Blue Peter's disgraced drug taker gets a public rebuke

ONCE BBC children's programmes were the last bastion of innocence. Even as late as the Seventies the producers of Blue Peter thought it daring and radical to allow on-screen references to the rather self- evident pregnancy of the presenter Lesley Judd.

But yesterday, with a seriousness not seen since some "bad boys" vandalised the Blue Peter garden in the Eighties, the BBC's head of children's programmes had to appear on screen and talk about drugs.

Lorraine Heggessey appeared briefly before the start of the programme to explain that presenter Richard Bacon had been given the sack.

But being the BBC she started with a bit of positive spin: "Many of you will have watched Blue Peter last Friday and joined in our 40th birthday party. It was right that Blue Peter should be celebrating its many achievements of 40 years, and we were delighted to be presented with a special award at this week's Children's Baftas."

But then came the bad news: "Many of you will know that there has been a sad event too.

"One of the Sunday newspapers reported that Richard Bacon, a Blue Peter presenter, has taken an illegal drug. Richard admits that he has done this and that he very much regrets it.

"However, I believe that Richard has not only let himself and the team on Blue Peter down, but he has also let all of you down badly."

BBC staff are holding a three- hour strike this afternoon to protest against above-inflation pay increases for senior managers of the corporation. Members of the National Union of Journalists and the technical unions Bectu and the AEEU will strike from noon until 3pm. The strike should affect news bulletins and live broadcasts.