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Don’t Blame It On The Children!

February 24, 2009

My mum and I are both deeply shocked and saddened by news reports tonight of DisAbled CBeebies presenter Cerrie Burnell. Despite already having had small roles in the mainstream TV institutions EastEnders, The Bill and Grange Hill, the BBC has received an unbelievably high number of formal complaints- nine- about Miss Burnell since she and her co-presenter Alex Winters took over the popular Do and Discover slot and The Bedtime Hour programme last month on the digital children’s channel.   But why? Simply because Miss Burnell was born with one arm!

 

What difference does that make? Any sensible person living in 21st century England would instantly ask. After reading her impressive list of previous TV roles, however small, anyone who knows anything about English TV would know that while she may not have one of her arms, she must be a talented actress! For the BBC to now give her a presenting job at CBeebies, she must also be a talented presenter. Right?

 

Maybe. But tonight’s news reports suggest that too many parents of CBeebies viewers are still living in 1984. The BBC has received complaints from parents that Miss Burnell is scaring toddlers and that she is not suitable to appear on the digital children’s channel. Some posts on the CBeebies website were so vicious that they had to be removed.

 

Incredibly, one father said he wanted to ban his daughter from watching the channel because he feared it would give her nightmares.  I don’t know what he would do to his daughter if she ever happened to see me walking! I wouldn’t mind giving him a nightmare myself!

 

 

Some even accused the BBC of hiring Miss Burnell, 29, because of ‘political correctness’ and solely to meet employment quotas.

One parent wrote: This new presenter is c***  –  face facts  –  but because she has a disability then she was given a job. [It is] positive discrimination in my books.

What is scary is the BBC’s determination to show “minorities” on CBeebies at every available opportunity! Said another comment.

Miss Burnell has shown her true DisAbilities in her responses to the blatant and very public discrimination campaign against her, by which, understandably, she admits to being upset. She says her critics are small minded and their remarks are terrible.

Responding to some parents, who said that they were forced to discuss difficult issues with their young children before they were ready, Miss Burnell said: It can only be a good thing that parents are using me as a chance to talk about disability with their children. It just goes to show how important it is to have positive disabled role models on CBeebies and television in general.

The BBC insists that Miss Burnell has also received messages of support. Interestingly, I could only find this one, which I completely agree with: I think it’s great the BBC have appointed Cerrie Burnell. The earlier children come into contact with disabilities the better. A friend of mine recently had a baby and was told that the baby’s right arm hadn’t developed. This child will join nursery and school like any other child but hopefully will suffer fewer taunts and stares thanks to the children having come across Cerrie.

Disability groups have defended Miss Burnell and the BBC.

John Knight, of charity Leonard Cheshire Disability, said: Disabled people experience disadvantage and discrimination like this every day, largely through ignorance. This needs to change.

Understanding disability all comes down to familiarity. The bottom line is that seeing disabled people on television should be the norm, not the exception.

Ian Macrae, Editor of Disability Now, said: The views of these parents are gob-smacking.

One of the points of having presenters like Cerrie front and centre is that, the more it happens, the less likely children are to grow up with these sorts of limiting and outmoded attitudes.

I sincerely thank the BBC for their support of Miss Burnell. I wish her all the best on and offscreen. She is truly DisAbled and will hopefully be inspiring, not scaring, many children for many years to come.  

7 Comments leave one →
  1. February 24, 2009 11:44 am

    The Cbeebies board can be as unpleasant as any other HYS areas of the BBC website, but this is especially miserable because there’s can’t be any question at all over Cerrie’s presenting ability. She’s adorable, friendly and totally engaging when my kids are watching the Bedtime Hour. I was surprised when I noticed her arm, because I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen someone with a partial limb presenting TV, but I don’t think my kids (six and two) have even noticed yet. It’s a non-issue as far as they’re concerned, and any parent making an issue of it is an unpleasant idiot intent on foisting their own ignorance onto their children.

  2. samedifference1 permalink
    February 24, 2009 3:25 pm

    Thanks for commenting. I agree with you 200%.

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