Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Not sure of Newsround's reasons, but their web page entitled "Gay marriage to be introduced in Scotland" (see blog on 25 July 2012) was altered to "Same-sex marriage to be introduced in Scotland"

Proposals to amend the marriage laws, and dissent within the Conservative Party was the subject of a report on Radio 4's World at One earlier today.

Martha Kearney: More and more people in Britain are having civil partnerships according to figures out today. Nearly 7000 same-sex couples decided to formalise their relationships last year. The total number of civil partnerships since the [Civil Partnership] Act came into force in 2005 is 53,000 - that's five times more than the Government expected back then. But plans to extend those rights to gay marriage have been causing controversy within the Conservative Party, as our Political Correspondent Chris Mason now reports.

Chris Mason: Rewind the clock almost a year, and here is the Prime Minister at Conservative Party conference last autumn.

David Cameron: Conservatives believe in the ties that bind us - that society is stronger when we make vows to each other and we support each other. So I don't support gay marriage in spite of being a Conservative, I support gay marriage because I am a Conservative. (conference audience applause)

Chris Mason: Applause from many in the conference hall. But some sat on their hands. Critics of the idea hope that the Government might just not get round to legalising gay marriage. But then a definitive promise from the Prime Minister last week. He told lesbian and gay groups that gay marriage will be legal by 2015. And those remarks have re-energised the debate among some Conservatives. Emma Pidding is the chairman of the Conservative National Convention, which represents volunteers in the Party.

Emma Pidding: I'm aware of a few individuals that feel very very passionately about this issue, either one way or the other. So to them it is a hugely significant issue. My concern is that we are potentially upsetting our members and activists when I have one goal, and that is to obtain a Conservative majority government in 2015. And therefore anything that upsets any of my members, then you know I don't like to see that.

Chris Mason: For Emma Pidding the debate within the Conservative Party on gay marriage probably reflects the debate in society at large. Some are passionately in favour, some are passionately against, many are relatively indifferent. There appear to be three principal strands to Tory opposition to the idea - moral, religious and political.

Chris Mason: Forty-five minutes from Westminster and the marginal seat of Enfield, Southgate in North London which is represented by Tory MP David Burrowes. Mr Burrowes is the chairman of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, and a long-standing critic of gay marriage.

David Burrowes: The issue that is being put forward is one that is vote-defining for many people. Even in my constituency, where they know that I am firmly opposed to the proposal, they themselves would say that if that does go through as legislation then they won't vote for me. And that must concern me. I know it concerns many other colleagues, particularly in marginal seats, that whilst there are a lot of other issues to be getting on with; we have coming on the blind side - because it wasn't anything that was in any election manifesto - they see this issue that's come up which many constituents, I understand, more than any other issue are saying, we're gonna vote purely on this issue, whatever else happens.

Chris Mason: David Burrowes case is that for opponents of gay marriage, this introduction would, on its own, be enough to put them off voting Conservative. But for those in favour it wouldn't be enough to tempt them to back his party. Both Mr Burrowes and fellow back-bencher Mark Pritchard support civil partnerships. Mr Pritchard says he'll be keeping a keen ear on what the Prime Minister has to say on gay marriage at this year's party conference.

Mark Pritchard: He may be tempted to reiterate some of what he mentioned in his speech last year, or even go further. I think that in the desire to so-called decontaminate the Conservative brand, there are those that might end up damaging the Conservative brand with our natural supporters and voters in the country, and most importantly our grassroots who support us financially and deliver leaflets day in day out around the land. And we need those people, and we shouldn't take them for granted.

Chris Mason: David Burrowes agrees. The Conservative conference in October will be a useful forum for critics of gay marriage, and, he says, offer a telling local lesson.

David Burrowes: The Conference may well be a time when this issue comes up. We're going off to Birmingham, and I know for a fact that in Birmingham it's a representation of diversity - of different faiths. Talking to, and understanding from Birmingham City councillors they are greatly concerned by this issue, because it's those very communities that we want to reach to, that are really concerned about this particular proposal. And so I think it's a challenge.

Chris Mason: The Government says it'll respond to the consultation on gay marriage by the end of the year. And Conservatives have been promised a free vote on any legislation. It could go through with Labour and Lib Dem support. But at what cost to harmony within the Conservative Party?

Martha Kearney: Chris Mason reporting. Well Scotland could become the first part of the UK to introduce gay marriage, after the SNP government announced plans to make the change. So should that be extended to the rest of the UK? Well Matthew Sephton is the chair of LGBTory, a group that works to promote equality for lesbian, gay and bisexual people within the Conservative Party. And we heard a fair range of opposition there, didn't we, among Conservative grassroots?

Matthew Sephton: You know, absolutely. There are significant numbers, significant minority numbers, I would say, who are being extremely vocal in their opposition to the Government's proposals. But you only have to look at the latest YouGov polls, produced in conjunction with Stonewall, where 71% of the general public are shown to support the Government's commitment to same-sex marriage.

