New poll challenges BBC radio policy.

New research has placed the need for a radio network for children on a par with Radio 4Extra, casting doubt on the BBC’s radio policy.


A question was placed on Capibus,  Ipsos MORI’s face to face omnibus survey, for the Sound Start Group of parents and educators who are lobbying for a children’s radio network. When shown a list of 6 national radio stations funded by the licence fee, an equal percentage of the British public [23%] thought that National Children’s Radio and R4extra [formally R7] are most important for the British public to be able to listen to. This was followed by 5 Live Sports Plus [18%]; 6 Music [15%]; R1Extra [11%] and the Asian Network [seven per cent]; 17% did not know and 21% thought none were ‘most important’.

Campaigners claim that young listeners have been unfairly targeted while adult networks [6Music and the Asian Network] gained reprieves.  They want an independent evaluation of radio’s potential in children’s leisure and learning, with a focus on addressing the escalating listening and speaking deficit highlighted in successive government reports.
The Baroness Warnock who chairs the Sound Start group said of the results. “It is notable that the licence payers place children’s radio in equal top position with the re-launched R4Extra, which it is benefitting from so much publicity and cross promotion. It is also highly significant that support for children’s radio comes from respondents across all social bands and educational levels, clearly showing that the concept is not just a middle class whim.”

The BBC Trust is holding a public consultation into the future of the Asian Network. The Capibus research will form part of the Sound Start Group’s response.

With a target audience of British Asians aged under 35, the Asian Network is the most expensive per listener of all BBC radio formats and has cost the licence payer £56.8m since launching in 2002.  BBC Chief Operating Officer, Caroline Thomson, told the House of Lords communications committee that the Asian Network has a difficult concept in catering for many disparate groups simultaneously. Thomson has also said that, instead of a partial service, perhaps the BBC should have included a Children’s Network when launching its new digital stations in 2002.

Early years consultant, Wendy Scott, who advises the Start Sound Group, says,

Daily stories, songs, rhymes, games and shared parental support could bring fun and learning into every home – benefitting all our communities, including Asian families. Radio can also add balance to the prevalent screen and keyboard activity so often blamed for language delay, attention deficit and early obesity”.“BBC research shows that children aren’t drawn to sporadic content, hidden in middle-class adult speech schedules. With the largest cuts in education budgets since the 1950s, radio is a most accessible and cost efficient way to enhance young children’s learning and leisure at home, and also in family cars, where parents say they would be likely to use it most.”
Children’s broadcaster, Susan Stranks, says,

Editors notes:

The question was placed on Ipsos MORI’s face to face omnibus survey, Capibus, between 7th and 13th October 2011.  1,007 interviews were conducted ‘face to face’ in home amongst a national representative GB sample of adults aged 15+. The data presented are weighted to reflect the national profile.

Support for a children’s radio network is reflected across all the social groups with the percentage of AB respondents naming National Children’s Radio at 23%, compared with 22% in the DE social group.

The difference between respondents of different educational levels was similarly small, with Degree or higher educated at 25%, GCSE & equivalents at 23% and no formal qualifications at 21%.

The number of Urban Respondents naming Children’s Radio most important was the same as rural respondents (20%) and suburban was also only five per cent higher, so there is no significant difference between these groups.

There was a significant difference between men and women, with 19% of men and 26% women naming National Children’s Radio as most important. There was also some noticeable difference between the age categories with 15-24 year olds (14%) significantly less likely to name Children’s Radio compared to those aged 25-34 (25%) 35-44 (29%) and 55-64 (27%). Respondents with children aged 0-3 in their household were more likely (34%) to do so than those with Children aged 10-15 (22%) and those without children under 16 (21%).

The findings call into question the BBC’s Strategy for Children’s Audio which placed young listeners in the vanguard of savings. It deleted a core service duty to provide children with a commercial-free radio home, reduced this budget by 50% and air-time by 75%. The daily hour, which remains, has been scheduled as family friendly content on the adult speech station R4Extra. All radio for under-sevens is replaced by 15 minute podcasts. BBC School Radio is transmitted in term-time, for recording, at 03.00hrs on BBC R4 digital.


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