Children's TV presenters accused of setting an example of bad English

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Programmes such as the BBC's The Saturday Show and Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow are failing youngsters, teachers claimed, by featuring frequent shouting and using slang.

The presenters are damaging young people's learning with their "fast, loud speech" where "all the words run into one and cannot be understood", Joyce Watts, a retired teacher from Kent, told the annual conference of the Professional Association of Teachers in Buxton.

Presenters who say "yeah" instead of "yes" and "nar" instead of "no" throughout children's favourite programmes make it much harder for teachers and parents to enforce the correct pronunciation, Mrs Watts told the conference. Children's written work also suffers as they begin to spell words as they believe they should be pronounced, she said.

"This encouragement for noise, poor language and diction is not helpful to the young. They think it acceptable. OK, so some already behave like this. Should we condone and encourage it? This is carried into other areas of their lives including school and it certainly does not help learning.

Mrs Watts, 76, said she was horrified by the poor standards of spoken English on many children's programmes when interviewers would ask guests "what d'ya like best" and "what's ya faverit number?"

"One student once said to me 'R dun wanna talk posh, miss'. My response to her was - I'm not asking you to but I am asking you to speak properly." Mrs Watts, who has seven grandchildren, identified The Saturday Show and Dick and Dom in da Bungalow as shows that were setting a poor example. She also complained that some of the content of Dick and Dom was inappropriate.

In March, 40 parents complained about it after the presenters, Richard McCourt and Dominic Wood, acted out a childbirth scene. Peter Morris, a teacherfrom Wales who seconded the motion, said it was vital that television programmes set a good example for children to copy and said it was regrettable that today's television heroes spoke like Rodney and Del Boy from Only Fools and Horses rather than Dixon of Dock Green.

"The pendulum has swung from the BBC English of the Fifties ... and we have seen a growth in the incorrect use of grammar. Today's heroes are Rodney and Del - a far-flung distance from the morality and language of Dixon of Dock Green. Many of our films, current affairs programmes and even some documentaries use the F word before the 9pm watershed," she added. The conference agreed not to vote on the motion after delegates warned that it was not clear what action television producers could be expected to take.

Jane Hetherington, a delegate from Birmingham, warned that television companies alone were not to blame. "It's more a question of parents making decisions about what their children watch. It is similar to the healthy eating argument - all these products are out there but it is up to us... to decide."

The BBC defended its shows. A spokesman for the corporation said Dick and Dom was aimed at eight to 12-year-olds "so it's unsurprising that it does not appeal to some adults".

Turning up the volume

DICK AND DOM IN DA BUNGALOW

The huge hit with children has attracted repeated complaints that it was unsuitable for young viewers. But the BBC has defended it as appropriate for its audience of six to 12-year-olds. The show's presenters, Richard McCourt and Dominic Wood, have been reprimanded by the watchdog Ofcom for wearing T-shirts with sexual slogans on them. Earlier this year they were criticised in the Commons by the Tory MP Peter Luff who called their humour " lavatorial". In February a viewer complained that "Dick and Dom's behaviour sets a bad example to children and is often inappropriate". In March, 40 parents complained after McCourt and Wood acted out a graphic childbirth scene.

THE SATURDAY SHOW

Originally commissioned by the BBC in 2001 as a replacement for Live and Kicking, the show was designed to take on the might of ITV's SM:tv. Hence it was promoted as "sexy" and including "maximum mayhem", a tag that may now be returning to haunt the programme. The presenters, Dani Behr and Joe Mace, helped to stabilise the previously waning viewing figures but both had left within a year, with Behr being publicly warned by the BBC for "talking sex" in Maxim magazine. The BBC though praised the "fantastic job' they did in competing with SM:tv. The Saturday Show is now fronted by Simon Grant, Jake Humphrey, Angelica Bell and Sophie McDonnell.

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