Friday, April 15, 2016

Gender confusion

Last November the BBC broadcast a documentary which, amongst other things, claimed that "there are an estimated 300-500 thousand people classed as transgender living in Britain." That number seemed excessive, so Newsround Blog investigated further. The programme in question, "How Straight Am I?" was made for the BBC by Roughcut TV, so I emailed them on 12th November -

Just watched your programme "How Straight Am I?" presented by Tyger Drew-Honey. After about 30 minutes into the programme Tyger mentioned that there are an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people classed as transgender living in Britain.

Please could you clarify what Tyger meant by "classed as transgender" - does it mean self-identify as transgender, or something else? Also could you let me know the source of the estimated figure?

Roughcut replied on 23rd November. They didn't explain what Tyger meant by "classed as transgender" but they did cite the source as

It turns out that the 300-500 thousand estimate was made by GIRES, which is basically a transgender-promoting charity. The figure arrived at was not, as you might expect, the number of people who want to swap gender. It is simply an estimate of the number of people who don't conform to gender stereotypes. So, for example, girls who love to play football might easily come under their catch-all definition.

The GIRES estimate is misleading. But why is this happening? It is because some people are deliberately trying to blur the distinction between gender and sex. So, for the purposes of promoting the concept of a large trans population, all those who don't conform with traditional rigid male and female stereotypes come under the 'trans' umbrella.

One of the consequences of this approach is that it could lead some vulnerable gender-non-conforming children into believing they're "trans"

The BBC documentary My Life: I Am Leo is an example of how things can be made worse. The programme's executive producer, Kez Margrie, said she wanted to do a story on a transgender child because "there are kids out there having a tough time." Of course some kids do have a hard time. But the vast majority of those kids do not change gender - and quite a lot of them might be lesbian, gay or bisexual . And yet nowhere in the apparently well-intentioned documentary is there any mention of these words, or of issues around sexual orientation.

In the rush to accommodate a minuscule number of transgender children it seems there is a real danger of much larger groups falling by the wayside. And this problem of LGB-erasure isn't only noticeable on children's TV - even organisations set up to challenge homophobia seem to be kowtowing to the trans agenda.

An Educational Action Challenging Homophobia (EACH) video was released in time for this year's Trangender Day of Visibility. But nowhere does it broach the topic of sexual orientation. Furthermore this EACH document could give teachers and kids the impression that homophobia is to be taken less seriously than transphobia. You will notice, for example, that Tr*nny is the only term of abuse which has been censored. Homophobic words are printed in full throughout the document. I have tackled EACH about this, and am awaiting their response.

See also Bigoted or Brave? A Response to CBBC

Thursday, April 14, 2016

CBBC Newsround science blunder

A report on Newsround yesterday morning contained several mistakes, the most serious of which was that a future starship will travel at 100 million miles per second.

Newsround suggests the future starship will travel faster than light

I informed CBBC Newsround's editor, Lewis James, about the mistake. My message wasn't acknowledged but the blunder was edited out of the website version of their report. At the time of writing other less serious errors, including the distance to Pluto, are still there.

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Newsround Blog rarely had a good word to say about The Next Step, and from what we've seen so far, the same looks true for its spin-off series: Lost & Found Music Studios. In episode 1, first broadcast by CBBC last Monday, we saw the introduction of some of the main characters and relationships.

The series largely goes along with gender stereotypes. At the very start, for example, the boys were playing in a band whilst a group of girls bopped up and down to the music - not difficult to picture if you've ever seen some of those old Top of the Pops shows on the BBC.

Next we found out about some of the main characters' crushes. Songwriter Leia has a huge crush on Luke. Luke's friend John has a crush on Michelle, but is too shy to tell her about his feelings. John has written a love song all inspired by her, but is worried Michelle doesn't feel the same way. Luke sings the song at the party that evening, intending to call over John to join in half-way through. But his plan goes awry when Leia mistakenly assumes Luke wrote the song, and that he's performing it for her. Luke then reveals that the song was written by John.

After the performance Michelle asks Luke if he knows who the song was about. Luke tells her that she would need to ask John that question. John is hiding nearby and hears the conversation. But by the time we get to episode 2, it seems the writers forgot what happened in episode 1 -

John (narrating): Yesterday, Luke played a love song that I wrote for Michelle. She knew that I wrote it, but she didn't know it was about her. When Michelle came to talk to me after the show I had no idea what to do.

John (speaking to Luke): So let me get this straight. You told Michelle that I wrote the song for Theo.

Luke: Yeah.

John: She's supposed to believe that I wanted to have my heart broken by Theo?

Luke: Yeah - it's like a, you know, a bromance thing!

Any suggestion of one boy having a crush on another boy was quickly dismissed. So it's not surprising that BBC children's TV has been accused of homophobia and LGB-erasure. I've asked the Director of BBC Children's whether there are any plans to make CBBC more inclusive.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

My Life: I Am Leo is, as we've discussed in earlier blog entries, an example of how not to make children's TV. Nevertheless the programme has won yet another TV award. This time it is the International Emmy® Kids Awards @MIPTV. The award was handed to Leo, yesterday, at a glitzy ceremony in Cannes, France.

Catriona Lewis of Nine Lives Media was also there.

Leo Waddell with Cat Lewis in Cannes

Ms Lewis says that BBC children's TV hasn't yet made a documentary about an LGB kid because of the difficulty of tackling "sexual attraction" for an audience of 6 to 12-year-olds.

Newsround Blog is unclear as to whether UK licence payers footed the bill for Cat and Leo's attendance in Cannes.