CBBC's banishment to 'the ghetto', has deprived us all of the opportunity to find Teletubbyland

Plus: Why the unmissable return of the Thin White Duke won't require a marketing budget and a "rising star" that's long-since risen


So, has the BBC "ghettoised" children's television by moving all children's programmes to the digital channels CBBC and CBeebies? That's all children's programming, including such staples as Blue Peter and Newsround.

Anne Wood, the creator of Teletubbies, believes "ghetto" is indeed the right word. She said this week: "It ghettoises children's programmes. It is a completely different attitude to the one that scheduled The Magic Roundabout before the 5.40pm news." Terry Deary, creator of the cult children's books Horrible Histories, now an award-winning children's TV series, disagrees. He retorted: "'Ghetto' is a very emotive word and implies the children's channels are inferior. Not at all. If you're interested in sport, you go to a sport 'ghetto'."

Well, that's not quite true, Mr Deary, is it? The BBC still shows quite a lot of sport on BBC1. It would feel it was failing in its duty as a public-service broadcaster (let alone in its chase for ratings and public approval) if it didn't. Of course, Ms Wood's words do seem initially puzzling, as children can generally find CBBC and CBeebies pretty much before they can walk. Children's programming isn't exactly hidden. Nevertheless, I'm with her. Once you move any sort of programming off the main channels and give it a dedicated channel – be it children's programmes or indeed arts programmes – you take it out of the general mix of shows, and the chance is gone to come across programmes by surprise, develop new interests and even change your life. That's certainly true with the arts, as more and more arts programmes are shuffled off to BBC4.

With children's programming, as instanced by The Magic Roundabout and even Blue Peter and, yes, Teletubbies, adults can occasionally be entranced by these programmes when just happening upon them before a news bulletin. And that juxtaposition of programming historically meant that families tended to watch programmes together more. For all the multiplicity of channels, it was having a diversity of programming on the main channels that encouraged family viewing. Think how many families used to settle down to watch Top of the Pops together. Think how few watch MTV together.

The late TV writer Dennis Potter once bemoaned how radio had suffered when old services like the Light Programme were dropped for specialist music stations. He could hear some music then just happen across a play, he recalled, on the Light Programme. Those days are long, long gone. But in television, as exemplified by what is happening with children's programming, we are seeing the same thing, a rapid loss of a variety of programming on our main channels; a boasting by TV controllers that they are expanding niche programming by creating specialist channels, whereas what they are also doing is depriving us of variety of programming on the channels that are more likely to bring families together, depriving us of the chance to be surprised by the TV, depriving so many people, in the case of arts programmes, of the chance to widen their horizons. Ghettoised? That seems a pretty fair description.

The unmissable return of the Thin White Duke

The last time I met David Bowie was when he asked me to write the catalogue essay for an exhibition of his art in London (guess what – I accepted). His long absence has been unusual inasmuch as even his most devoted fans could not say with any certainty which country he was living in. Despite official denials, I do believe he has been suffering from ill health, which made his surprise return on Tuesday with a new single (and album to follow) all the more welcome. Enigma, reclusiveness, absence and rumour are a heady brew. I'm not sure that the new album will need a marketing budget. Expectation is already so high that, as with this week's single, Twitter, the news media and word of mouth will do the job.

Bafta needs to rise to the occasion properly

When does a "rising star" become a real, regular honest-to-goodness star? I did wonder this when I saw that the fine British screen actress Andrea Riseborough had been nominated for the Bafta Rising Star Award. Ms Riseborough is 31, and has already starred in high-profile movies such as Made in Dagenham, Brighton Rock and W.E. as well as playing the young Margaret Thatcher on TV. She will soon be seen on screen opposite Tom Cruise in the sci-fi thriller Oblivion. Surely this is a star who has long since risen.



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