reckon the maximum we can do on any one day is 6. On Super-Saturday we got 6 gold medals, and we just about managed to do that. During the Paralympics we may be looking at something like 48 to 50 gold medals over a ten day period - so that would be ten (sic) gold medals a day.

Krishnan: You know I'm sure they wouldn't mind if there was a little bit of a delay in their stamp coming out...

Krishnan finished the interview by asking Tim if there was any chance of a policy review. Tim responded that the British Paralympic Association were "very, very pleased" with Royal Mail's arrangements. Tim believed there was no need to review the situation, and he thought the Paralympians will be delighted when they see what's been done.

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Is children's TV getting the balance right? The BBC remit is to inform, educate and entertain. But to what extent is the Corporation meeting that remit on its children's services?

Kids interested in sports will have little to quibble about. British athletes are doing their best to inspire a generation, and BBC presenters are showing support for Team GB. But all this concentration on sports has meant that other news is on the back burner at the moment. After the Olympics, Newsround ought to make a catch-up edition which covers all the important news its audience might have missed out on. The tensions between the Coalition partners is one such news story which needs to be reported.

As for the 'educate' part of the BBC's mission, it seems that children's TV bosses think all facts have to be imparted in a flippant manner. So, for example, if 'history' isn't 'horrible' kids won't get to learn about it on CBBC. The result is a lopsided view of the past.

Finally, there is the mission to entertain audiences. If lavatorial humour counts as entertainment, then perhaps the BBC should get a gold medal of its own for this.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012

Andrew Hammond talked to the BBC about Royal Mail stamps last Thursday (previous blog) But it seems the Royal Mail and the BBC wanted to ensure as many people as possible know about the Olympic stamps, so Mr Hammond was interviewed yesterday after the Andy Murray gold medal victory on Sunday.

As in last week's interview, Mr Hammond had provided the BBC with blow-ups of the stamp -

Ben Brown shows us the Andy Murray stamp (6th August 2012)

Ben Brown: Just tell us about what you're doing for Andy Murray. Not only the stamp, but also the postbox in Dunblane where he comes from.

Andrew Hammond: Absolutely. The stamp is actually on sale today. We printed overnight and distributed, so ...

Ben Brown: So it's on sale already?

Andrew Hammond: On sale already.

Ben Brown: Gosh.

Andrew Hammond: From about 12 o'clock in Post Offices, including Dunblane. And then we're also painting a gold post box in Dunblane itself. So the team are out, busy at work. That should be done today. Four coats of gold paint to make it extra special.

Ben Brown: And you're doing this for every gold medallist?

Andrew Hammond: Every gold medalist in Team GB, absolutely. We just thought it was a great way to ...

Andrew Hammond in the Olympic studio (6th August 2012)

Saturday, August 04, 2012

A special set of stamps featuring Olympic gold medallists have gone on sale. Andrew Hammond, managing director of Royal Mail stamps, spoke to the BBC about the stamps just after they went on sale.

Andrew Hammond and Ben Brown (2nd August 2012)

Ben Brown began by asking Andrew how he'd managed to get the stamps printed so quickly.

Andrew Hammond: Well, it's a monumental effort that we've been working on for about two years now. So as soon as we have a gold medal win, the team of designers have images coming through from Getty. So we're sat in our office in London, watching every race. And as soon as we get those images we work the best one. And what we've done is tried to get action shots from the actual events. And as soon as we've got the right image we photoshop it, crop it, and then get it off to the printers once we've had relevant approvals ...

Mr Hammond went on to confirm that Royal Mail would make a stamp for every Team GB gold medal win. He said it's the first time the Royal Mail has featured living individuals, as opposed to teams, on their stamps.

The Royal Mail's Bradley Wiggins and Helen Glover/Heather Stanning stamps also featured on Newsround that afternoon -

Hayley: It's not only medals that our winners get. They also get the honour of this - one of their very own official stamps. ...
Newsround - Thursday 2nd August 2012 - 5pm BBC Two