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Independent Radio Programmes For Children


EDM number 2607 in 2005-06, proposed by Don Foster on 19/07/2006.

That this House notes that the Broadcasting Act requires children’s programmes to be included in independent television schedules, but that no such protection exists for independent radio; and calls on the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport to propose legislation to protect children’s rights and needs in relation to independent UK radio.

Signed by of 42 MPs across all parties.

NB: Nothing has been done by successive governments; Regulators; BBC Governors; BBC Trustees or BBC Executives and the situation has worsened year on year.  In February the BBC erased from the R7 Service Licence a core mandate to provide UK children with an advertisement free home: handing 75% of their air-time and 50% of their budget to adult listeners.  Despite the vast expansion of capacity, children are left with less PSB radio than Children’s Hour provided in the 1940s, when the Home Service was the only delivery platform. The English Language is our greatest export and we should lead the world in children’s radio production. Moreover, leading speech therapists and educators agree that the crucial skills of listening and language acquisition would be greatly improved by a daily diet of high quality radio, which would underpin their remedial work in this area of poverty.

Early day motion 1133


  • Session: 1995-96
  • Date tabled: 10.07.1996
  • Primary sponsor: Livingstone, Ken
  • Sponsors:

That this House recognises the important and unique role which children’s radio can play in encouraging young people to think creatively in a way which television is unable to do, that in light of the BBC’s decision to withdraw from primary schools radio, the need to supply high quality, creative radio to children is now even more important,that it is also important that a range of children’s programmes should be broadcast at times when children can hear them; and calls on the Government to look into ways to encourage children’s radio, at both the local and national level.

Signed by 27 MPs across all parties


Early day motion 867



  • Session: 1998-99
  • Date tabled: 22.07.1999
  • Primary sponsor: Opik, Lembit
  • Sponsors:

That this House is concerned that the 20 per cent. of the population who are under 15 years of age are not properly served and protected by UK radio policy; and calls on the Government to support Children 2000’s proposal for an independent study into the ways radio can benefit children’s leisure and learning and support the Sure Start Scheme.

Signed by 96 MPs across all parties.

NB: Not all those MPs in support could sign the EDMs, due to HOC convention

Children’s Radio Channel

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.–[Mr. Dowd.]

12 Jan 1998

10 pm

Mr. Phil Woolas (Oldham, East and Saddleworth): Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, for allowing the debate this evening. It is perhaps appropriate that it is the first Adjournment debate of the new term, although it is a bit late in the day for “Listen with Mother”.

I should first thank the organisations that have given me support and campaigned on this issue, most prominently the Children’s 2000 campaign, and Susan Stranks, who will be known to hon. Members who are older than me as the former presenter of “Magpie”, a children’s television programme. She is very well placed to speak on this subject.

I thank the Radio Authority and the BBC for their advice and information, and thank Ministers for their guidance on this matter. I should also mention in particular my hon. Friend the Member for Ealing, Acton and Shepherd’s Bush (Mr. Soley), who in the previous Parliament, as chairman of the all-party parenting committee, put this item on the agenda.

My argument in favour of a dedicated national children’s radio channel is fourfold. First, radio is a medium of the future. The digital revolution that is starting apace in this country will affect radio as much as–if not more than–television and other media. Secondly, radio, unlike other electronic media, is accessible to everyone who can afford a radio set in their house. Thirdly, at the moment, the children of our country, who make up 20 per cent. of the population, are not serviced adequately by current radio provision. Fourthly, and most important, children–particularly very young children–would and could benefit enormously from greater provision of a comprehensive children’s radio service.

Radio unlocks the imagination of children in a way that visual media–television and computers–cannot. There are strong arguments, from educationists and from psychologists, to back up that point of view. Radio provides great support, and has done so for teachers in schools for many years. It also provides support–this is often overlooked–to parents who are struggling to settle their children, especially in the evening. Most important from the child’s point of view, radio is great fun. It also helps the child to develop a sense of confidence and identity.

On the digital revolution that is taking place in broadcasting, the national franchises for digital radio will begin to be advertised in March this year. The awards for commercial radio franchises will be made in September. By the end of the year, it is likely that up to eight, possibly 10, new channels will be broadcast nationally. Following that, many other channels will be available, both commercial and BBC, locally and regionally.

Radio will become interactive. Children’s interests should be taken into account at this stage of the development of digital radio if they are to be given a fair crack of the whip. Radio not only has a great future, but it is very cheap. It is much cheaper to produce than television, and access is cheap. It is estimated that the average household in theUKalready has five radio sets, and few families do not have access to radio. Despite the recent rapid growth in the number of computers available in both schools and homes, access to radio compares favourably with television. To coin a phrase, radio is a medium for the many, not the few.

12 Jan 1998 : Column 119

The problem is that digital radio has yet to take off in terms of the number of sets in people’s homes, which is why the argument has been put forward in favour of using the analogue channels that are currently available. However, there is no reason why schools could not be provided relatively quickly, and certainly more cheaply compared with other media, with digital radio sets.

