Go 4 It
The demise of Go 4 It is in some ways a sad moment. It is not merely the loss of a programme - but the loss of a specific, regularly scheduled attempt to engage children with Radio 4 and the joys of radio in general. I know some will think we should persist in broadcasting the programme on the grounds that it is the BBC's job to cater for small audiences - particularly when the market won't provide anything.
But the problem is that the children's audience for the programme was just so small that the market failure argument, which I respect, does not in this instance hold water. At one point last year RAJAR (the impartial body that measures radio audiences) indicated that more or less no children at all were tuning in. It's true that the figure rose a little in the last quarter of 2008 - but over a long period it's been horribly clear that we are making a perfectly good programme - but for an adult audience. The average age of the audience is in the 50s.
Of course it might be desirable for children to switch to the intelligent items planned and produced by the team - but I can't pretend that children are interested in this sort of radio when they largely are not. The omnipresence of images is a fact of life - like the existence of 24 hour news channels or mobile phones. And that's where children now turn. That is not the case for adults - where Radio 4's audience has help up well over many years and millions prefer it to TV.
I feel some nostalgia for an era where Listen With Mother had an audience of millions (though I was not brought up with it and still found the joys of speech radio) but I do not think that the world has gone to the dogs because of the absence of this kind of radio. By all accounts the BBC's children's TV channels (CBeebies and CBBC) provide a good service. That much is said by the recent BBC Trust report on BBC childrens' output - which is also interesting on the subject of children's radio.
We will be trying to get children interested in some plays we will run on Radio 4 throughout the year and we will be transmitting them in the mainstream Radio 4 schedule when we think they might be around to listen. We have already commissioned Roald Dahl's Matilda for next Christmas, Black Hearts in Battersea, Emil and the Detectives and The Wizard of Oz. For Clearly we need to aim the trailing at the parents too. They are probably still the 'gatekeepers.'
We will still be broadcasting children's radio programmes on BBC Radio 7 and hope that by moving the three hour bloc from the afternoons to the mornings we will get more of a children's audience - but that's far from being guaranteed. For older children there will be an hour of readings every weekday afternoon. They are currently transmitted in the mornings.
- Ben Dowell in The Guardian on the demise of Go 4 It.
- The BBC Press Office announces changes to children's radio programmes.
- From the archives, The Telegraph on Helen Boaden's announcement of a one year trial for Go 4 It in 2001.
- Martin Kelner, The Guardian's radio columnist on the problem with children's radio.
- Radio 7's Big Toe Books site.
- Discussion of the changes on the Radio 4 Messageboard
- Evan Davis interviews author Michael Morpurgo and publisher Peggy Vance about the fate of children's radio on the Today programme.