LONDON: Children’s programming was the focus of this year’s BBC Governor’s Seminar, a day-long meeting held to encourage dialogue between the broadcaster and the community. Psychologists, teachers and parents were invited to express their concerns and opinions about the corporation’s kids content, and key BBC strategists and commissioners unveiled their thoughts on the future of children’s programming.
One of the main complaints of psychologists and teachers this year were the ‘slim, ultra-good-looking’ hosts of children’s shows. According to these critics, the majority of hosts are ‘stupid,’ ‘patronizing,’ ‘moronic’ and ‘badly spoken.’ The representative panel, which included the Voice of the Listener and Viewer Association, also said that the lack of presenters over 25 made it difficult for children to relate to older people in real life. Head of children’s programs Anna Home defended the BBC’s £59 million (US$92 million) youth output saying, ‘We use a variety of presenters with a variety of styles who try to communicate with the audience in a way they understand and feel is relevant.’
In another discussion, BBC controller of planning and strategy David Docherty noted that while kids in the U.K. are facing a plethora of choices with about 20,000 hours of children’s programs a year and five dedicated children’s channels, he expressed a fear that other media are setting the youth agendas, language and frames of reference, and claimed that magazines and new media are setting new benchmarks for frankness in communication with kids. He warned that ‘computer-literate and video-active children have access to digital language their parents barely understand.’
He also revealed that despite the acknowledged success of broadcasters in adhering to the 9 p.m. watershed-which regulators describe as widely accepted-70 percent of children watch television beyond the time when schedulers are allowed to assume kids are under parental guidance. This g’es a long way toward explaining why programs made specifically for children barely figure in the 40 most popular shows with four- to 15-year-olds this year. Adult drama and soaps make up the bulk of the top 10 with a particularly explicit hospital drama series, Casualty, rating fourth. Only one children’s show, the new BBC drama series The Demon Headmaster, made it into the top 20 (at 9th); long-runner Blue Peter was 23rd and Grange Hill ranked 27th.
Docherty advised suppliers that despite the increasingly competitive marketplace, the BBC would continue its educational role. ‘Our information, entertainment and education is there to reveal potential ways of living a good life, even in tough circumstances. The BBC wants to show that education is valuable, decent behavior is important, love can be stable and work is vital to individual health.’