Axing Blue Peter from BBC One fragments family life, says Valerie Singleton
The BBC has been accused of “fragmenting” family life by moving Blue Peter and other children’s programmes off mainstream television channels
Critics also warn that the move will make it harder for parents to regulate their children’s television viewing.
The corporation announced that all shows aimed at children will be moved off BBC One and BBC Two and onto digital channels dedicated to young viewers.
They claim the move will save money while at the same time maximise audience figures for both the flagship and children’s channels.
But the decision has been attacked by former presenters and parent groups who claim it “ghettoises” television viewing making it much less likely that parents and children will watch together.
Valerie Singleton, who presented Blue Peter from 1962-1972, said it was a further blow to communal family viewing.
“It is a shame,” she said. “The idea of sitting around and watching one channel together at the end of the day has gone sadly.
“Families are just becoming so fragmented that they will be watching different programmes in different rooms all the time.”
The decision to move Blue Peter off BBC One means for the first time in its 53-year history it will not be on a flagship channel.
It comes as part of a cost saving process in which the BBC has committed to saving billions of pounds from its budget after the annual licence fee was frozen at £145.50 for six years.
The BBC Trust, which ratified the plans, also agreed to all other children’s programmes including Newsround and Horrible Histories being moved after the digital switchover.
A BBC Trust spokesman said that children’s programmes remained “absolutely fundamental” to the corporation.
“Only a very small percentage of children still solely watch these programmes on BBC One and BBC Two alone,” he said.
“Moving them to digital channels is merely following current viewing patterns and reflects the fact that CBeebies and CBBC will be universally available from the end of this year.”
But parents and children groups said there was more at stake than just ratings and audience shares.
Margaret Morrissey, of the parent group ParentsOutloud, said having children’s programming on BBC One along with adult shows provided a good routine for children.
“It gave them a designated time that at the end of which they would go and do something else,” she said.
“The temptation now will be to spend hours watching programme after programme.”
She said that by grouping all children’s programmes together it would mean less family viewing.
“It is ghettoising children’s television,” she said.
“It is a sad and dangerous thing that we are doing. If the main television channel at that time in the evening cannot be dedicated to children and the family watching something together, then what can be dedicated to it.
“We are just divorcing ourselves from our children. It won’t be long before every child will be locked away in their room watching one programme while the adults watch something else in their living room.
“You would have thought that of all the channels the BBC would be trying to keep the family together.”
Greg Childs, of the Children’s Media Foundation, said that there was also a danger that by marginalising children’s programming it would leave them open to cuts.
“There will be less communal watching of children’s programmes which could mean that they are open to budget cuts in the future,” he said.
One mother on the parents’ forum Mumsnet said: “Having a selection of shows on BBC One or Two helped mums to regulate how much TV their little ones watched.
“Once we started watching CBeebies it was easy to just leave it on and for DD to become something of a telly monster.
“I liked the fact that there was a short selection for each age group and once that was done you switched off the TV and did something less boring instead (as the show used to say!).
“I honestly think it is too easy now for the TV to be the “Telly Sitter” whilst we all sit on Facebook and Mumsnet!”
Helen Goodman, Labour culture spokesman, said it represented a “downgrading” of the priority given to children’s viewing.
“Pushing children’s programmes down in this way does not fit with the BBC’s public service mission,” she said.