Friday, May 24, 2013

The Children's Media Conference programme has now been published. The session on LGBT-inclusion, mentioned in my blog last Sunday, has been scheduled to take place on Day 2 - Thursday 4th July 2013 at 5.10pm

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Newsround Blog may well, at some future date, look at BBC news reporting in the lead-up to the House of Commons marriage equality votes on 20th May. For now though, here is a short excerpt from the Prime Minister's live interview, this morning, on Radio 4's Today programme.

James Naughtie: ... You said at the time of your election as leader in 2005 in Blackpool that (this is a quote) We have to change and modernise our culture and attitudes and identity. When I say change, I'm not talking about some slick re-branding exercise. (You're nodding, you remember this) What I'm talking about is fundamental change .. Now, for many people in your party, absolutely determined to stick to their convictions - they're just not willing to go with you there.

David Cameron: Well I don't accept that. I think the Conservative Party has made some enormous changes since I became leader in 2005. We've changed the party. We had 19 women MPs. We now have over 50. We're a party that campaigns on poverty, justice, the environment, as well as the economy and Europe. We've championed and argued about the importance of international aid. To argue that the Conservative Party hasn't changed, I think, is just not right.

James Naughtie: But you know that a lot of your MPs, and a lot of people - activists and so on - party members who tramp the streets in your interest, who say listen, same-sex marriage was not in the manifesto. We didn't know it was coming along. He's just charging on. He's surrounded by a metropolitan clique who don't know what we think. And now you're saying to them there's more on the way.

David Cameron: No, I'm not saying that. I think, you know, the same sex marriage issue, I think it's important. Every country across the world is having to address this. In New Zealand the centre-right government has just legalised gay marriage. Eleven states, I think there are twelve states in the US have done the same thing. I think it's important that we have this degree of equality. And I say that as someone who's a massive supporter of marriage. I think marriage is a wonderful institution. It helps people to commit to each other. I think it's such a good institution that it should be available to gay people as well as to heterosexuals.

James Naughtie: Are you relaxed about the fact that most of your MPs don't agree with you on that?

David Cameron: Well the fact is that this is a free vote issue, that parliaments have to determine. Our House of Commons has just determined that. And I think we should think about it like this: that there will be, you know, young boys [and girls*] in schools today who are gay, who are worried about being bullied, who are worried about what society thinks of them, who can see that the highest parliament in the land has said that their love is worth the same as anyone else's love, and that we believe in equality. And I think that they'll stand that bit taller today, and I'm proud of the fact that that has happened. ...

* Downing Street clarification

Sunday, May 19, 2013

SadieJ has been mentioned a few times by Newsround Blog, for instance, in this review of the very first episode - Crushamondo

Perhaps as a result of careful planning, or possibly by pure coincidence, viewers of the CBBC channel had another opportunity to watch the third episode from series two of SadieJ last Friday - the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. In fact it was shown twice - first at 9.05am, and then again at 12.55pm

SadieJ was touted as an answer to criticism over the lack of LGBT diversity on children's TV. But despite these concerns, not one single episode ever actually addressed the subject of having same sex attraction, in other words what might generally be thought of as being lesbian, gay or bisexual.

The aforementioned third episode of series 2 is called Gagalicious. The episode seemed to try addressing the issue, but in the end it failed - and failed badly at that.

The theme running through the episode was very clear: that everyone should be proud to be who they really are. But that "proud to be" message did not seem to extend to being gay or bisexual. For example, whilst several characters in the series are either dating or "fancy" someone of the opposite sex, not one single character is either dating or has a crush on someone of the same sex.

Children's TV needs to deal with the full range of issues affecting the lives of 21st century British kids, otherwise it becomes an irrelevance and a waste of money. The Children's Media Conference has promised a session about LGBT inclusion at this year's event. We should have details about the session very shortly. Let's just hope it doesn't end up as just another cop-out which, as we've seen with SadieJ, is an all too easy mistake to make.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

There has been some positive news in the media world, but LGBT discrimination continues at the BBC. I've written to senior management about the situation.

The Children's Media Conference has told me that one of this year's sessions will address the issue of LGBT inclusion - a welcome development as, in recent years, LGBT children have been very poorly served by the media. At the time of writing there is nothing specific about the session on their website.

Tomorrow, 17th May, is IDAHO Day - the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Misleading kids about a meteor (previous blog) is one thing, but that hardly compares with editorial bias relating to big political or social issues. Newsround, in common with the rest of the BBC, gave unduly positive coverage to Mrs Thatcher's legacy at the time of her funeral. And following the local elections, Newsround, again in common with most of the BBC, fawned over UKIP, brushing aside the Party's sexist, homophobic and otherwise objectionable statements and policies. In fact Newsround's write-up of the local election outcome looks, to all intents and purposes, like a recruiting drive for new UKIP members.

