Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Normally Christmas is thought of as a time of goodwill and kindness to all people. But the Roman Catholic Church, it seems, would prefer to use it as a time spread a message of prejudice and discrimination against LGBT people. So on Christmas Day the Archbishop of Westminster spoke out in forthright terms against proposals to equalise marriage laws in England & Wales.

Being Christmas, you might think the media would avoid reporting such unpleasantness. And, indeed, the Archbishop of Westminster's sentiments were given short shrift on ITV. They were mentioned briefly in ITV's news at 1.15pm and again in their 8.30pm news bulletin.

However Archbishop Nichols was given pride of place on most of the BBC's morning and early afternoon news broadcasts. It was a case of poor editorial judgement, because a viewer could easily be forgiven for assuming that the BBC is in tune with what Vincent Nichols had to say.

Contrast the BBC News at One with ITV's news bulletin at 1.15pm

ITV's evening news on Christmas Day began at 8.30pm. Two sentences, and no more, were given over to Vincent Nichols' remarks -

Nick Thatcher: From Westminster Cathedral there was a controversial message from the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales. Archbishop Vincent Nichols attacked the Government's plans for gay marriage, saying there was no mandate for changing the law and calling the proposals undemocratic and shambolic.

The BBC evening news on BBC One was broadcast at 10.45pm. Once again, substantially more time was devoted to this item -

Mishal Husain: Well, in his Christmas address the leader of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales has attacked the Government's proposals on gay marriage. The Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, said the process has been undemocratic and shambolic. Our Religious Affairs correspondent, Robert Pigott, explains.

Robert Pigott: (strains of 'Once In Royal David's City') With carols, candles and holy communion, Roman Catholics at Westminster Cathedral proclaimed the joy of Christmas. The Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols used the occasion to criticise the Government's plans for gay marriage. Ministers say no church will have to provide same-sex weddings, but Archbishop Nichols accused them of behaving in an Orwellian fashion to create a sham version of marriage.

Vincent Nichols: Frankly the process is shambolic. There was no announcement in any party manifesto. There's been no Green Paper, there's been no statement in the Queen's Speech. And yet here we are, on the verge of primary legislation. From a democratic point of view it's a shambles.

Mr Pigott went on to talk about the final sermon by Rowan Williams as Archbishop of Canterbury. Pigott's report included this piece to camera -

Robert Pigott: Rowan Williams was an Archbishop with the bearing and presence of a holy man: widely revered by Anglicans - often misunderstood by others. His extraordinary intellect and eloquence were largely wasted by a Church pre-occupied by disputes about sexuality. The Church will now look to Justin Welby for harder-nosed leadership, to overcome its own divisions and win the respect of an increasingly sceptical society.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Season's Greetings

Traditional nativity scene from this year's Blue Peter Christmas Special
with lyrics to help viewers sing along to 'O Come All Ye Faithful'

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Newsround will no longer be broadcast on BBC One. The final BBC One bulletin went out last Thursday at 5pm, and was presented by Leah Gooding and Ore Oduba.

The programme began with an explanation of why, in future, Newsround will only be seen on the CBBC Channel.

Leah: Now today is a very important day for Newsround. We're saying goodbye to BBC One.

Ore: But don't worry about it {I can see people crying at home} Worry not, because Newsround will still bring you the top news stories every day on the CBBC Channel. And there's plenty on the website as well, of course.

Leah: But after 40 years we're leaving the BBC's flagship channel. Here's Ricky to tell you why.

(Ricky's video)

The second item on Thursday was a selection of Newsround's stories from 2012.

Leah: 2012 has been a huge year of news, both here in the UK and around the world too.

Ore: Yeah, from Egypt's first democratic election, to Superstorm Sandy's huge impact upon the American presidential race, to the Queen's Diamond Jubilee back here: it's been a momentous twelve months.

Leah: These were the headlines from 2012

(Leah's video)

Ore: So that was the big news of the year. But for most of us 2012 will be remembered as the most incredible year of sport - we were spoilt for choice.

Leah: Absolutely. We had Wiggo becoming the first British winner of the Tour de France, ...

Ore: ... an unbelievable dramatic end to the Premier League season ..

