The sinking of Blue Peter

Biddy Baxter, legendary editor of the flagship children's show, lets fly at the BBC – and Peter Purves

Biddy Baxter, the longstanding Blue Peter editor who saw to it that a whole generation of children became good citizens by watching the show, has accused the BBC of being "hugely irresponsible" by ignoring its mission to educate.

Her latest cause for anger is the revelation that the programme she devised and ruled over for 26 years now has the lowest audience figures in its history. She blames a culture that prefers game shows to quality children's programmes.

She also accused her old employers of getting in a "panic" when facing tricky decisions such as what to do about Carol Thatcher, or whether to broadcast an appeal for Gaza.

This week, the BBC Trust issued a report warning that Blue Peter's viewing figures have fallen below 100,000, after the show's slot was brought forward 20 minutes, to 4.35pm, to make room for The Weakest Link. A third of its young audience has been lost in just over a year.

"It's really rather shocking that the public service broadcasting channel has sold out in that way," Ms Baxter said. "This collapse in the figures must be due to the time. At 4.35pm, a great many children, especially the older ones, are still in school. I'm sure it's not because of the presenters, because they have got three absolutely great presenters. It's hugely irresponsible of the BBC to renege on their responsibility to a very important section of their audience. Children watch enough adult programmes not to be fobbed off with rubbish."

She also criticised the BBC for their handling of Carol Thatcher. She said: "I'm not condoning what was said, but it wasn't broadcast, but when you compare it with the Jonathan Ross business, it's just so inconsistent. And when I heard that incredible statement by Jay Hunt [controller, BBC1] I could almost see the jackboots."

Now aged 75, Ms Baxter produced and then edited Blue Peter from 1962 to 1988 - the programme's golden years, when children were given advice on gardening, caring for pets, and collecting milk bottles tops for charity. Ms Baxter made a practice of ensuring that every letter the programme received from children was answered. She has collected the best of the correspondence into a book, published last September. The jewel of the collection is a letter she received in 1973 from a nine-year-old named Anthony Hollander, who confessed to a "strange belief" that he knew "how to make people or animals come alive". He asked for a shopping list of materials he needed, including a model of a heart "split in half" and "tools for cutting people open".

Ms Baxter wrote back encouraging him to ask a family doctor. The impact on the child of receiving a reply that took his letter seriously was, he said later, life-changing. He is now Professor of Rheumatology and Tissue Engineering at Bristol University. Last year, he performed an operation that saved the life of a Spanish woman, by giving her a new windpipe made from her own stem cells.

"I still have the original letter," she said. I'm meeting Anthony Hollander next month. I think he deserves to have his own letter back. I'll make a photocopy for the BBC Archives."

Her book is fully in the spirit of the old Blue Peter, down to the detail that she is not seeking to make any money from it. Proceeds will go towards supporting graduates from music academies.

It is very different from the memoir written by Peter Purves, Here's One I Wrote Yesterday, which revealed some steamy happenings behind the scenes at Blue Peter.

To help publicise the book, Purves has talked about his brief affair with Valerie Singleton when they were co-presenters, and dropped a hint that he may have had an affair with presenter, Lesley Judd. He has also revealed he used to smoke cannabis and complained that he would have liked to appear on screen in flared trousers, kipper ties, and cowboy boots but had to defer to Ms Baxter's more conservative dress sense.

"She put me in Norwegian jerseys – awful things with deer on the front," he told The Daily Mail. "I didn't get on with her, and there were times when I actively disliked her intensely. She ruled the show, and she never understood me."

Reminded of these accusations yesterday, Ms Baxter just laughed. "I haven't read the book. Anybody is entitled to write a book if they want to, though whether it will sell, I don't know. What is a 'celebrity'? It seems very elastic.

"Peter was very lucky to have had Blue Peter as his springboard. I am sure he was absolutely terrific when he was introducing Crufts. You know his interest in dogs sprang from taking Petra the Blue Peter dog under his wing. That was one of the springboards the programme gave him."

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show?
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

IT Application Support Engineer - Immediate Start

£28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Software Application Support Analyst - Imm...

Paid Search Analyst / PPC Analyst

£24 - 28k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Paid Search Analyst / PPC...

Head of Marketing - London

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Interim Head of Marketing / Marketing Manager / Dig...

Brand Manager / Account Manager

£28 - 36k (DOE): Guru Careers: A Brand Manager / Senior Account Manager is nee...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week