Cuts to children's radio draw protests

Sue Learner
Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Former children's TV presenters Floella Benjamin and Susan Stranks have joined parents and education experts in calling for a review of the cuts to BBC children's radio.

The Sound Start Group, led by former head teacher Baroness Warnock, which is campaigning for a dedicated radio service for children, held a meeting at the House of Lords to protest against the cuts.

Earlier this year, the BBC abolished radio programmes for pre-school children and slashed its overall output for children by 75 per cent.

CBeebies radio, which was broadcast for two hours every morning on Radio 7, is now only available on a daily 20-minute podcast online.

The change marked the end of 89 years of radio broadcasting for young children, which started in 1922 with 'Children's Hour'.

The BBC Trust said in a report that the decision was made because listeners had dropped to 12,000 a week and because 'we know that children rarely choose to listen to the radio over other entertainment options and that radio listening is instead the choice of the parent or carer'.

At the protest meeting at the House of Lords, speech and language therapist Gloria Parmesan claimed her five-year-old daughter was 'bereft' when CBeebies radio was axed from the airwaves.

She said, 'Downloading the 20-minute podcasts is no substitute for a simple push-button radio, which is more suitable for younger children.'

Former presenter of the TV show 'Magpie', Susan Stranks (pictured), who runs the National Campaign for Children's Radio, said, 'Children's radio can develop children's listening and learning and is an essential part of their culture. Children as young as three can turn a radio on and listen to it. To listen to CBeebies online you have to have expensive equipment.'

She added, 'We have high hopes of persuading the Trust and executive to review the matter and explore options in partnership with other committed organisations. Children need the option of licence-funded, advertisementfree radio, just as adults do.'

Paul Smith, head of editorial standards at BBC Audio & Music, who attended the meeting, said the BBC had tried very hard to keep children's radio alive but children had not tuned in.

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