Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Ofcom has decided that the Top Gear Burma Special (BBC Two on 16 March 2014 at 8pm) was a breach of its Rule 2.3: In applying generally accepted standards broadcasters must ensure that material which may cause offence is justified by the context .....

The BBC had defended use of the term 'slope' as follows:

When we used the word ‘slope’ in the recent Top Gear Burma Special it was a light-hearted word play joke referencing both the build quality of the bridge and the local Asian man who was crossing it.

We were not aware at the time, and it has subsequently been brought to our attention, that the word ‘slope’ is considered by some to be offensive and although it might not be widely recognised in the UK, we appreciate that it can be considered offensive to some here and overseas, for example in Australia and the USA.

If we had known that at the time we would not have broadcast the word in this context and regret any offence caused.

The 'joke' went like this (YouTube) -

Jeremy Clarkson: “That is a proud moment…but…there is a slope on it.”

Richard Hammond picked up from there: “You are right…[pointing]…it is definitely higher on that side.”

Hammond's barely stifled amusement reveals he was working in cahoots with Clarkson, and was equally culpable. As far as I know, he's escaped criticism.

Common sense, you would think, dictates that any word, whether or not pejorative, used to describe the race or other characteristic of a human being was inappropriate in this context. For example "there is a Muslim on it" or "there is an African on it." The BBC admitted they were aware that 'slope' referred to an Asian man.

To be fair, a few years ago, some of Ofcom's own judgements were no better. Here in a 2007 edition of Broadcast Bulletin, for example, the Regulator cites Friday Night with Jonathan Ross to help invalidate complaints about a homophobic term used on Big Brother.

Guardian (commentisfree - Carmen Fishwick): The BBC not acting on Clarkson’s racist comment shows its disregard for us

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Commonwealth Games are about to start in Glasgow, the home town of Newsround reporter and disability rights campaigner, Martin Dougan.

Martin's report this morning explained what the Commonwealth is supposed to be about.

Martin: .. Many years ago Britain controlled lots of countries as part of something called the British Empire. Although these countries are now independent, they have chosen to become part of the Commonwealth. It's a group of countries across the world which signs up to a set of values including democracy, law and human rights. ..

Martin fails to tell kids that many of those countries breach the human rights of LGBT people.

This morning's 8.55am bulletin also included Martin reporting live from Glasgow. I suspect he would be less enthusiastic about these Games if some of those Commonwealth countries routinely imprisoned disabled people. But then CBBC, like so many Commonwealth countries, seems to have little time for the equal rights of LGBT people.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Does Disney's animated film Frozen have a pro-gay agenda? That topic was widely discussed elsewhere earlier in the year, including in this BBC blog. Certainly the lyrics from "Let it Go" are about empowerment, and could be seen as referring to the process of coming out. Take a look at these words, for instance:

Don't let them in, don't let them see
Be the good girl you always have to be
Conceal, don't feel, don't let them know
Well, now they know!

Gold-medal-winning Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe is 31. For half his life he struggled to keep his sexuality secret, and drove himself deeper into depression with every denial. Last week he came out to Michael Parkinson in a TV interview. He said he'd been concerned about the reaction from his friends and family.

Well, now they know!

Ian said he doesn't want other young people to feel the same way that he did.

So has CBBC now come round to supporting and empowering ALL kids regardless of sexual orientation? Was Ian Thorpe's disclosure just the spur CBBC needed to change? Could it explain why Newsround has spent time publicising the Disney animation, Frozen? It's been mentioned in all Friday's and all Saturday's TV bulletins.

Regrettably the truth is less encouraging: BBC Children's has symbiotic relationships with various media groups and/or personnel. Frozen is still being shown in lots of UK cinemas, and, with school holidays approaching, what better way to increase box office receipts than to promote it on children's TV?

Working hand in glove with commercial organisations is rarely consistent with the best interests of children, but perhaps promoting Frozen is the exception.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The British Dance Council is considering banning same sex couples from competing in some ballroom dancing competitions. I wrote to the BBC about Strictly Come Dancing in November 2010. Moira Ross was the programme's Executive Producer. Below is the substantive part of correspondence -

Email to Moira Ross dated 12th November 2010

Hello Moira,

Yesterday I read a story on Pink News about the possibility of a TV dance programme in the United States including same-sex couples. I commented that I couldn't imagine seeing that happen on Strictly Come Dancing, and then it dawned on me that I could ask the BBC what they thought about the idea.

Look forward to your views on the prospect of including same-sex couples on SCD. Many thanks.

A response from Stuart Macdonald on 24th November 2010:

I'm publicist for Strictly Come Dancing - I understand you were keen to discuss same-sex couples in Strictly. If you'd like to give me a bell I'd be happy to chew the cud with you!

My reply to Stuart the same day, with Cc to Moira Ross:

Rather than discussing the issue I was just curious to find out where the BBC stands. I imagine that there's a certain reluctance to include same sex dance partners because the BBC would be worried that audience reaction to this could be quite negative. But I guess the same would have been true thirty or forty years ago when mixed-race couples first started making an appearance on TV dramas etc.

Earlier in the year Prime Minister David Cameron said: ".. we'll never really tackle homophobic bullying in schools, we'll never tackle homophobic issues in the workplace just by passing laws. It's culture change and behavioural change that is needed as well." So really, as I see it, the ball is in the BBC's court.