Martha Kearney: There are different results though if you look at polling within the Conservative Party. A YouGov poll for the Sunday Times found that 30% of Conservative voters said they backed the plan, 43% said they didn't.

Matthew Sephton: Well I think you'll find that, within the Conservative Party, we know that there are other priorities. There are economic priorities, which are extremely important at the moment. We've got a lot to sort out in the economy. I think that there's almost too much fuss being made about this. This is actually a straightforward thing to get through. And as one of the speakers earlier said, don't take the activists for granted. There are a huge number of LGBT activists within the Conservative Party as well. And it's also the case that they shouldn't be taken for granted too.

Martha Kearney: But then we heard the head of the National Convention - the woman who's in charge of the voluntary party - all those people who go out putting leaflets through letter boxes for you - and she said she was very worried about upsetting them.

Matthew Sephton: Well, you know, I mean I'm one of the people who goes out and campaigns regularly and puts leaflets through people's letter boxes, campaigns every week on a regular basis - along with lots of other people who, I know, are totally in favour of the Government's proposal. As I say, I do think it is, that we have got a vocal minority at the moment who have been perhaps too vocal and I know that we, who believe in the Government's proposals, need to be more vocal as well. You know, because at the end of the day, as David Cameron himself said on Tuesday, we need to be on the right side of history. And I think the Government's proposal to introduce same-sex marriage will put us on the right side of history.

Martha Kearney: Matthew Sephton from LGBTory, many thanks.

Friday, July 27, 2012

For a newspaper which regularly campaigns against the 'sexualisation of children' the Daily Mail shows a remarkable lack of concern about the content of its own online presence.

Mail Online is one of the most viewed news sites on the web.

And it intends to stay that way. Part of its strategy is to find popular gossip with lots of raunchy pictures. Never mind the danger of 'sexualising children' - after all that's only what other media outlets get up to.

But the Mail isn't just guilty of hypocrisy. It can't be trusted either.

Take a look at this story about the Olympics.

Amongst all the salacious details and imagery, you'll note the Mail is quite clear that Tom Daley and Tonia Couch are an item - they are 'dating' and they are 'a couple'

But if we now look back to an article in the Mail just days before, we find a rather different piece about Tom Daley. In this piece we learn that Tom and Tonia are nothing more than good friends, and they have been for several years.

The other interesting thing we discover is that Tonia - "a close confidant" of Tom's - was speculating on whether Mr Daley might be involved in a fledgling romance with an American diver called Kassidy Cook.

Clearly there's a lot of nonsense being written about Mr Daley. Could the reason be something to do with what we saw on the recent BBC One documentary - Tom Daley: Diving for Britain

Jamie Cunningham (Tom's agent): China is going to be a very important market for Tom over the next decade. Why? Well, because diving - its home really is in China. As we saw yesterday at the Worlds, they won all the gold medals. This is where, as a sport, it has the biggest impact on the planet. It's very important that we do the right media and commercial work here to help him over the next decade.

Tom at press conference webcast -

Tom Daley: Hi to all the QQ web users.

Questioner: OK, so who do you think is the most beautiful Chinese female athlete?

Tom thought Guo Jingjing was the most beautiful Chinese female athlete, but felt it right to add that she was "too old" for him.

Jamie Cunningham made no secret that he would like to manage Tom Daley's career over the next few years. So, who knows, we might soon be reading that Tom has found himself a girlfriend - and maybe even a Chinese girlfriend at that!

In other Daily Mail news, we see that Nick Grimshaw wasn't phased at all about being in the company of two topless women.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Further progress on coverage of LGBT diversity was evident on Newsround last night. The bulletin at 6.55pm consisted of four stories, the second of which was about plans to amend marriage laws in Scotland. The bulletin was presented by Nel Hedayat.

Nel introducing last night's Newsround

Nel: Scotland is set to become the first part of the UK to introduce gay marriage. At the moment it's illegal for a man to marry another man, or a woman to marry another woman. But the Scottish Government wants to change that. The announcement has been strongly opposed by some religious groups.

So a fairly short report, which included footage from one of the UK's first civil partnerships:-

It was Newsround's failure to report LGBT stories such as the introduction of civil partnerships which led to Newsround Blog.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Possible signs of change, following BBC Director-General Mark Thompson's speech to Stonewall earlier this month:- Newsround's website reports "Gay marriage to be introduced in Scotland"
A lot more will be needed before we can be sure of the BBC's intentions with regard to LGBT diversity. Hopefully there will be reports about Scotland's progress towards marriage equality on Newsround's TV bulletins as well on the website.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Newsround is fine with stories about traditional families.

Michelle, Barack and Malia Obama

As yet, though, there's no sign of the children's channel heeding the Director-General's advice about the topic of 'gay marriage'

The Scottish government's imminent decision on whether to legislate for marriage equality was widely discussed on news channels yesterday. The decision would have been amongst yesterday's main news headlines. But in the end the Scottish cabinet chose to postpone their announcement till later this month. Newsround is pretty adept at avoiding LGBT-related news and CBBC bosses, no doubt, breathed a sigh of relief at the deferment.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Newsround's report of the John Terry trial outcome misled their intended audience.

