Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Is social media out of control? That was the first 'Big Question' on BBC One's Sunday morning debate this week. But why stop at social media, when the BBC could also have looked at its own 'out of control' editorial judgements? After all the BBC is subject to very little scrutiny - far less than most UK organisations.

Time and time again the BBC makes misguided or wrong-headed editorial decisions. Why, for example, did Newsround cancel a pre-arranged interview with a gay couple on 6th February 2013, giving them only an hour's notice of the cancellation? I believe the couple themselves were told that the story was "not fresh enough." But was it reasonable for Newsround to suddenly downplay the previous evening's historic House of Commons marriage equality vote, by leading instead on the Wednesday morning with "news" that all dogs would have to be microchipped in three years' time? The marriage vote was covered, but only as the second news item, and without the live interview.

According to an email, apparently written by Newsround editor Daniel Clarke, and sent via the BBC complaints department on 9th April, "the BBC cannot comment to any third parties on the circumstances surrounding interviews with potential contributors." I was also told that "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."

If Newsround's broadcast output leaves something to be desired, their website judgement is, on occasion, just as bad.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Have been checking a few things with the BBC, like why it was necessary for both Director of Children’s, Joe Godwin AND his two immediate subordinates (Kay Benbow and Cheryl Taylor) to attend the Kidscreen Summit in New York - see blog on 1st February 2013. This is what I've been told on that score -

Kay Benbow and Cheryl Taylor have different roles within BBC Children’s and were invited by Kidscreen to speak on different subjects and went to discuss different business with different partners. Kidscreen is the premier worldwide conference and market for children’s content and the BBC is one of the world’s leading producers of children’s content. Producers and other broadcasters around the world expect the BBC to attend, hence the organisers inviting the BBC attendees. The Director of BBC Children’s is responsible for the overall strategy for children’s content and is also a key participant in the co-production and partnership agreements which are discussed and worked on at Kidscreen. He is a key figure in the worldwide children’s media industry, of which this is the premier gathering, and as such his attendance is essential to the effective international co-production work, which adds huge value for UK licence fee payers.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Kids today are unlikely to know quite how thoughtless Mrs Thatcher had been to many in society, and very little said on Newsround would have served to enlighten them. In fact it seems the programme was determined to turn a blind eye to her homophobia and Section 28.

One girl interviewed at Thatcher's funeral in London yesterday told Newsround reporter Joe Tidy: "We wanted to come and pay our honour to Margaret Thatcher because she's really helped our country. And so we wanted to just show that we are really grateful for her and her work."

Newsround's numerous reports about the death of Baroness Thatcher rarely, if ever, went without a mention that she was Britain's first and only woman Prime Minister, as if that made her in some way better than her male counterparts. But the truth is that each person's achievements and failings aren't dependent on their gender, race, sexual orientation or other status. After all, is BBC business expert Evan Davis a better (or a worse) journalist on account of being gay? Of course not. Long-term readers of Newsround Blog may remember that four years ago Mr Davis gave kids an optimistic view of future prospects for jobs and the economy. And in October 2010 he didn't notice a £49 billion error, now silently corrected, on this Newsround webpage.

Mr Davis also appeared in the Newsround Special: Hard Times, exactly one month ago, to explain why we've found ourselves in this economic mess. Check it out, and you'll see that he suggests it's down to things happening 10 years ago. Not very perceptive in my opinion. Mr Davis hasn't considered why factories were springing up abroad, and how they were able to make goods so cheaply. Still, despite doubts over his expertise, Evan was, I believe commendably, one of the very first people in the world to come out for marriage equality.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Why on earth does the BBC have a regular TV news programme for kids if that programme doesn't report important stories relevant to kids?

Paris Brown was Britain's first youth Police and Crime Commissioner, appointed last week to represent the interests of children and young people in Kent.

Last weekend it emerged that Paris Brown had been responsible for some homophobic and racist tweets. Ms Brown told Sky News that the tweets weren't acceptable and said "I do sincerely apologise if they have caused any offence at all."

