Opinion: In my view - Why we need radio time

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One in ten UK children now suffer from language delay and in some areas teachers report up to 50 per cent of pupils have related problems. A high proportion of young offenders have such poor communication skills that they cannot take advantage of HMS Prison education programmes.

Escalating language deficit in UK children has been identified in the Bercow Report, Sir Jim Rose's Primary Curriculum Review and in 'Learning to Talk', a study commissioned in January by the Communications Champion, Jean Gross, who is leading the Government's £52m Speech and Language Action Plan.

To acquire language naturally we must first learn to listen, and many experts believe daily radio can help. But the BBC axed the last mainstream children's radio last year and now only delivers it on the internet under the TV brand, CBeebies. Children, says the BBC, prefer TV and pop music and will not use radio.

In a mammoth cost-cutting exercise BBC director-general Mark Thompson has now proposed the closure of BBC 6 Music and the Asian Network. One of these digital audio (DAB) networks could now be adopted for children at less than half the cost of the current service.

The BBC spent over £460m in 2007-08 on ten national radio stations and six channels in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, of which just £1.6m went on children's programmes.

With £3.5m, a two-year pilot service could be funded to evaluate radio's role in listening and talking and to enhance and complement the National Year of Speech, Language and Communication in 2011-12, planned as the culmination of the Communications Action Plan, and Every Child a Talker, for which £52m of public funds is committed by the DCSF.

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