Children are being served by neither public sector nor commercial radio. The BBC’s annual report lists by category the number of hours broadcast on radio per year for each service. Of the 42,500 hours of radio broadcast on five national channels last year, only 403 were dedicated specifically to schools radio. The number of hours dedicated to children’s entertainment was even lower.

Television is extremely well serviced. It has good education and entertainment programmes, but it has been subject to intense debate and scrutiny. The Broadcasting Standards Commission report published in December examined the effects of television on children. In her introduction to that report, Lady Howe said:

“Children are less able to make their voices heard and their cause often has to be championed through the adult. Often this adult is the parent, responsible for the child’s well-being and concerned for its development. It is my belief that children have the right to access a varied and diverse diet of programming.”

If that is true of television, it is also true of radio.

Of the 220 commercial channels currently provided throughout theUK, none is dedicated to children’s services. There is broad support for the idea of enhanced children’s radio services. Not surprisingly, children’s charities such as Barnardo’s, Mencap and the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children have strongly supported the idea. Parent groups, teachers’ unions and educationists have also signed up. Local government educationists and, I notice, the two Government advisers–Professor Brighouse and Chris Woodhead–have also given their support. Some might say that it is the only matter on which they have agreed in the education debate. So the support is there.

Less well known is the growing body of academic opinion from educational psychologists about the clear benefits for children’s education of the radio and sound tape media. For example, Professor Pam Enderby atSheffielduniversity’s speech therapy unit has argued strongly for the benefits of learning language and literacy from radio as opposed to the visual media of television and computers. Sally Ward of the speech language centre inSheffieldhas listed the educational benefits of radio.

The imagination which radio brings out in children is foremost. That is essential for language development and literacy, because of the relationship between the spoken media and literacy. That enables the child to develop a greater attention span, whereas the visual media, by their nature, often serve to cut short a child’s attention span.
Parents and others complain that children do not listen and will not sit still. Like the academic studies of this issue, I blame the television and computer screen. Radio has the reverse effect.


12 Jan 1998:Column 120


Despite its shortcomings, the BBC has recognised the educational opportunities of radio. Currently, 84 per cent. of primary schools order the BBC’s school tapes. They would benefit enormously from a more comprehensive provision broadcast directly to them.

Sally Ward from theSheffieldcentre has listed other advantages, such as teaching English as a second language, and teaching blind children and children with special needs. Radio is especially beneficial to hospital-bound children. It provides back-up to parents and carers while they are looking after children. Muslim girls could also benefit, because, for cultural reasons, they do not have access to mainstream activities outside the school curriculum. Homework clubs could also benefit enormously, according to Sally Ward’s research.

In my opinion, the BBC has not done nearly enough. It is our major public sector broadcaster. Its chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, in his introduction to last year’s annual report, re-emphasised the ethos of public service broadcasting in the digital age. He said:

“As the BBC enters the digital age, some fear that it may lose sight of its core purposes amid the excitement of new services and commercial ventures. Let me be clear. Despite all the changes . . . the BBC is, and will remain, a public service broadcaster.”

Despite that, children, who represent 20 per cent. of the population, are excluded from BBC provision.

Arguments about the failure of children’s radio in the past do not hold water. Radio 5’s initial launch saw some increase in children’s services, but the general public, teachers and children were not aware of them, because they were not promoted. In any event, the ratings for radio under public service broadcasting should not be the be-all and end-all, as Sir Christopher Bland said. I am told by the BBC that there are never more than 9,000 people listening to classical music on Radio 3 through the night. As we enter the digital age, with a greater number of specialist channels, the argument about ratings for the public service sector becomes weaker.

I have emphasised the need for a children’s channel. In the digital age, parts of channels rather than full channels will become the norm. We should build support for that now; the BBC is considering it, and should develop it further. There is support in the House for that idea.

In the past, many hon. Members signed the early-day motion bemoaning the plight of “Children’s Hour” and “Listen with Mother”. The BBC’s ethos is that of a public sector broadcaster, and it is in its interest to provide a children’s service. When the World Service is attacked or under threat, politicians and the BBC rush to its defence. How much stronger the BBC would be if it had a children’s channel.

Commercial radio has the possible use of sections of the analogue channels. We know that 225 has technical difficulties, but perhaps regional use and local, short-term licences could be considered. We also know that, with the advent of digital, at least four national channels will be available. I would urge the Radio Authority and its members to look at the strong option of providing these opportunities for children’s radio.

The commercial arguments that have dogged the campaign in the past do not hold water, especially bearing in mind the fact that the criteria for the award of the franchise involve the totality of the multiplex, not just individual channels within it. Indeed, variety on the multiplex is a requirement of the award of the licences.

12 Jan 1998 : Column 121

There are many opportunities for children’s broadcasting. The millennium dome as a centre for children’s activities and for the digital revolution could provide a superb platform for children’s broadcasting. The new opportunities funding scheme being launched by the Government for school support could provide a source of money for research, for testing and–perhaps in the long term–for a sustained radio channel in partnership with the commercial sector.

