Lisa Markwell: One of the BBC's greatest achievements is in peril

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The Independent Culture

One of my earliest and most vivid TV memories is of Seven Up, the documentary series that followed children as they grew, at seven-year intervals.

Launched in 1964, it was reality TV before the term became tarnished – and was not just highly entertaining, but taught us about life in social stratas other than our own.

Like many more seasoned viewers, who despair of what The Only Way is Essex and the like teach us about anything, the BBC's more recent Child of Our Time has been a harking back to the glory days of Seven Up. With Robert Winston's engaging, intelligent dialogue and a group of fascinating children – how could they tell pre-birth that they'd make great telly? – each instalment has brought trauma and triumphs for the families involved. It has been genuinely moving for the audience too.

If the BBC now feels that the investment might not be worth it ... well, I beg to differ. We need programmes that hold up a mirror to society in a cool-headed way. Although its own reputation is somewhat tarnished, the Beeb is still no ITV2 – it must maintain its position as a responsible broadcaster to which we turn for grown-up documentaries (even if the subjects aren't, well, grown up).

Its argument that the subjects, now entering puberty, might want a little privacy, just doesn't wash – children in the social network age more than any other have no qualms about living out their adventures in the public eye. And for those of us born before Twitter and Facebook, we are patient; we find waiting for a new instalment rewarding. Please, BBC, don't dumb down or drop one of your greatest achievements.

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