Leah: .. and, of course, the Olympics and Paralympic Games of London 2012

(video of sports events is not online)

The round-up of 2012 section concluded with the best of the rest - some 'weird and wonderful stories' presented by Ore.[The online version excludes new Bond movie box office hit story which began the sequence on BBC One])

Leah: So that is it for the last ever Newsround on BBC One. It's been a privilege to bring you all the best news stories over the past 40 years. But we're not stopping.

Ore: No we are not. We'll continue over on the CBBC Channel - bigger and better than ever. In fact, LG's gonna be right back here just before 7 [this evening]. She can't get enough of it.

Leah: We'll have a whole new set of longer bulletins over on CBBC in the afternoon. And that all starts on January, after the Christmas break.

Ore: But for now, it is time to say goodbye .. on BBC One. So here's a look back at the best of children's BBC over the years. Merry Christmas

Leah: Bye

Ore: See ya

(clips from Blue Peter, Saturday SuperStore, John Craven's Newsround, and Live & Kicking)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Dani Harmer has been something of a mainstay of the CBBC channel for about a decade now. Today, for example, Dani appeared in Tracy Beaker Returns at 9.30am, then she starred in Dani's House at 11.30am. And at 5.10pm kids will have a chance to see her in one of the earliest Tracy Beaker stories.

Love is in the air at Dani's House

Dani helps smooth the course of true love.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Scottish plans to allow lesbian and gay people to marry were announced on 25 July 2012. There was no Newsround bulletin that day on BBC One, but the evening bulletin on the CBBC channel at 6.55pm did include this short report.

My blog on 25 July 2012 includes a screenshot of Newsround's web report about the Scottish Government announcement. But a significant change was made to the headline. The amended webpage report can be seen by clicking on the screenshot.

Originally I assumed that the headline was altered because the term "gay marriage" is not ideal. We are, after all, talking about marriage equality. So it seemed, at the time, that a headline "Same-sex marriage to be introduced in Scotland" was more accurate than the original.

However, having seen the recent Newsround report about proposed changes to the law in England & Wales, it now looks like the edit was because CBBC bosses simply feel that the words "gay" and "lesbian" are inappropriate for children to know.

Not a million miles from Victorian times, when words like "leg," "bottom," "trousers," and "ankle" were considered by some to be rude, and shouldn't be spoken or heard.

Ratus Ratus tells viewers about Victorian prudery - (Horrible Histories)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Blue Peter today included a section on Christmas presents. Bobby Fuller and Will Nye (Jake and Danny from Sadie J) had a quick look at what's around at the moment. Viewers found out about a new Furby which is fed with a smartphone or tablet app.

Next up on their list was the Playstation Wonderbook: Book of Spells, which, kids were told, is hi-tech stuff.

Will (left): So, now that I've learnt my spells, do you think I can get a date with Hermione?

Other toys on their list were Twister Dance, a Ravensburger augmented reality jigsaw puzzle, and Bin Weevils Collectables.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The third story on Newsround today at 5pm was about Government plans to amend the marriage laws in England and Wales. Newsround avoided using the terms 'lesbian' and 'gay' throughout, although they had previously used the term 'gay' when they reported proposed changes to marriage laws in Scotland.

Ricky: Next - two men or two women will soon be able to get married to each other in England and Wales. At the moment same-sex couples who want to marry can only have a civil partnership, which gives similar rights but is not the same as marriage.

Nel: The Government want to change the rules so they can get married and tie the knot in some religious buildings.

Ricky: The Church of England and Church in Wales will not conduct same-sex weddings. But some other Christian groups, and some other religions say they are open to the idea.

Nel: The proposals are welcomed by many same-sex couples who say they should be treated the same way as everybody else.

Sian Payne: I'm not religious. It's not that I have a religious belief in marriage; I have a personal belief in marriage. Marriage means something. It's not just something that's really important to people who have a faith or a belief. And it's no less important for same-sex couples than it is for opposite-sex couples.

Ricky: But some people don't agree with same-sex marriage, saying that marriage can only exist between a man and a woman. The Church of England says the changes would mean 'marriage' means less. In a statement they said -

Nel: "We believe that redefining marriage to include same-sex relationships will entail a dilution in the meaning of marriage for everyone."

