Magpie may fly again to restore TV innocence

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ITV is planning to launch a "traditional" children's show to compete with Blue Peter. The 30-minute programme will be launched next autumn and will have up to three presenters.

Network executives are about to commission the magazine-type show but will not reveal who is in line to host it. It will be broadcast once a week in the 4.40-5.10pm slot. Blue Peter, which is on three times a week, starts at 5.10pm.

Both ITV and BBC have been giving thought to the future of children's programming. At a recent seminar involving teachers, psychologists and children as well as broadcasters, the head of the National Association of Head Teachers denounced the tone of much of children's television as "patronising."

And at the same seminar Dr Aric Sigman, a psychologist, said that there was a need for older presenters. "There's an awful lot of slim, good-looking younger people," he said, "and a distinct lack of people who are middle- aged. We are creating a division for children, so that they may not be able to relate to people older than them and will use a distorted image as their reference."

For parents, the new ITV show is likely to bring back memories of Magpie, which ran for 12 years up to 1980. Presenters included the actress Jenny Hanley and disc jockey Tommy Boyd.

Vanessa Chapman, ITV's Controller of Children's and Youth Programmes said: "We aim to capitalise on the traditional strengths that the children's schedule has with popular factual programmes.

"Blue Peter has been around for a long time but ITV has tended not to have that style of long-running show."