Peers and broadcasters demand Review of BBC Children’s Radio cuts…

A meeting held by the Sound Start Group at the House of Lords on Monday [09/15/2011] has called for a review of the cuts to BBC Children’s Radio.

Speakers included Baroness Warnock, Baroness [Floella] Benjamin, with Baroness Howe, in the chair. Former ‘Magpie’ presenters, Susan Stranks and Mick Robertson, joined the meeting which also hosted authors, educators, musicians and child-care specialists.

The BBC’s  Strategy for Children’s Audio was approved by the BBC Trust in February.  It reduced children’s radio hours by 75% and moved 50% of funding to adult programmes. This has left £1m for children from the £460m p.a. licence-funded radio budget, in contrast to average cuts of 16% to 20% across other BBC departments.

Human rights lawyer, Paul Gilbert, questioned UK  legislation that only protects access and choice in radio for citizens aged over 15 years and argued this could be seen to flout the UN Convention Children’s Rights. He said changes to the R7 Service Licence before the re-launch as R4Extra have weakened the protection of advertisement-free children’s radio and left the Licence vague and open to future question.

Speech and Language Therapist, Gloria Parmesan, complained she had bought a digital radio especially for her five year old daughter, who was bereft when CBeebies radio suddenly disappeared. She said downloading the proposed 20 minute podcasts was no substitute for a simple push-button radio, which is more suitable for younger children to access.

Dr Chris Pollitt brought his four year old son to the Lords to plead for a rethink, so that Zachary and his two year old sister could continue enjoying real radio in bed each morning.  There were complaints that the BBC had persistently failed to advertise the service and delegates pointed to the instant reprieves audiences has achieved for 6 Music and the Asian Network, leaving children as a soft target in the cuts, as they were unable to protest.

It was pointed out that the Government inaugurated 2011 as ‘Year of Communication’, to generate practical solutions to an escalating language deficit in the young and pledged £52 million for the related Action Plan.  Speakers said the BBC is short sighted and irresponsible to cut children’s radio at such a time.

Susan Stranks, who runs the National Campaign for Children’s Radio said radio provided an accessible and cost efficient way to reach families with young children and could balance the predominant screen and keyboard culture often blame for attention problems and delayed language.                                                                                                                             

Paul  Smith, Head of Editorial Standards, BBC Audio & Music, insisted the BBC had tried very hard but children had not tuned in.  He thanked delegates for their views. 

Children’s broadcaster and producer Baroness [Floella] Benjamin, who hosted the event summed up by saying children needed to be kept at the forefront of public policy thinking.

A report of the meeting will be sent to Lord Patten, who joined the BBC Trust as Chairman on April 30th.


T:+44 [0] 1273 777489.

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...

Slider by webdesign