Current affairs for children: It’s goodbye to Newsround

BBC One bade farewell to the Press Pack last night. Will young news junkies still get their fix on CBBC?

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The Independent Culture

Nostalgic grown-ups everywhere were in mourning last night after the loss of a show that introduced generations of homework-dodging children to current affairs – and the questionable contents of John Craven’s wardrobe.

Newsround left its home on BBC One after a 40-year run. Presenters Ore Oduba and Leah Gooding led the final, 10-minute bulletin at 5pm with the story of the show’s departure, followed by a roundup of the big stories of 2012.

“But don’t worry about it!” Oduba said. “I can see people crying at home. Worry not, because Newsround will still bring you the top news  stories of the day on the CBBC Channel.”

The BBC explained the move on its website earlier in the day. Five times more children already watch Newsround bulletins on CBBC than they do on BBC One, it said. The programme will return after a Christmas break but it was not made clear that there would be no more 10-minute bulletins. Instead, bursts of three to five minutes will be broadcast four times a day. 

Craven, who accepted a special Bafta award last year in recognition of the show’s “significant contribution” to children’s television, launched Newsround in 1972. He broke with tradition by perching on his desk rather than sitting behind it, and also claimed to have invented the “And finally...” news item (News at Ten disputes this).

Newsround dropped Craven’s name from  its title before he left in 1989 to present  Countryfile, where he remains. By then he had swapped a tie for open shirts and patterned jumpers. The show continued to thrive and launched the careers of several well-known broadcasters, including Krishnan Guru-Murthy, the Channel 4 News presenter, the late BBC Sport presenter, Helen Rollason, and BBC news reporters Matthew Price and Lizo Mzimba. Nick Robinson, the BBC’s political editor, is a former Newsround producer.

The programme boasted 5.5 million viewers in its heyday and was the first to cover stories including the 1986 space shuttle Challenger disaster and the Windsor Castle fire in 1992. In 1980, John Humphrys reported on the famine in Uganda and a week of half-hour special editions, Newsround Africa, were aired on BBC2.

In a review in 1985, Mark Lawson called Newsround “one of the glorious success stories of British television... a 10-minute mix of global disaster and dancing dolphins.”

Audiences later dwindled with the launch of digital channels. The BBC is moving all its children’s programming to CBBC, leading to concerns that news could be pushed out of family life. “There’s a danger that adults will say, oh, you go and watch that,” Julia Donaldson, the Children’s Laureate, said. “It can improve family relationships to watch together.”

Craven said last year that “Newsround was, and always will be, my little baby and I couldn’t be more proud of it now it’s all grown up”. The most forward-looking edition of the Radio Times, meanwhile, shows that the 5pm slot in the first week of January will be filled with  episodes of the antiques show Flog It!