Letter: Radio 5 proposals wrong-headed

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The Independent Online
Sir: I was saddened to read about the proposals for reducing the hours of children's radio programmes, following the announcement of a news and sports network on BBC Radio 5.

Although only a small proportion of children listen to drama and other children's programmes on radio, I believe that the BBC is seriously underestimating both the importance of having such output, and its potential for encouraging listeners.

From experience both as a freelance researcher with Radio 5 children's programmes and as a member of the BBC's broadcasting research department, I would argue that children's radio fits better with Radio 4 - on FM, because:

a) the children most likely to listen are in households that already listen to a lot of speech radio, and whose parents discuss and guide their viewing and listening. They are also likely to come from households with no TV which, although few in number, are also more likely to be speech radio listeners;

b) many adults who listen to Radio 4 would welcome the chance to hear the kind of drama and features being provided by children's and youth programmes - from dramatisations of The Secret Garden, Tintin or Nightbeat to stories from Black history, to the Wiggly Park stories for pre-school children.

Weekday afternoons are a good time for children's drama and stories: although in theory the timing conflicts with children's TV, the potential audience is either different, or sufficiently interested to tape a short programme for later

listening.

So here is a plea to Michael Green, controller of Radio 4: I suggest that children's programmes are a good way to encourage younger listeners on to his network, and that he gives an experimental six months to children's programmes, not only on Sundays and at 1.55pm, but also on weekday afternoons - and on both frequencies.

Yours sincerely,

CATHY AITCHISON

London, W10

14 October

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