For the record #BBCSML

More complaint letters are starting to come back from #BBCSML and apparently according to them:

“Studio guests are chosen for their ability to contribute on a variety of subjects, and expert comment is always provided via web cam- as it was in this case by Alice Hoyle

“We’d also like to point out that Alice was told precisely what Lynette was going to say on the programme and therefore she had ample time to prepare her own response to it.”

Below is an extract from the email the BBC researcher sent me on the evening of 13th Oct (so effectively 2days before show aired on sunday 16th)   after we had chatted on the phone about my experience and background to ascertain my suitability to appear on the show

“As I explained, we’ll be debating sex education. The polemic, as you know, is by Lynette Burrows, and she feels that she should be able to provide this for her child herself, and that the state always gets it wrong.

We’d like to have you on board because you have a wealth of first-hand experience in teaching SRE/PSHE and working with other teachers to help them provide these classes. You know the reality of classrooms and pupils, and obviously feel passionately about it. And so you’re ideal in terms of offering a dose of reality. And if you say it ideally should be a partnership between schools and parents, it carries extra weight.”

Unfortunately I don’t have transcripts of the other phonecalls arranging the show but to clarify the following is what I feel was agreed and arranged during my conversations with the BBC:

  • I specifically had very very clearly told the BBC researcher in conversations that at 7months pregnant I was not interested in going on national television and arguing agressively about sex education- I just don’t need the stress right now. I would happily provide the voice of a professional person from the sex and relationships education field and answer questions on it, but I absolutely was not going to enter into any kind of slanging match on it as quite frankly I am absolutely the wrong person for that kind of debate- I just don’t have an argumentative aggressive debate type personality at all.  Seriously I could not have been clearer with them on this front!

  • Yes I was read a very short extract from Lynnette Burrows’ polemic on the Friday before the show.   This extract included the mention of likening of sex educators to paedophilia and the reference to “dirty pictures”.  At that point I very nearly pulled out but was persuaded to remain in by lots of reassurances from the researcher that the debate wasn’t going to be set up with that as focus, and that my role was more about discussing best practice in sex and relationships education.

  • I was told about some but NOT all of the people appearing alongside me on the show.  I was led to believe that the majority of people on the show were in favour of sex education and that I wouldn’t be the lone voice championing sex education.  (and I wasn’t- but I was only really told about Rabbi Jonathan Romain from the Accord Coalition as well as a young person,  and I note the major sexual health charity I had also been informed were appearing alongside me did not actually appear on the day!)  As far as I recall I was definitely not told about the man from Campaign for Real Education or any of the other guests being on the show.  I appreciate guests change at the last minute but I was led to believe that the show was going to be much more balanced than it actually was, which was another reason I agreed to go on.

  • I was told I would be contacted re. the specific questions I was going to be asked during my appearance on the show.  The BBC rang me before the show to detail the questions they were going to ask me- they said in addition to talking about parents and sex education, they were going to ask me about teaching abortion, homosexuality  So I duly prepared myself to answer these questions and I tweeted some useful links for people based on what I thought I was going to be talking about here is one example. Unfortunately my twitter feed ceases on the evening of the 16th so I can’t tweet the links to the others tweets from before the show but they were links to abortion education resources and challenging homophobia resources as obviously by that point that is honestly what I thought I was being asked to talk about! Obviously in the end I was given no opportunity to talk about anything other than partnership with parents.  It’s a shame the teaching about sexual orientation and homophobia discussion wasn’t brought back to me to comment on as it happens to be one of my specialist areas- see my post (s) and other blog for details!

So as you can see I was guided by the email and phone conversations that my role wasn’t to challenge Burrows’ vile comments but to be the voice of sex education which I feel I was and I am proud of everything I said on the show in the tiny slot they gave me (and Susannah Reid didn’t come back to me like she said she was going to)!   So I was surprised and upset to read in the BBC responses to complaints that it seems I had in fact been expected to challenge Burrows on those specific comments!?  WHEN I HAD TOLD THEM I WASN’T GOING TO RESPOND TO IT AND THEY SAID I DIDN’T HAVE TO!!  The debate question was never “sex educators- paedophiles or not?” and obviously if they had said that it was actually going to be the focus then I never would have agreed to be on such a show! Why on earth would I put myself in that position!?

For the record- I am not completely naive to working with the media about sex education.  I have been on BBC news, BBC revealed, Teachers TV and appeared in TES, Guardian and local papers talking sex education and they had all been reasonably positive experiences until now (and shall be sharing a reflective post about sex educators working with the media shortly).

Given the unexpectedly huge backlash to the show (That post has had over 2000 hits alone) and the strength of feeling about how unacceptable it was to allow Lynette Burrows comments, it now feels to me like the BBC are trying to shift the focus onto my failings as the “expert voice” rather than their responsibilities as a broadcaster.   Personally I don’t feel I failed at all at being the “expert voice”- I am proud of everything I got to say (and clarified that further in my initial blopost and reflective blogpost).  Admittedly where I did fail was trusting the BBC and their “good reputation” for being a “fair impartial broadcaster”.

As I have said all along my priority is my family and my unborn child. My poor blood pressure!  I really have no desire to the lone sex educator voice on this, it isn’t all about me- IT’S ABOUT THE BBC FAILING IN ITS EDITORIAL DUTY TO CHALLENGE THOSE VILE COMMENTS DURING THE PROGRAM OR EVEN ALLOWING THEM IN FIRST PLACE. That wasn’t why I was asked to appear on the show and they (BBC) knew full well I had no intention of responding on that level during the show so it is disingenuous of them to insinuate otherwise in response to complaints.

(As a final note as you can see from my 3 initial comments to yesterday’s BBC response my final ponderance is about whether the BBC has a duty of care to people it invites onto its shows (not least the pregnant ones!)- at the minute I am deciding about taking that specific aspect up further, but what I really don’t want is for this issue to end up just being about me vs. the BBC as it seems they possibly think that’s what the issue is (IT’S REALLY NOT!) as I do feel it is much wider than that and I don’t particularly want to be any more in focus than I already am on this- as I would quite like to just get on with the process of growing and having my baby, and keeping it all as stress free as possible thanks!


*FYI- Rather than fill this blog with endless blogposts about #bbcsml I have updated and converted the post “Some musings on my own BBCsml complaint” into this one in light of the BBC responses to the complaint.