Sunday, December 16, 2012
BBC told to put more homosexual presenters on children's TV to 'familiarise' youngsters with different sexualities
BBC children's programmes should include more lesbian, gay and bisexual people, a report of the corporation recommends.
A panel of nine experts said youngsters should be introduced to sexual diversity in their early years.
While there has been a gradual increased in the representation of these people, they remain 'still relatively invisible' in the media, they said.
The experts added that the BBC should be 'more creative and bolder in its depiction of such groups of people, taking care to steer clear of stereotypes.'
The report concluded: 'The LGB [lesbian, gay and bisexual] experts feel that the BBC should seek to incorporate the portrayal of LGB people within programming targeted at children, to familiarise audiences through incidental portrayal from an early age.'
The report commissioned by the broadcaster, which drew on audience surveys and nine 'LGB experts', concluded that all genres of programming should regularly feature non-heterosexual people, with news and drama currently the biggest problem areas.
Of BBC News, the study claimed that too much time was given to 'homophobic' viewpoints.
'As a public service broadcaster and a standard bearer on moral issues, the BBC is asked to reconsider the way in which it is perceived to set up these debates with two extreme perspectives and to be more creative and nuanced in its presentation,' wrote Clare Luke of Solitaire Consulting, who produced the report.
For dramas and soaps, she recommended bolder storylines featuring gay characters, while documentaries were deemed to need more LGB presenters and portrayal of gay people in history.
As for comedy, the report concluded that the 'biggest risk' was LGB people being the focus of a joke. This was judged as only truly acceptable when the comedians themselves were gay.
The report drew on a survey of around 3,000 viewers, in which one in five heterosexual men said they thought there were too many LGB people on BBC television.
More than one in ten people said there were uncomfortable with the portrayal of gay, lesbian and bisexual people in the broadcast media.
Acting director general Tim Davie, chair of the BBC Working Group which commissioned the review, said: 'The BBC has a fundamental obligation to serve all its audiences. In fact, it’s one of the BBC’s public purposes to reflect the diversity of UK life.
Reacting to the report, Philip Davies, Conservative MP for Shipley, said: ‘I would object to my children being subjected to any sexualisation on a BBC television programme, whether homosexual or heterosexual. That is not the purpose of children’s TV.’
But Peter Tatchell, a gay rights campaigner for OutRage!, said: ‘This is a really positive proposal which can help increase understanding and combat prejudice. Every child deserves to grow up to be tolerant, kind, and supportive of other people who are gay or lesbian.’
Gay rights campaigner Anthony Crank, best known for fronting Channel 4 youth show T4, works for BBC Radio Manchester as a regular cover presenter and presented BBC family shows including Holiday and Holiday Hit Squad.
BBC children's presenter Kirsten O'Brien said in 2007 that 'everyone at CBBC is either gay or childless and don't like kids'.
However, the corporation insisted that her remarks about her colleagues during a stand-up show at the Edinburgh festival had been made in jest.
Social workers tore me from my babies for a year: Nightmare of innocent mother accused of harming son
A loving mother had her children taken away from her in a dawn raid on her home after being wrongly accused of cruelty. The three terrified youngsters watched as she was handcuffed before they were each put into separate cars and taken into foster care.
It took 19 months for the devastated family to be reunited – when a judge exonerated the parents and strongly criticised the social workers and police responsible for the appalling error.
Judge Nicholas Marston said social services, who had accused the parents of deliberately causing symptoms of illness in their disabled son, acted on claims ‘based on misunderstandings’ or which were ‘just plain wrong’.
The couple were wrongly alleged to have given 12-year-old Kane medicine to induce symptoms of digestive, nervous system and growth problems, as well as the fact he is on the autistic spectrum.
Social workers accused them of Fabricated or Induced Illness by carers (FII), also known as Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy.
The 6am police swoop, which involved 14 officers descending on a quiet Hampshire cul-de-sac, was described by the judge as ‘utterly disproportionate’ and ‘itself abusive of the children involved’.
The children’s father, who had left for work as an engineer at the time of the raid, was also later arrested on suspicion of neglect. Parents Kealey and Andy, who wish to keep the family surname secret, were never charged but say they have been ‘destroyed’ by the ordeal.
Kealey, 39, who had a nervous breakdown brought on by the arrest and has since suffered post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, said: ‘I didn’t see my children for over a year. I wasn’t allowed to speak to them. It was torture.
‘You see mums crying when they wave their kids off on a school trip. There aren’t words to describe going a year without seeing your babies.
‘We are broken. The old me is gone. It is very hard for the children because they see a very different mum.’
Although his parents have now regained full custody, Kane is voluntarily staying in foster and respite care because Kealey is currently too ill to care for him. Andy, 47, lost his job on his arrest and has since had to take up a new position abroad, meaning he gets to see the children only every three or four months.
He said: ‘Social services were more interested in proving we were wrong than giving Kane care.