More evidence of Newsround's bias came first thing on Wednesday morning - the day of the State Opening of Parliament.

(7.41 am) "The Queen will announce tough new rules on foreign people living and staying in the UK, when she travels from Buckingham Palace to Parliament today. She'll outline the Government's new plans as part of the State Opening of Parliament - a big ceremony that's like the start of a new school term for politicians. The immigration laws will make it easier to send foreign criminals, and people who want to come here illegally, back to where they're from."

Perhaps realising that their tendentious morning reports had gone too far, Wednesday's evening bulletin at 6.50pm was a little more carefully thought through.

(6.50 pm) "The Government has set out its latest plans for the year ahead. The Queen read them out in her annual speech to mark the State Opening of Parliament - an event steeped in lots of quirky traditions. (video) It's a journey the Queen's made many times before. And her 59th speech in Parliament followed the same traditions as all the others. The doors to the House of Commons, where MPs debate laws, were slammed shut to symbolise their independence. Then, once Her Majesty's allowed to speak to them, she outlined the Government's plans for the year. She doesn't write it, but reads it on the Government's behalf. Plans to impose tough new rules on people from foreign countries, and improving the UK's money problems, were top of the list. There was one break from tradition: For the first time in 17 years Prince Charles was by her side, a day after announcing he'd take her place at a big meeting between leaders of a group of countries with historical connections to the UK - the Commonwealth. It led to speculation that he's getting ready to take over more of her duties. But before she'd left, Buckingham Palace said that was not in their plans."

Two years ago, when Daniel Clarke was deputy editor, he wrote that increasingly Newsround "has a duty" to play a useful and important role as a trusted source of news and information.

Any source of news and information can only be trusted as long as there is no sense of bias.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

If you saw a website where one of the headlines stated "Meteor over UK caught on camera," and if the headline was accompanied by what looks like a photograph, is it reasonable to expect a picture of that meteor? Newsround doesn't seem to think so.

Newsround home page on 9th May 2013

You only see the actual meteor when you click on the relevant web report AND THEN click on the video itself.

Because of its target audience, Newsround should be even more careful not to mislead. The editor must do better, otherwise he might soon be hearing the message: "You've been pulled off air - that was terrible."

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Hardly a month goes by now when another celebrity or media person isn't accused of sexual impropriety. Yet, ever since the revelations about Jimmy Savile, editors of BBC Newsround have decided that their audience doesn't need to know. Owenna Griffiths was, last year, asked by a very senior BBC manager - more senior than the Director of BBC Children's - to give a rationale for not covering the Savile story. Shortly afterwards Ms Griffiths went on attachment elsewhere in the BBC. Daniel Clarke is acting as the programme's editor until she returns.

There are good reasons for Newsround to cover these abuse cases. But principally to raise awareness of the issues amongst young people who may be, or have been, subject to abuse. Nevertheless, perhaps in a misguided understanding of child protection, Newsround remains silent. I believe silence about child abuse is not welcomed by children's welfare organisations such as the NSPCC and ChildLine, and the problem won't go away by simply pretending it doesn't exist.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Chairman of the BBC Trust, Chris Patten, was interviewed by Jeremy Vine on The Andrew Marr Show.

The Andrew Marr Show - Sunday 5th May 2013

Excerpt from interview -

Lord Patten: ... Dame Janet Smith, the very distinguished judge who's looking at the background to Savile - whether the BBC was complicit, turned a blind eye, knew about what was going on and didn't do anything about it - Dame Janet Smith's inquiry will, I hope, embrace what's happening with Stuart Hall as well. They're awful, awful allegations and stories. And, of course, we look back on the 60's and 70's and we know that that way of treating women, of treating employees, is something that was, thank God, put an end to by feminism, which people used to sneer about.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The last few months have been uncomfortable for the BBC. It started with revelations that Jimmy Savile had made use of the Corporation for his own vile purposes. But it turns out that Savile was not alone, and others were similarly taking advantage of the power and respect they enjoyed to harm children and young people. Stuart Hall is the latest to be condemned, as more staff admit they suspected impropriety.

Rather than helping to alert kids to the dangers of predatory adults, Newsround has remained completely silent. So why has BBC children's TV taken this stance?

Well according to an email I received on 9th April (see previous blog): "the choice of stories, and how we report these stories, across all of the BBC’s news programmes is a matter for the individual programme editors."

But is that always true? Isn't it the case that the BBC sets overall editorial standards and that individual programme editors have to abide by those standards. And if they don't, presumably the editors are answerable. If that is not the case what is the point of having editorial guidelines in the first place?

Perhaps there are a few clues about the culture of the BBC in Respect at Work (pdf) - a new report which has found that bullying is something of a problem, and staff have been too frightened to speak out.

Newsround Blog will have much more to say about this.