Monday, July 29, 2013

There was, it seems, somewhat more to Childwise's recent survey than the BBC originally let on. During last week's Newsround Special called "Generation Inspiration?" Martin told viewers "There are no recent figures to show the number of CBBC-aged kids getting involved in sports. So here at Newsround we've commissioned our own survey to try and get a better picture."

Today, however, Newsround revealed they'd also asked kids a series of other questions. They'd asked about what jobs kids want to do, who their heroes are, and probably a whole lot more.

Demonstrating that old-fashioned thinking still persists at the BBC, Newsround announced separate findings for the boys and the girls, thereby doing nothing to help create a more fair, just and equal society.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Free & Equal

A Childwise survey for Newsround suggests the London 2012 Games really have inspired more children to play sport. Amongst the survey findings were that the Paralympics, televised mainly on Channel 4, were "more inspiring" for kids than the Olympics.

Martin Dougan was one of Channel 4's commentators for the Paralympics, and this February he started making reports for CBBC's Newsround. Martin actually presented Newsround for the first time this morning. He tweeted that he was very nervous, but as you can see from many of his reports, his campaigning style shows an obvious determination to change attitudes and improve lives.

Who better then than Martin to report on the homophobic prejudice faced by kids at school? And with yesterday's start of the UN Free & Equal initiative, Newsround surely can't ignore the issue any longer.

Note: English subtitles available by clicking on the 'captions' button

Friday, July 19, 2013

Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill [HL]

The Alan Turing (Statutory Pardon) Bill [HL] passed its Second Reading today, and the Government suggested it will facilitate the legislation, which will now go to committee stage. The Bill is therefore almost certain to become law.

Lord Quirk was amongst those to speak -

Lord Quirk: ... let me end in noting something surely perverse, if constitutionally sound enough, about the Bill before us. It seeks to grant Alan a pardon when what, surely, all of us would prefer is to be pardoned by him - to receive a pardon from him.

Baroness Trumpington worked at Bletchley Park

Baroness Trumpington acknowledged the apology by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, but added that this Government should go further to recognise the debt this country owes to Alan Turing.

Video of Second Reading

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013

BBC news and current affairs programmes, including Newsround, are a bit flaky when it comes to fair reporting of certain stories.

One such story, affecting the future rights of numerous CBBC viewers went unreported on Newsround: namely the news that lesbian and gay couples have now gained the unquestioned right to get married in England and Wales. The legislation was granted Royal Assent yesterday and is now known as the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act. The first marriages under this Act are expected to take place early next year.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill has now passed its Third Reading in the House of Lords and is expected to receive Royal Assent shortly. One of the main opponents of the legislation spoke last week about his fears for school teachers if the equal marriage legislation is passed.

Lord Dear: I ask Members of your Lordships’ House to put themselves into the position where a classroom of 13 year-olds are being taught about same-sex marriage and ask whether the line can be drawn between endorsement on the one hand and a pure explanation on the other. It is easy to imagine that class of 13 year-olds pressing their teacher to give his or her personal opinion.

That is particularly the case when the issue of same-sex marriage arises in contexts which are outside sex education. For example, should a primary school teacher with a conscientious objection to same-sex marriage be expected a read a book such as King and King, which is well known and endorsed and published by Stonewall, about two princes who get married? The teacher could well consider such a book to be an endorsement of same-sex marriage. She should have the freedom to decline to read the book without suffering detriment, a freedom that has already been denied to one such teacher who stopped reading a book about two male penguins raising a chick because she felt it conflicted with her beliefs. She was subsequently restricted from having her own class.

If teachers are worried about two male penguins raising a chick, I wonder how they'll react when asked to teach Shakespeare plays with all those stories of betrayal, conspiracy and murder. Thankfully, though, all the ridiculous amendments failed, so teachers and other public employees will be expected to do their job properly.

Yesterday Lord Dear graciously conceded that the majority of the population support the same-sex marriage legislation, and hoped that it will prove to be a success.

