Saturday, March 31, 2012

Newsround's 40th Anniversary is Wednesday 4th April 2012.

These days, weekend updates of Newsround's website are a rare occurrence, but obviously those in editorial control thought Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams' thoughts about children being taught the Lord's Prayer were important enough to make an exception.

We might also get a chance to see more from the Archbishop on Newsround TV bulletins, as part of their week of celebrations.

Newsround promotes religion 31st March 2012
I'd hate to think that the move to even more news items about religion on Newsround is part of an attempt to undermine the Government's marriage equality plans, but many may feel that is exactly what the BBC is up to.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Is 'The Beautiful Game' bigoted? That was the second of three 'big questions' for discussion on BBC One last Sunday morning.

Some guests, including John Amaechi, were clear that there is a problem. John said the football authorities take some forms of prejudice more seriously than others: They have decided that issues with racism are import, and then other things come underneath that in descending order: ".. when it comes to homophobia they still have people in there who openly giggle when you talk about gay people, as if they were still eight."

The debate went on to consider use of language. Daily Mail blogger, Abhijit Pandya felt that ethnic minorities tend to be far more sensitive to words than other people, which he said is a worrying state of affairs: Why should you always have to protect people from words? They're only words - grow up for God's sake.

John Amaechi on The Big Questions 25/03/2012
John Amaechi (above) said that research dating back to the 1950's had proved that words are important: Words can inform opinion. They can make it clear that certain types of people are less. And the moment people are less than human you can start doing things to them that you would never do to a person you decide is human.

Abhijit Pandya wanted to know why human beings should be so obsessed with what other people think of them. To which Amaechi suggested he put that argument to the young people in Britain who endure endemic bullying in schools, for example, for being gay and lesbian.

Former Premier League footballer, Michael Johnson talked about how language had affected his family.

...I have a seven year old son who recently came home from school after being racially abused, after just being called names, and I have to stand there and explain to him why he has to put up with that. Would you like your seven-year-old son or child ... to come home, crying their eyes out, saying "Dad why am I different, why are they picking on me?"

A little later on Michael Johnson was asked whether he supported the fight against homophobia. His response was was somewhat less forthright than he had been about racist abuse :-

Where else have we seen this kind of dichotomy?

I think this attitude mirrors BBC programmes for young people. Human diversity is celebrated, but not when that diversity is related to sexual orientation. The Corporation is doing little to help prevent homophobic prejudice and, furthermore, BBC programmes such as EastEnders, with its current Ben Mitchell storyline, are only making matters worse.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Marriage is a hot topic at the moment. Many are adamant marriage is a union of one man and one woman for life, and therefore the Government's intention to allow gay couples to marry amounts to redefinition.

Many on the other side, including Newsround Blog, believe that marriage is a human right, and that everyone should be entitled to marry the person they love.

But what stance does BBC children's TV have on this issue?

It could be argued that the BBC is supposed to be impartial, and therefore it cannot hold any position. But, hang on a minute, aren't equality and diversity good things? Can the BBC, in all honesty, opine we respect each other whilst continuing to shun gay rights issues on children's TV?

In sharp contrast to the continuing discrimination on CBBC, Newsround's support for traditional family values is still very obvious. Main bulletins broadcast yesterday included news that the Queen had found time to drop in on a wedding at Manchester Town Hall. This is the 9am bulletin.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Diversity on BBC children's TV

Queen at MediaCityUK - 23rd March 2012
Queen at MediaCityUK yesterday

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

If the BBC wanted to suggest that gay people are ordered toward an intrinsic moral evil, they could hardly be doing a better job than they are at the moment with Ben Mitchell from Eastenders. Dozens of tweets after the programme testify to the homophobic hatred engendered by his storyline and character. (see also blog on 22 Jan 2012)

Another BBC drama series, broadcast on Wednesday evenings - Waterloo Road - also includes a gay teen. But there, too, the gay character of Josh Stevenson, though by no means in the same league as Ben Mitchell, is hardly someone teens can look up to.

Why aren't there any positive lesbian and gay role models on BBC TV programmes popular with young people?

In her Report, "Discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity," the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is clear that isolation and stigma generate depression and other health problems. The Commissioner says LGBT youth frequently experience violence and harassment, including bullying, in school from classmates and teachers.

Confronting this kind of prejudice and intimidation requires concerted efforts from school and education authorities, and integration of principles of non-discrimination and diversity in school curricula and discourse. The media also have a role to play by eliminating negative stereotyping of LGBT people, including in television programmes popular among young people.

Friday, March 16, 2012

BBC School Report

A great deal of hard work was put in by schools from around Britain.

How many of the participants in BBC School Report have considered the extent to which journalism actually affects attitudes? Who was making the editorial decisions in the two hour live web stream which went out from 2-4pm?

Newsround at 3.45pm yesterday began like this: "Hi guys. It's Ore here with everything you need to know this afternoon. Now it's our job on Newsround to tell you the stories that matter to you ...."

The programme went on to include three items. Firstly the BBC School Report, which was already underway on the web. Next there was a story about boyband One Direction, who are making it big in the American charts right now. And the last story was about the British Animation Awards:-

Ore: "And finally Peppa Pig, Postman Pat and Shaun the Sheep and these guys Wallace & Gromit will be dusting off their bow tie for the big British Animation Awards taking place tonight. Up for grabs is the best cartoon character of all time award ..."

The flagship 5pm bulletin on BBC One yesterday reported the following 7 stories -

1} Row about cruelty involved in horse racing

2} Refugees fleeing violence in Syria

3} BBC School Report

4} St Asaph has new status as a City

5} Prince Harry interview on the Jubilee celebrations

6} British Animation Awards

7} One Direction

So those were yesterday's stories which, as Ore said earlier, matter to Newsround's viewers.