Radio is cheap and accessible to all. It is a great educational tool. Radio helps youngsters’ imagination and helps them develop a sense of identity. Radio, in short, is the best medium for children. Indeed, it is the best medium for most people; and it is the least expensive to access. I urge the Government to consider these ideas. I urge the Radio Authority and the BBC to improve children’s radio services. The Government’s quite proper efforts to improve literacy and numeracy among youngsters could be given a tremendous boost by radio.

Most of all, radio is available to all children. The stories to which we listen as children stay with us for the rest of our lives. The personal and educational development that radio affords sustains us through life. I urge Members and Ministers–I thank them for their support thus far–to think about these ideas, and about how we can co-ordinate children’s radio in future.



HANSARD 1803–20052000s 2003 December 2003 4 December 2003 Written Answers (Commons) CULTURE, MEDIA AND SPORT

Broadcasting (Children)

HC Deb 04 December 2003 vol 415 cc163-4W 163W

§ Mr. Don Foster

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport (1) what measures her Department has put in place to safeguard children’s radio; and if she will make a statement; [141406]

(2) what discussions her Department has held with (a) the BBC, (b) commercial broadcasters and (c)other bodies on the establishment of a designated children’s digital radio channel. [141407]

§ Estelle Morris

The licensing of commercial radio services is a matter for the Radio Authority and, from 29 December, Ofcom. This Department has therefore had no discussions about establishing a designated children’s radio channel. The authority as already licensed a number of digital radio services for children and one of the community radio pilot services is a children’s service. In the case of the BBC, Charter Review will provide the occasion for an examination of all aspects of the Corporation’s activities, including its role in relation to children and young people.

§ Mr. Don Foster

To ask the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport what discussions her Department has held with Ofcom on the(a) rights and (b) needs of children in broadcasting.[141408]


§ Estelle Morris

Ofcom is due to assume the majority of its regulatory functions only on 29 December. To date, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has written to the Chairman of Ofcom asking him to consider proposals for strengthening the existing code on advertising food to children and to inform her of Ofcom’s plans to promote greater media literacy among children.



Sir Edward Heath MP – Old Bexley and Sidcup “I believe children can benefit from radio because it helps them to concentrate on the language – and the meaning behind the language – rather than the distractions of visual images”.

David Lepper, MP – Brighton Pavilion “Radio has a rare capacity to stimulate the imagination and provide information. The portability of the technology means its accessibility is unrivalled, Radio should be more than wall to wall music [of any kind]. Children have a right to that”.

David Drew MP – Stroud “It educates them to use their imagination, and to appreciate the beauty of the spoken word”.

Jim Cunningham MP – Coventry South  “It is of educational value, develops the concentration, raises their awareness of culture… and also makes them think about the issues of the day”.

Jim Dobbin MP – Heywood and Middleton “It teaches listening skills and develops imagination”.

Janet Dean MP – Burton Constituency  “Listening helps to develop the imagination. You can draw pictures in your mind”.

John Maples MP – Stratford-on-Avon [Shadow Foreign Secretary] “I believe children can benefit from radio in numerous ways, especially when the radio programme or channel is devoted entirely to them. Listening to radio helps young children to develop their imagination and concentration span, and also helps them to recognise and use sounds. Through the medium of radio, we can encourage children to understand, and play a part in, Britain’s diverse society. Radio is part of our everyday life and culture, so why shouldn’t children have a say?”

Anne Begg MP – Aberdeen South “It requires listening which is a vital skill to have”.

Richard Allan MP – Sheffield, Hallam  “It is an excellent medium for developing imagination and creativity”.

Valerie Davey MP – Bristol West   “It is like a good friend – shares laughter and music, good ideas and good advice; it can be listened to almost anywhere including the bath and bed, and in the mind’s eye can take children to countries far and near, to outer space and back again. It is great fun!”.

Elfyn Llwyd, PC – Meirionnydd Nant Conwy “It is part of the learning process and an aid to improving communication skills for later life; in addition, it can be a source of amusement and entertainment too!”.

Jenny Tonge MP – Richmond Park “It is still the most accessible medium for children – especially younger ones. They can listen to radio independently of the rest of the family. TV and the internet are still available to more affluent children only”.

Peter Bottomley MP – Worthing West “I support strongly the proposal for radio broadcasting that will interest children and their parents. I was lucky enough to be able, as a child, to enjoy special programmes: they should be available all day”.

Caroline Spelman MP – Meriden “It can help wean them off TV and be used as a learning tool”.

John Randall MP – Uxbridge “I wholeheartedly support the campaign for children’s radio. It can stimulate such imaginative thought. There are always better pictures on radio!”

Jean Corston MP – Bristol East “It helps to develop their listening skills and their powers of imagination”.

Brian Cotter MP – Western-Super-Mare “It stimulates the thoughts and imagination. Hearing a story, for example, without the aid of pictures on a TV is more helpful in this respect”.   .


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