‘They thought we had managed to convince 30 doctors over Kane’s lifetime. They said we had given him medicine to induce the problems, but he had the problems before he had the medicine so I don’t know how they worked that out.’
The arrests, in July 2010, were triggered after staff at Bursledon House specialist children’s centre in Southampton, where Kane was undergoing treatment, told social services that he was not showing all the symptoms his parents described and they concluded it was a case of FII.
Once in care, the children were unable to see or speak to their mother for a year and were allowed to see their father only on weekly three-hour supervised visits.
Kane was kept separately from his sisters Carris and Marly, then 14 and eight, for four months, before they were all sent to a foster family 60 miles from the family home in Farnborough, with a daily two-hour round trip to school.
Carris, who is now 16, had been predicted 14 A*s at GCSE, but left school with only two passes. She took herself out of care as soon as she turned 16 last summer and returned to her family.
At a four-week hearing at Portsmouth County Court in February, Judge Marston praised Kealey and Andy for being ‘caring, loving’ parents and criticised Hampshire County Council for failing to prove any of its claims.
In his judgment, he said: ‘What happened here is that a picture was painted before the facts were properly analysed, indeed before many of the facts were actually known, and then the facts were made to fit the picture.’
John Coughlan, Hampshire County Council’s director of children’s services, said that the council had acted with the ‘best motives’, adding: ‘It is our duty as a local authority to secure the wellbeing of children.’
Detective Superintendent Nigel Lecointe, head of the public protection department of Hampshire Constabulary, said he accepted his officers’ actions had been ‘perceived to be heavy-handed’ and ‘had a significant long-term effect on the family’.
A victory for free speech in Britain: Lords vote to axe law banning insults that had led to countless arrests of ordinary people
Free speech campaigners have hailed a vote by the House of Lords to scrap a draconian law that made it a crime simply to insult someone.
The controversial legislation led to countless arrests of ordinary people for making jokes and expressing opinions about religion and sexuality.
Section 5 of the Public Order Act criminalised ‘insulting’ words and behaviour – without defining what the term meant.
Critics warned that over- zealous police and prosecutors were abusing the law, leading to ludicrous scenarios such as the conviction of a teenager for saying ‘woof’ to two dogs.
An amendment to strike out the term ‘insult’ by Lord Dear, a crossbencher and former West Midlands chief constable, was backed by 150 votes to 54 late on Tuesday. The move was backed despite the Government and Labour peers opposing the change.
Liberal Democrats banded with rebel lords from across the parties and crossbench peers to vote for the change. Lord Dear said: ‘We must never lose sight of our basic constitutional freedoms within the law which are so important in any civilised country. ‘That’s why the vote was so important in upholding and enhancing one of those basic freedoms.’
Simon Calvert, of The Christian Institute and campaign director for Reform Section 5, said: ‘We are delighted the House of Lords has voted to enhance free speech for everyone by reforming Section 5. ‘The vote will encourage everyone who believes in robust debate, especially those who feel free speech has become less free in recent years.
‘We now wait to hear whether the Government will try to overturn this vote in the Commons.’
The amendment was passed by the House of Lords as part of the Crime and Courts Bill. It will still need to go through the House of Commons for approval, however, and will need government backing to become law.
Last night, the Home Office said it was ‘considering’ the arguments for change and ‘will reflect on the Lords’ decision’.
A spokesman added: ‘The Government supported the retention of Section 5 as it currently stands, because we believe it is wrong to swear at police officers.’
The Home Office launched a consultation on repealing Section 5 in January, but no decision has yet been reached about whether it will back the change.
One senior MP told the Mail the Home Office had taken an unusually long time to deliberate and had ‘become hesitant’ to change the law following the ‘plebgate’ row involving former International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell.
The MP said: ‘Until Mitchell’s plebgate, we thought the Home Office and police could work this out and agree to drop it. But Theresa May did not want to be seen undermining police in the wake of that.’
Mr Mitchell was accused of swearing at police officers outside Downing Street when he was asked to get off his bicycle.
But the intervention last week of the Crown Prosecution Service will heap pressure on the Government to back the change.
Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said the law could be ‘safely’ amended while still protecting vulnerable people from harassment under existing laws.
Britain is getting a glimpse of the world of culture wars
Pressing homosexual marriage onto the churches is bringing the politics of division to a country more used to peace on the issue
Some concepts are simply alien to some cultures, which is why the British have no word for “Kulturkampf”. The practice of “culture wars” – dividing a nation into warring tribes and then exploiting that division – has been happily absent from our politics. Anyone visiting the United States during election time will watch, amazed, the bitter arguments about abortion, gun control or the teaching of evolution. The power of these debates is astonishing: they can set neighbour against neighbour, while often bearing only a tangential relationship to the issues actually resolved at election time.