A conference in Westminster today is looking at how children's books can help challenge homophobic bullying and encourage inclusivity. The topic of more inclusive TV was discussed at this year's Children's Media Conference.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Wingin' It

Wingin' It is a Canadian children's TV series set in the fictional Bennett High School. The stories feature angels combined with everyday life of human school kids. But there is something about the TV series which is almost as absurd as the idea of human-angel interaction - and that is that all pupils at the school are heterosexual. Take, for instance, the episode shown last Friday: Magical Kiss-tery Tour.

The episode begins when Denise tries to help Carl gain the confidence he needs to tell Jane how he really feels about her. Denise suggests a 'kiss enchantment' would do the trick. Porter explains that it's a magic spell which gives you courage to kiss someone. Denise says "if you like them and they like you, you see fireworks." Porter says love magic is hard to get right, and then casts the spell.

Carl Montclaire: Jane - got something for you (He tries to plant a kiss on her)

Carl's kiss is magically deflected from Jane onto Melissa

Aside from Carl's quite sexist attitude towards Jane, it turns out that the magic only works when the two people haven't previously kissed each other. But Carl had kissed Jane once before, in the school play. That made the magic go awry, and his kiss was deflected towards Melissa.

Porter: Carl's kiss enchantment didn't allow Carl to kiss Jane ....

Denise: .... because they already had their first kiss. But Carl hadn't kissed Melissa. And since Melissa was the next girl he saw - smoocho!

Porter: And with that kiss, Carl passed the kiss enchantment onto her.

Denise: And now she's going to kiss somebody.

Denise explains that anyone who's been enchanted can't kiss the same person twice. So Carl won't be able to kiss Jane until the enchantment chain breaks. The spell book also says you can't kiss anyone else who's been enchanted. Worst of all is that the kiss enchantment can't be broken until an enchanted kisser kisses someone they really like. "And," stresses Denise, "I mean like-like."

Later we see how the spell affects other pupils at Bennett High. After each kiss a pink heart shape radiates outwards. Here are just some of the kisses from that episode.

Some of the many boy-girl encounters in Magical Kiss-tery Tour

Wingin' It is marketed by BBC Worldwide Sales & Distribution which, I'm told, as a subsidiary of the BBC is signed up to Creative Diversity Network principles.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Children's Media Conference 2013

The Children's Media Conference begins in Sheffield very shortly. And as well as the usual stuff, this year's Conference will feature a session looking at whether children's media are really reflecting the diversity of society when it comes to the inclusion of gay and lesbian characters. Amongst those taking part in the discussion will be Mark Jennett, author of the influential Stand Up For Us guidance, which tackles homophobia and homophobic bullying in schools. The session's host/moderator is Julian Scott - former BBC Executive Producer and now CEO of Purple Pictures.

So does children's media reflect the diversity of society?

In fact BBC children's TV first included gay characters over 20 years ago. And BBC children's drama was certainly reflecting diversity when Julian Scott was the Executive Producer of Byker Grove. In this clip from Byker Grove (series 16 episode 15 - October 2004) Bradley comes out to Sadie, his long-term girlfriend.

From Byker Grove (S16E15 - October 2004)

Later he has a heart to heart with her about his sexual orientation. He has to endure a certain amount of homophobia from others at the Grove, but eventually is accepted and meets his soulmate, Nathan.

Bradley & Nathan (S17E20 - November 2005)

The BBC axed Byker Grove in 2006, much to the exasperation of its audience. Since then not one single BBC children's drama has featured a specifically teenage lesbian, gay or bisexual character. A recent episode of The Dumping Ground did include a middle-aged lesbian couple, but the two came across as a bit loopy - hardly the sort of portrayal needed when there are no other LGB characters on children's TV.

Significant opportunities have been missed. Why, for example, did CBBC choose to portray Leonardo da Vinci as essentially heterosexual? And why, so close to his centenary, wasn't the brilliant Alan Turing selected to be one of the ten historical individuals featured in the Absolute Genius series?

The sad truth is that, contrary to widespread belief, there is a lot of homophobia in the media/showbiz world and that prejudice has been in the ascendant over the last few years. A determined effort will be needed to turn children's TV around. We've seen plenty of straight heroes. Equity demands that we see realistic and proportionate representation of our diverse society.