Monday, April 28, 2014

One of Newsround's main stories yesterday was about the canonisation of two popes. It was reported like this at 9.04am

Jenny: Hundreds of thousands of people are gathering in Rome this morning to witness history being made. It's the very first time two popes will be made saints at the same time. Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII will be honoured in an open-air ceremony in Vatican City. Up to a million people are expected at the event, with hundreds of millions more watching on TV around the world.

Alan Johnston: Well the Catholic Church has simply never seen a day quite like this in all its 2000 years of history: Two much-loved popes being recognised as saints in the same ceremony, and extraordinarily two living popes presiding over that ceremony. But this is a really huge religious event.

Fairly positive reporting, then, with not even a hint that the canonisation was controversial because of the young people who suffered abuse whilst John Paul II was still in charge, and the fact that he did not act strongly enough to stamp it out.

The two other Newsround reports yesterday were no better -

Alan Johnson explained the ceremony like this - We've just witnessed a hugely important religious event here at the Vatican: Two former popes being made saints. Now to become a saint the Church has to believe not only that you're in heaven, it has to believe also that you're so important there that you can actually persuade God to deliver miracles. In the case of one of these popes - the former Polish pope John Paul II - the Church believes that two women, who were very very ill, prayed to him and were miraculously cured. The Church believes John Paul II cured two women miraculously, and that qualifies him to be a saint ........

Johnston went into quite a lot of detail on the religious beliefs surrounding canonisation, but he failed to tell Newsround viewers that, only days beforehand, a young man named Marco Gusmini was killed when a giant crucifix collapsed on top of him. The really spooky thing about Marco's death is that the crucifix which killed him had been dedicated to John Paul II. So wasn't the Catholic Church worried that Marco dying in those circumstances might cancel out the other miracles? I suspect that neither Alan Johnston, nor any other BBC journalist made enquiries to the Vatican on that score.

Newsround stressed the bit about history being made yesterday. Unfortunately it was nowhere near as positive about another historical event last month - the first same-sex marriages ever to take place in Britain. People might wonder whether the BBC holds its LGBT viewers in lower esteem than those of faith.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

CBBC has been asking kids to send in feedback about what makes them livid -

Saturday, April 26, 2014

If the recent BBC adaption of Jamaica Inn deserved any prizes for lack of intelligibility, then surely The Next Step must surely also be up for an award.

The Next Step is a fictional drama made in the style of a documentary. The series comes from Canada and follows a group of teens who supposedly attend a dance studio called The Next Step. The diction is often unclear, with many actors hurriedly mumbling their lines. It was first broadcast in Britain on 7 April 2014, and the first 5 episodes were shown on successive weekdays.

Despite having been given a great deal of publicity on the CBBC channel, including three of the actors being invited on more than one occasion to the presentation studio as well as to Blue Peter on 10th April, viewing figures were not good - being significantly below 200,000 all week (BARB w/e 13 April)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Martin Dougan and Leah Gooding took part in a live webchat last Tuesday afternoon. One of the questioners asked: Is it hard to tell the news when you don't agree with it? How do you get through the situation?

Leah replied: My job is to tell you guys the news. My opinion doesn't count, I have to be fair and unbiased.

Martin responded: I still have to be professional and cover every story the same. I might personally have opinions, but when it comes to working at the BBC, You have to be impartial.

The reality is this ... some stories - the approved ones - get loads of coverage, but as soon as CBBC has any reservations, censorship creeps in.

The start of this morning's bulletin at 7.40am -

Ricky: First up, it's a story that's all over the front and back pages of this morning's papers ...

Ricky's story was about the future of David Moyes.

Another, more relevant, story about the South Korean ferry disaster has still not even been mentioned by Newsround. Perhaps it's been censored because Newsround presenters or their bosses think the news would upset children too much. But there's a very important lesson to be learnt from that story: Should people always do what those in authority say, or should they think for themselves?

When the ferry disaster occurred the captain told passengers to stay in their rooms. Many just took that advice and ended up getting drowned. But others ignored the advice and survived the ordeal.

If News has any real value, surely it's to help us learn from other people's experiences. By failing to report the Ferry story Newsround has done its young viewers a disservice.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

The BBC appears unwilling to explain the reason for having an exceptionally early deadline for applications to take part in series 3 of Marrying Mum and Dad. Here are some possibly relevant details.

Marrying Mum and Dad deadline for applications to take part in series 1 was 29th February 2012. The first series - which did not include any civil partnerships - was recorded over the next four months or so, and screened on weekdays the same year beginning on Monday 13 August 2012.

The Scottish Government had announced its plans to allow same sex marriage on 25th July 2012, and on 11th December 2012 the UK Government confirmed its intention to legislate for marriage equality in England and Wales.

On Christmas Day 2012 BBC News led with an item about religious objections to same-sex marriage.

Marrying Mum and Dad deadline for applications to take part in series 2 was 22nd January 2013. One of the programme's main researchers went to some lengths in order to try and get same-sex couples to apply: "... I’ve been sending out this information to various different organisations, for families to be involved. I’m really keen to have a same sex couple appear on the show as my sisters and I were raised by two mums, and understand the importance of having more diverse families shown on television ..."

CBBC was successful in their aim, and the civil partnership took place on 1st June 2013 - almost two weeks after equal marriage legislation had passed all its stages in the House of Commons and after David Cameron had told the BBC that there will be young children "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. ... "

The Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Act 2013 was given Royal Assent on 17th July 2013 and the Government said marriages for England and Wales would begin in 2014 - the exact start date would be given before the end of 2013.

The civil partnership episode of Marrying Mum and Dad was the last series 2 episode to be recorded, but was broadcast as episode 6 on Monday 12th August 2013.

After series 2 ended CBBC sought out more families to take part in series 3. This time however they seemed somewhat less willing to hear from same sex couples. The "Get Involved" promos didn't even mention civil partnerships. And this time the deadline for taking part was 30th September 2013 - about 4 months earlier than it had been for series 1 & 2, even though filming was scheduled to take place at an equivalent time of year as the previous series.

So the question arises as to whether the BBC was interested in filming same sex-marriages. If they were, then why such an early deadline?

Newsround Blog investigations of this matter have been quite thorough. On 8th October 2013 I enquired as follows -

... I was interested to know whether you were looking for same sex couples to take advantage of the new equality. The deadline for applications for series 3 was some four months earlier than it was for the first two series. Was there any special reason for such an early deadline, and is there any possibility that the deadline could be extended in order to, perhaps, include a same sex marriage? ...

The same researcher who'd previously been so keen on diversity now seemed a lot less interested in the idea of CBBC covering a same-sex marriage.

Same-sex marriages took place for the first time in Britain on Saturday 29th March 2014. The repeat of CBBC's civil partnership episode of Marrying Mum and Dad was pulled on 31st March 2014, but was broadcast at 10am and 1.15pm on Monday 14th April 2014. The terms "civil partner" or "civil partnership" are heard no less than eighteen times throughout the episode. A short while after the programme ended on Monday there was a brief announcement that two men or two women can now marry in England and Wales. There was no such announcement before or after Monday's 1.15pm afternoon repeat (which included signing for the deaf)