Next year, the BBC will celebrate 40 years of the trailblazing children’s news programme, Newsround. Like many British kids, I grew up learning about current affairs from John Craven. Unfortunately he is now remembered more for his array of comedy jumpers, than for his news broadcasting.
But Newsround was a revolutionary idea that nearly didn’t make it off the ground. According to the show’s creator Edward Barnes, society believed that childhood was a golden age, a time when the young shouldn’t have to worry about the world around them. “Even within my own department there were people who said we shouldn’t be doing this,” explains Barnes, who was deputy head of children’s television at the time. “Why should we tell children about disasters and massacres and murders? They thought it was violating children’s innocence. There was a Victorian idea of childhood, that it is something to be protected and guarded – there was still a lot of that around at the time.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/tvandradioblog/2011/nov/29/newsround-creator-edward-barnes)
Finally, adults realised that children need access to the news so that they can make sense of the world around them and be outward-looking.
Because of its late-afternoon scheduling, Newsround was the first news programme to break several momentous world events, including the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1986 and the assassination attempt on Pope John Paul II in 1981.
But it doesn’t stop with kids. If you are an adult and you don’t understand the intricacies of the World Trade Organisation or the Kyoto Agreement on climate change, then Newsround will explain the fundamentals in a simple, unpatronisng way.
One of the characters in my novel The Generation Game, an old lady called Wink, is a telly addict who never fails to watch John Craven’s Newsround – just so she can keep one step ahead. And to comment on those jumpers.
The John Craven Years is being shown on Christmas Eve on BBC2 at 7.oo pm. Forget the sprouts and tune in.