Entertainment & Arts

Blue Peter to be shown on CBBC before BBC One

Barney Harwood and Helen Skelton with Barney the dog on the new Blue Peter set
Image caption The Blue Peter production team recently moved to Salford

The BBC's flagship children's show Blue Peter is to be cut to just one episode a week and will be shown on CBBC a day before BBC One, it has been announced.

The change marks a big upheaval for the long-running magazine programme, which launched in October 1958.

From 12 January, new episodes will be screened on CBBC on Thursday.

At the moment the programme is shown on Mondays and Tuesdays. However, the BBC said the total number of episodes produced would not decrease.

The shortfall will be made up by additional specials, and the cancellation of the programme's traditional summer break.

A BBC spokeswoman said: "The amount of air time we devote to Blue Peter remains exactly the same, we are just scheduling it differently."

She added the changes meant there is greater "flexibility to introduce additional specials that will go into more depth on events and activities".

These will include a Stargazing Live special in the new year, and a nine-part series following presenter Helen Skelton's bicycle trip to the South Pole for Sport Relief.

At one stage the programme, which began in 1958, was broadcast three times a week, with additional spin-off shows.

But audience fragmentation and schedule changes have seen viewing figures slip over the last few years.

In 2002, the show regularly attracted more than 1.4m viewers. By 2008, when the BBC changed the programme's time slot from 17:00 to 16:30 GMT, figures fell from 940,000 to 580,000.

Revamped show

The production team recently moved to Salford, from where the revamped show is now being broadcast.

Over the years, Blue Peter has helped launch the careers of many TV presenters, including Matt Baker, Janet Ellis, John Noakes, Konnie Huq and Anthea Turner.

It has become best known for the craft section, where presenters show viewers how to make things using supplies found at home.

The term, "here's one I made earlier" was coined early on after presenters kept producing items that had been made before broadcast.

The most famous example was a model of Tracy Island from the TV show Thunderbirds, created by the programme's staff at Christmas 1992 after the real article had sold out in toy shops across the country.

Thousands of viewers (and their parents) wrote in for the instruction sheet, overwhelming the production team. The how-to guide is now available on the BBC's website.

Blue Peter is also famous for its pets - current cuddly creatures include Barney the dog and Socks the cat - not to mention the visiting animals who have caused havoc on the set.

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