The story grew and grew on the UK news media, but Newsround steadfastly kept mum on the controversy.

Paris and her boss, Ann Barnes, were interviewed for the BBC by Stuart Flinders. Ms Brown told Stuart that she was "definitely up to the job." She said her tweets were taken out of context and were not meant to offend, insisting she'd been "misinterpreted." Paris told Stuart that she is not homophobic or racist, and she doesn't condone drug taking. She didn't want people judging her "based on a few stupid things" which, said Paris, "were not meant as they're portrayed."

Tuesday morning's Newsround was introduced by Ore Oduba -

Ore: Hi everybody, you're watching Newsround with me, Ore. Here's everything you need to know this Tuesday morning.

Now you might think that young people, especially young people in Kent, would "need to know" about the controversy surrounding the person chosen to represent them on matters of policing and crime. But, for some reason, Newsround still had not a word to say. Neither was there anything about the controversy on Newsround's website.

It was only after a press conference later that day, at which Paris said she would be stepping down, that Newsround deigned to report the story - and then only via the website, and only in the most perfunctory terms.

BBC News Channel report about resignation of Kent youth PCC

So why was Newsround so reluctant to deal with this news?

Once again a Newsround editorial decision is seriously in question.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Some people were concerned about SadieJ when it launched in January 2011. Here is one such person's comment from the Digital Spy forums:-

"... In it there is a boy called "Kit" who is suggested will come out as Gay. He acts and sounds very feminine, exfoliates, and lurves JLS. I dont think this is appropriate in childrens programmes. ..."

However, that homophobe needn't have worried at all, because, as readers of this blog know, CBBC bosses believe that portrayal of a gay teen is inappropriate on BBC children's TV. Kit was, indeed, quite feminine. So much so that the subtitlers initially appeared to believe Kit was actually a girl (see blog on 19th Jan 2011) Digital Spy "fears" that Kit would come out as gay were unwarranted. His feminine demeanour proved nothing, and by the end of the third and final series viewers were none the wiser as to Kit's sexual orientation. Nor, in fact, were there any other explicitly gay characters in the series. Here Dede meets her hero Captain Skylo aka Tom Roberts - the "manly but approachable" TV presenter. Tom is, in reality, Robert Evans, the person ultimately responsible for SadieJ.

SadieJ was, generally speaking, an unbelievably bad example of British television. There were three or four reasonable episodes, and the series did introduce some talented actors. But unfortunately there seems to be a complete lack of quality control on BBC children's TV. The poor content standard was evident from series 1, where the last two episodes were mostly made up of a number of short clips from earlier episodes all stitched together in a haphazard fashion into a barely watchable whole.

Despite the awful series 1, the powers that be commissioned another two series. Having got away with it in series 1, it should come as no surprise that the quality didn't improve. In this excerpt from series 3, episode 5, Keith's throw-away remark that everyone loves a competition is the excuse for an assortment of competition-related clips from earlier episodes. And here, in a later episode, Dede's comment about Sadie always causing chaos leads to more rehashed material. Eventually the actual re-use of old content becomes the joke in itself, as you can see here, here and here.

But if you think the problem of rehashed content is restricted to SadieJ, guess again. In fact it is spreading to other BBC children's programmes as well. Look at this excerpt from episode 12 of the latest series of The 4 O'Clock Club. Josh refuses to unlock the door, saying "you've been on my back all term," which serves as an excuse for some flashbacks. Then, after two minutes of time filling, Dexter replies "if I've been on your back it's usually been for a good reason." Cue more recycled stuff. And it doesn't just stop there, the old clips just keep on coming.

Tony Hall talking on Channel 4 News to Krishnan Guru-Murthy

A new Director-General has just taken over at the BBC. Tony Hall told former Newsround presenter Krishnan Guru-Murthy that he wants to do all he can to "enable the very best programmes and content to be made." Lord Hall will have his work cut out just to get BBC children's TV back on track.