Magazine article The Spectator

Not Four Children

Magazine article The Spectator

Not Four Children

Article excerpt

Cuts. We're going to have to get used to them in the next few weeks and months as the vast maw of recession gapes wider and wider and things start disappearing into its black hole.

What goes, or rather what we allow to be decommissioned, devalued or disappeared without a murmur of dissent will tell us a lot about the society we've become. Take, for instance, the latest changes to BBC Radio announced at the end of last week.

The World Music Awards have been discontinued, as have the Jazz Awards. Both have been suitably mourned as a diminishing of radio's rich menu. But less advertised has been the decision by Radio Four to do away with its only child-friendly programme, Go4it. Too few listeners has been cited as the cause; that, and the fact that the average age of these listeners is 50-plus (or, in other words, anyone old enough to be nostalgic for Children's Hour).

'We have not been able to find a successful way of putting a programme for children on an adult-rated station, ' says Four's Controller. But might that be something to do with the fact that Go4it was scheduled to go out at seven o'clock on Sunday nights, a terrible time for families busy preparing for the week ahead with homework, gymkit, uniforms and swimming gear to find, complete, iron, repair, teach and check up on.

You might argue that if the programme had so few listeners, and of a suitable age, why spend money on keeping it going. Why, too, when BBC7 carries CBeebies every afternoon? But do we really want Radio Four to become an adult-only network?

On last Saturday's Today programme, the former children's laureate Michael (War Horse) Morpurgo told Evan Davis, 'I wouldn't be listening to your programme if it wasn't for Dick Barton: Special Agent.' He believes that radio is 'a habit', and you have to learn it young. …

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