Returning home, a Brit can tune into the evening news and sigh with relief at our less lively, but rather saner, public discussion. But the news, in recent days, has started to sound a little more American. MPs have been quoting the Bible in just the same way, and getting themselves just as wound up. David Cameron’s plans for gay marriage, which were controversial enough in the first place, have been made even more so by his decision to let such unions take place in churches. After two years of trying to discuss this rationally, tribal battle has now broken out. A group of liberal Tories calling themselves the “Freedom to Marry” alliance are up against a group of less organised, lesser known and less telegenic Conservatives who are popping up on TV to denounce the Government. The ordinary viewer may conclude that the Tory party is going through one of its periodic bouts of madness.
I suspect that, by now, even Cameron is wondering if this has not all spun out of control. It’s perfectly easy to see his original logic. As a matter of principle, he believes in marriage and would like it to be accessible to everyone. If the Unitarian Church and certain strands of Judaism want to marry gay couples on their premises, then why should government stand in their way? For the record, I quite agree. Religious freedom in Britain ought to be universal, extended to the handful of churches or synagogues who want same-sex marriage. To lift the ban ought to be a technical issue, an amendment to the Civil Partnership Act 2004 requiring no fanfare.
But this time, there has been not just a fanfare, but the drumbeat of war. Nick Clegg released the text of a speech in which he regretted the fact that economic turmoil “gives the bigots a stick to beat us with, as they demand we 'postpone’ the equalities agenda”. He later withdrew the b-word, but his point was made: that Britain is now divided into two camps. You have the Liberal Democrats, friends of equality. And on the other side, the “bigots” – a group that presumably includes followers of every mainstream religion. A former adviser to Clegg resurfaced to say that his boss ought to have stuck to his word, because such people are indeed bigots.
A Washington strategist would have given Clegg full marks for this textbook example of culture war. The British gay marriage debate has now become (as the American sociologist James Hunter puts it) a matter of “political and social hostility rooted in different systems of moral understanding”. The trick is to draw a dividing line, insult those on the other side – and try to attract supporters by forcing people to choose. The strategy could, in theory, help Clegg make common cause with his target voters: younger suburbanites, living in an un-religious Britain. But it means declaring war on an enemy who tend to be, disproportionately, shire-dwellers, churchgoers and over 60.
It’s less clear, however, what Cameron hopes to gain from the same strategy – which is what is making Tory MPs so suspicious. Many suspect he is using this to (as one senior backbencher puts it) “identify a wing of his party who are at best old-fashioned and at worst bigoted”. Some mutter about an old theory articulated by Oliver Letwin, Cameron’s policy chief: that the party could double its membership if it lost the least attractive 25 per cent of it. And if this sounds like MPs’ paranoia, then welcome to the crazy world of culture wars. They tend to bring out the worst in everyone.
Some of his party say they will not rise to Cameron’s bait, believing this to be a ploy to make them go on national television and sound like lunatics. Some are past caring, and are doing it anyway. Tory supporters of Cameron’s plan point to Barack Obama’s victory and conclude that winning parties make sure they stay socially liberal. But another supporter says the Prime Minister has “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory”, because all voters will remember about the gay marriage debate is the way the Tories went mad one December and tore each other apart.
The irony is that Britain does not need legislation to make it more liberal. It can already claim to be one of the most tolerant places on earth. The 2011 census showed how we have absorbed the unprecedented rates of immigration over the past decade without anything like the far-Right backlash seen on the Continent. Britain is the country where Mo Farah is a national hero, Graham Norton a national treasure, and vindaloo the national dish. As a people, we tend not to resent each other’s race, colour or sexual orientation – or even think too much about it.
But our new cultural warriors do care about creed, especially those who offend secular notions of equality. Take Adrian Smith, a Manchester housing trust worker who wrote on his Facebook page that gay marriage was an “equality too far”. His punishment was demotion by his employer and a 40 per cent pay cut. The High Court upheld his appeal. “Something has poisoned the atmosphere in Britain,” he said, “where an honest man like me can be punished for making perfectly polite remarks about the importance of marriage.”
His treatment was an affront to the right of liberty – but the law of unintended consequences is one that Westminster always unwittingly enacts. Promises of a “quadruple lock” to stop the Church of England being ordered to conduct gay marriages, for example, make the clergy feel more vulnerable than ever. For centuries, the Church has not needed such protection, since its freedom had been taken for granted. No longer. The clergy fear that the very existence of the legislation proves that a hostile, secular agenda is gathering strength.
Cameron does have a way to calm things down: he simply needs to make good his promise to do more to promote marriage for straight couples. He is Prime Minister of a country where 48 per cent of children will see their parents split up. Strip out immigrants (who flatter most social statistics) and only a minority of British babies are born to married parents. By the age of 16, a British child is considerably more likely to have a television in the bedroom than a father in the house.
Marriage, as an institution, is in need of some help. If Cameron is serious about strengthening it, then he should do so for everyone.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine). My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.