|Ben, looking bashful (for some reason)|
Here's a transcript of a segment from this week's Newswatch, presented (in Samira Ahmed's absence) by Shaun Ley:
Shaun Ley: Last Thursday's edition of Question Time picked up on the protests against lessons in diversity and equality [by mainly Muslim parents] which are being taught at some Birmingham primary schools. They include same-sex relationships and the rights of LGBT people.
Question Time audience member: Is it morally right that five-year-old children learn about LGBT issues in school?
Fiona Bruce: Oh, I can hear all sorts of sounds coming from the audience here, so...
There was an angry response from some members of the wider TV audience to the inclusion in the programme of that question which was then posted on Twitter by the Question Time team. One of those expressing views in a forthright way on that tweet was the BBC Breakfast presenter Ben Thompson:
Ben Thompson: LGBT 'issues'? Like what? That we exist? One of them, RIGHT HERE, is on your TV every morning. I held back on this hoping it was clumsy writing, done in haste. But it's still online. Would you ask if it's 'morally right' to learn about gender/race/religion/disability 'issues'.
Others agreed, with Jerome writing:
Jerome: The question is loaded with prejudice and the premise is incorrect. Are we back in the 1950?
And Lil Tinge asked:
Lil Tinge: Do you want to explain to your LGBT licence payers why your producers thought this was an acceptable question for debate?
Well, the BBC issued the following explanation:
BBC News: Question Time is a topical debate programme. This was a question asked by an audience member on a subject which has seen a lot of recent discussion.
This week the corporation's Director of News Fran Unsworth sent a general reminder about the use of social media to all staff in news which found its way into the public domain [i.e. was leaked by someone at the BBC to the Guardian]. It advised:
Fran Unsworth: We all have personal views, but it is part of our role with the BBC to keep those views private. You shouldn't state your political preferences, or say anything that compromises your impartiality. Don't sound off about things in an openly partisan way. We haven't always been consistent in dealing with this issue in the past, but we cannot afford for this to continue, and will consider appropriate action in the future.
So it was BBC Breakfast's Ben Thompson, it appears, who brought down The Wrath of Fran on the BBC as a whole.
Now, I must say I'm with the BBC and Ivy Unsworth of In Loving Memory's grand-daughter Francesca here.
This was a question from a member of the QT audience. Shouldn't he be allowed to ask it because it offends the easily-offended?
And I don't think it's a remotely objectionable question anyhow.
Contrary to what Ben Thompson of BBC Breakfast said, the question wasn't about the morality of teaching about LBGT 'issues' - or gender/race/religion/disability 'issues' - in schools per se. It was about teaching about sexuality to five-year-old children.
Yes, people like Ben might be justified in blowing their tops if people called for such things to be banned from being mentioned in secondary schools, but teaching such sexualised matters to five-year-old IS a question that deserves moral querying.
Ben Thompson should have THIS pointed out to him too, whether by email or in person. Over to you Fran.