The fate of children's radio
I was drifting in and out of sleep the other day when I thought I heard the sound of Tubby the Tuba, shortly to be followed by Nelly the Elephant, and Burl Ives swallowing a fly. I waited with keen anticipation for Danny Kaye to sing 'Inchworm' or perhaps 'The Ugly Duckling'. Well we do regress to childhood as we get older.
For some reason I was back in the land of BBC Radio's Children's Favourites and Listen with Mother, a safe and secure world far from the Elvis's pelvis, or the sexed up songs of Beyonce or Rihanna. Today the BBC is accused of abandoning children's radio broadcasting and not without cause. In 2009 Radio 4 scrapped 'Go For It' - its only dedicated programme for children.
Then in February this year, as part of its review of BBC Children's Audio strategy, the BBC Trust said that it "regretted that the children's programming on Radio 7 is not serving audiences well, and performs very poorly in terms of reach, quality, impact and value for money". The three point strategy the trust approved in response to this devastating assessment was first a reduction in children's programming on Radio 7, now Radio 4 Extra, from 1400 to 350 hours, ie to a quarter of what it was.
Second, the shifting of Cbeebies pre-school audio to downloadable content instead and third making children's radio programmes available for broadcast by third parties. To examine these issues Feedback talked to Paul Smith, Head of Editorial Standards for BBC Audio and Music, Gregory Watson, managing director of the commercial radio station Fun Kids, and to Susan Stranks of the National Campaign for Children's Radio. I began by asking Susan Stranks, in view of the BBC's less than glorious attempts to make successful children's radio, why bother with it at all?
Next week in Feedback I'll be visiting the BBC's weather centre to answer your questions on that great British obsession the weather - or at least how we hear about it on BBC radio. Do let me know what you think.
Now I'm off in search of Mandy Miller and her elephant.
Roger Bolton presents Feedback on BBC Radio 4
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- The picture shows Daphne Oxenford, the original presenter of Listen with Mother on the Light Programme in the 1950s.