According to a live report on Friday afternoon, John Terry had told the court that he was only repeating words that he thought he had already heard, and the judge agreed. The Chief Magistrate acquitted, but not because he thought Terry was telling the truth - he didn't. In fact the magistrate, Howard Riddle, said that "Mr Terry's explanation is, certainly under the cold light of forensic examination, unlikely." Mr Riddle also concurred with the prosecution that Anton Ferdinand had been "brave" to give evidence.

This legal case has highlighted the issue of racism in football. Anton's brother, Rio Ferdinand, has been in the forefront of the fight against racism and bullying, though he has been accused of prejudice himself. Some years ago Rio used a homophobic word on Radio 1, and more recently he's been criticised by some for endorsing a race-related term about Ashley Cole - a defence witness in the John Terry trial.

Footballers are often seen as role models. Perhaps they would deserve this accolade more if they stood together to condemn all prejudice-based language, including homophobic language. Had football players like Rio Ferdinand and David Beckham been willing to speak out, it's unlikely this unfortunate case would have arisen.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

New spaceship for ordinary people (Sept 2006)

First look at tourist spaceship (Jan 2008)

First look at space trip jet (July 2008)

Passenger space rocket unveiled (Dec 2009)

World's first commercial spaceport christened (Oct 2011)

Space tourism one step closer (July 2012)

Regular Newsround viewers will be familiar with Richard Branson's plans for space tourism. But few will know what the famous British entrepreneur thinks about marriage equality.

Richard Branson talks about marriage equality

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

After many years of systematic dumbing down children's TV, it looks like BBC senior management has finally woken up to the potential consequences. Speaking at the Stonewall Education for All conference last Thursday, Director-General, Mark Thompson, acknowledged that the Corporation was in danger of seeming to be out of touch or irrelevant. (see previous blog)

The DG identified 'gay marriage' as a topic which needs to be addressed on services for young people. Newsround has never reported on homophobia and discrimination issues which affect gay people.

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.

But even as the BBC Director-General was speaking, another conference was underway in Sheffield - the Children's Media Conference 2012. And amongst the delegates was Joe Godwin, the BBC's Director of children's services. He seems to be well on target for achieving a record number of worldwide media conference attendances.

CBBC and CBeebies are listed as Children's Media Conference Foundation Sponsors. Most of the sessions, as usual for media events, were devoted to business opportunities and networking rather than ideological and ethical issues around programme making.

The important topic of child safety was discussed, and Professor Jackie Marsh, Head of the University of Sheffield School of Education, talked about complexities around 'sexualisation,' and the lack of attention to issues such as homophobia and violence against girls. Hopefully session time will be allocated to these topics at media conferences in future.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The BBC does not have a good record on LGBT diversity, so it was quite a pleasant change to see outgoing Director-General, Mark Thompson, take the time to present a speech to Stonewall's 'Education for All' conference on Thursday.

The quotes in this blog are taken from Mark Thompson's final draft, as supplied by the BBC.

Mark began his speech with some remarks about DG-elect, George Entwistle, whom he described as an outstanding journalist and programme-maker, a great creative leader and a brilliant choice for the job. Mark Thompson wanted people to know that he's discussed his speech with Mr Entwistle, and so was speaking on behalf of the future BBC leadership as well as his own. George Entwistle was, said Mr Thompson, "every bit as committed."

The DG spoke about the BBC’s duty to take lesbian, gay and bisexual people as seriously as any other part of its audience, and "to portray them and convey their experiences and perspectives with as much conviction and fairness as we would anyone else." He added "we have an obligation to serve every section of society fairly and impartially and sensitively."

The BBC must now meet this challenge more energetically and urgently than it has in the past, said Mr Thompson, paying tribute to those who take the BBC to task for its shortcomings.

Mark Thompson: "A broader sense of justice and fairness is more prevalent today in the UK than ever before. And the BBC’s handling of all minorities - and certainly of lesbians, gays and bisexuals - is an important moral marker for much of our wider audience too."

Younger viewers, said Mr Thompson, are particularly sensitive to "anything which looks like less than fair and equal treatment" of minorities. If the BBC failed to serve any significant section of British society "it will start to look out of touch, and ultimately irrelevant."

Mark Thompson: " ..it’s a striking fact that in 2012 we are living in a country where a coalition government led by a Conservative Prime Minister is leading the charge on the case for instituting gay marriage. If the BBC wants to keep up – especially with its younger audiences, but also with its audience as a whole – it needs to address the topic."

Much of the rest of Mr Thompson's speech was devoted to the findings of the BBC LGB consultation in 2010, and to how well the corporation is doing. He ended with a commitment to portray lesbian, gay and bisexual life in this country in all its own diversity and richness which, said the Director-General, would be a "central concern" rather than just an afterthought.