BBC plans children's digital radio station

Click to follow
The Independent Online

BBC radio will launch a station devoted entirely to children if it can secure the approval of senior managers and the board of governors, insiders confirmed yesterday.

BBC radio will launch a station devoted entirely to children if it can secure the approval of senior managers and the board of governors, insiders confirmed yesterday.

Ever since the demise of Listen with Mother the BBC has come under attack for allowing children's radio to fall into decline. That trend could be reversed with technological changes that would allow the BBC to devote an entire digital radio network to children and to co-ordinate it with a children's website.

The overall audience figures for children's radio listening are extremely healthy, but they are heavily focused on pop music stations rather than old-fashioned storytelling or drama adaptation.

"The number of children aged four to 14 listening to commercial radio has reached a record 74.1 per cent, up from 70.4 per cent last year," said Rachell Fox, operations director of the Commercial Radio Companies Association. "That translates into a growth in audiences of just under 300,000."

However, those figures mainly reflect young listeners to pop music stations such as Capital Radio and Virgin. The BBC, with speech-based stations such as Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live, has fewer child listeners - although 2.5m children listen to Radio 1 each week.

A new digital channel would allow the BBC to return to traditional speech radio for children. "It is unlikely to be straight story telling, but could include dramatisations," says one BBC radio source. "Some programmes could then be placed on the internet for children or parents to access when they want."

Attracting children to BBC radio is considered to be important in the context of the Corporation's internal discussions on how it should define its public service remit for the digital age. The BBC has already said that it would like to launch a children's channel on digital television.

A return to more public-service children's programming is already being seen in some quarters. A tie-up between Radio 3 and Blue Peter is in the pipeline, with the television show's presenters introducing children to some areas of classical music via the radio.

For some time, Radio 4 has been trying to secure the rights to broadcast a dramatisation of J K Rowling's Harry Potter books. Negotiations have so far failed because of the author's insistence that the programmes be based on the full text of the books rather than on an adaptation. The two sides are understood still to be at stalemate.

Comments