As you can see, there wasn't a word to say about the big human rights story of the day - plans to end marriage discrimination against lesbian and gay couples. Isn't it just possible that a story about gay equality might be relevant to quite a lot of Newsround's audience and/or their families?

Religion, on the other hand, is treated as something quite suitable for kids. And today's announcement by the Archbishop of Canterbury was the lead story on Newsround at 3.20pm and 4.25pm today. In the 3.20pm report Nel told viewers that Rowan Williams is "the most senior person in charge of the Church of England, apart from the Queen and God of course."

With kids' TV happy to report on faith news, whilst the same time maintaining its anti-gay censorship policy, is it any wonder that homophobic attitudes are prevalent in Britain's primary schools?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A few years ago California had a referendum on whether lesbian and gay couples should continue to be permitted to marry. In the run-up to the referendum, Californian residents were bombarded with thousands of television adverts, both for and against Proposition 8.

Proposition 8 succeeded in getting slightly more than 50% support from voters, and as a result same-sex marriages could no longer take place in the State, despite California's Supreme Court having previously ruled that denial of the right of same-sex couples to marry was unconstitutional.

The UK government has made clear its intention to amend marriage laws, so that lesbian and gay couples will be able to marry in Britain. A consultation on how best to implement marriage equality is due to start very shortly. This change in British law will affect the lives of thousands of people who are now still at school - they might even watch Newsround.

Of course, not everyone in this country is happy about changing the law. Some religious leaders have stated their opposition. That was very clear on Sunday, when the Catholic Church position was reported in an almost completely one-sided way. There was very little attempt to balance out what is, in reality, nothing more than religious bigotry directed against a minority.

Robert Pigott - BBC One -Sunday 11th March 2012 - 6.30pm
Robert Pigott - BBC One news on 11/3/2012

So when the Consultation gets underway in the next few days, what will Newsround have to say to viewers?

I'd be extremely surprised if we hear so much as a peep from them about the topic. And what will this silence signify? It is, of course, a most eloquent denial of the recognition and equal rights of lesbian, gay and bisexual children who might be watching.

Monday, March 12, 2012

If, after seven years of reading Newsround Blog, anyone still doubted that the BBC does not treat LGBT people fairly, any doubt must surely have been dispelled yesterday.

As Catholics were getting ready for church services yesterday morning they might have had time to catch a news report at the start of the Andrew Marr Show preparing the ground for the sermon they would hear in church. Throughout the day BBC reporting was so one-sided that the channel had more in common with Fox News than a UK public service broadcaster.

The final straw which brought Newsround Blog into existence was Newsround's failure to report what was, in 2005, a significant move towards the goal of equality - civil partnerships. Since then it has become very clear that BBC bosses believe virtually anything gay-related is inappropriate for children.

And why would they have that belief?

The inevitable conclusion is that, as far as the BBC is concerned, Catholic doctrine is accepted: gay people are "intrinsically disordered" and therefore not deserving of equal rights.

Thankfully all main political parties in the UK do believe in equality.

It will be interesting to find out whether all the BBC's LGBT staff and "BBC Pride" are content to put up with the Corporation's bigotry. Perhaps famous lesbian newsreader Jane Hill, who publicly came out just after the Should homosexuals face execution? furore, would like to clarify in the next edition of Ariel.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Marriage equality

There's a civil war underway in Britain at the moment. It's rather one-sided, with a Christian (many would say un-Christian) army and its press allies carrying out an onslaught against the minority of British people who aren't heterosexual. The un-Christian army isn't fighting for a noble cause; for them this battle is about denying other people equal rights - very much like the Confederate States during the American Civil War.

Is the BBC neutral in the current fight for equal rights, and should it be?

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Diversity and Faux Diversity (part 2)

If Sadie J was ever supposed to promote inclusiveness, it fails. You'd think anti-gay censorship laws in Russia also apply to BBC children's TV.

Right from the start of the first series of Sadie J - the first episode was called Crushamondo - there was plenty of traditional romance and affections, but any lesbian or gay characters have remained firmly in the closet.

We know that Kit is "fabulicious and proud," and although we're never told whether he's romantically attracted to girls or boys, or possibly to both, he is perceived by some as gay. But do we ever hear him say explicitly that such and such is a hottie? On the other hand his cousin Iolo, who we meet in series 2, episode 3, tells Kit he thinks Sadie is hot - and thereby affirms heterosexuality in the minds of all viewers.

Kit tells Sadie he's ashamed of himself. And the episode is carefully crafted so that both Kit and his friends avoid the substantive issue:-

Kit: ... I've never been able to be myself round him. He likes all the things I don't. He's big and macho, sporty, and I'm well ..

Sadie: .. Not. So what - you're fashiontastic and fabulicious instead.

Dede: Yeah. Does Iolo even know what you can do with sequins and a peacock feather?

Kit: As if! He'd hate the real me. (quietly) He doesn't even know I like Gaga.

Towards the end of the episode Kit finally plucks up the courage to proudly proclaim in front of his cousin: I love Gaga.

If we do eventually find out for sure that Kit is gay - impossible to imagine under the present de facto censorship policy - the BBC would then be affirming a stereotype. Far, far better for kids' TV to challenge stereotypes. For example, why couldn't Welsh rugby-player Iolo have revealed that he has a boyfriend? Has the writer even heard of Gareth Thomas?

It would be good to see the present faux diversity replaced with genuine diversity, but I'm not holding my breath.