Ricky: And earlier this year Scotland became the first part of the UK to agree to introduce same-sex marriages. It's thought it will become law in England and Wales in 2015.

Newsround website: Same-sex marriage plans set out for England and Wales

Saturday, December 08, 2012

According to Chaos Theory, in some circumstances it's possible for a minuscule almost unnoticed event to result in devastating consequences. The usual example quoted is that of a butterfly flapping its wings which could, according to the theory, result in a hurricane weeks later on the other side of the globe. It's known as the Butterfly Effect.

So what has all this got to do with the BBC and other mainstream media?

Basically it is that the seemingly most insignificant word, report, prank or whatever has the potential to do harm.

How can this be avoided?

Put simply, we can't really stop this from happening. We can, perhaps, lessen the likelihood by saying and doing absolutely nothing, or at least being more cautious about what we do and thinking through the potential consequences of our actions.

Isn't it possible that the relentless reporting of what would otherwise have been a relatively harmless prank call to King Edward VII hospital might have put great pressure on the person who took the call - Jacintha Saldanha?

Interestingly Newsround did not mention the death of the nurse, perhaps because they appreciated that the news would upset their audience. On Wednesday Newsround reported the hospital had said sorry for divulging confidential patient information about the Duchess of Cambridge.

Today the hospital is shifting all blame to the Australians. BBC News channel reports, as its lead story, that the hospital's chairman has made a complaint "in the strongest possible terms."

But without King Edward VII hospital's management's misjudgement in employment and training practices, and without reporting of a trivial event by the 24-hour news media, Jacintha might still be alive.

A recent and unrelated prank by another Australian can be seen on Newsround's website.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Newsround report about Pope Benedict XVI. This was from the 8.17am bulletin today -

Ore: The Pope is opening his very own Twitter account today. The head of the Catholic Church reckoned it'll help him spread the word. Apparently, though, the Pope himself won't be tweeting. Top Church sources say Pope Benedict prefers writing by hand than using computers.

The story was also reported on the early afternoon bulletin, with video showing the Pope's Twitter account in several languages.

So far the Pope has not tweeted anything at all. Newsround says that "Catholics will be able to send messages direct to his account."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

No-one who could be in left in much doubt about where the BBC's sympathies lie in the Rotherham Council adoption case. Last night a BBC news report referred to it as "that scandal over the foster children." For a supposedly impartial broadcaster, using the term 'scandal' does seem rather harsh. So let's look more closely at how the BBC has dealt with the issue, and with reporting on UKIP generally.

When children slowly grow into young adults, they will at some time start to appreciate politics and what each political party stands for. So even though the Rotherham couple may treat their foster-kids with love and care, the kids themselves might have eventually suspected that their foster parents did not approve of others, like them, from abroad. No-one has to be a member of a political party. But remember, in this case, the couple actually chose to support UKIP, and what it stands for.

Would this story have even been worthy of a news report if the couple had been members of the BNP? And would BBC News spend a day talking about 'mounting criticism' of Rotherham Council if the kids had instead been moved out of a BNP family environment? Perhaps CBBC's Newsround understood this consideration.

As mentioned in my previous blog, BBC national news had little, if anything, to say about the anti-gay remarks expressed by UKIP's culture spokesperson, Winston McKenzie. Nigel Farage indicated his backing for McKenzie when he told Tim Willcox yesterday that he completely supported Winston’s "Christian" position opposing gay adoption.

BBC's News at Ten, last night, included a report on the three by-elections, but nothing was said about UKIP's anti-equality stance. Neither was a word said about those discrimination issues on Newsnight's discussion shortly afterwards on BBC Two.

In the view of Newsround Blog, David Cameron was quite right to call UKIP generally "fruitcakes and loonies and closet racists basically." Clearly, from what we saw during the Croydon North by-election campaign, he could have added 'homophobes' to that list. It's a pity that Ed Miliband has not similarly stood against UKIP's bigotry.

But the real 'scandal' here is the BBC giving this obnoxious party so much free and uncritical publicity.