Tuesday, March 17, 2009

'Go for it!" - going, going, gone...: the end of children's radio on Radio 4


After years of squeezing children's radio programmes from the analogue stations, Radio 4 is finally abandoning 'Go for it!' the excellent children's programme currently airing on Sunday evenings. The story was snuck into the final segment of headlines at 6pm and I can't even find much trace of the announcement on the BBC site.

Admittedly, the BBC have a fair point in that GFI isn't really reaching its target audience of 4-14 year olds. The show pulls 450,000 per programme on Sunday evenings squashed between obituaries, listener feedback and selections of the week's best radio: it's a peculiar location in the schedule. So is it very surprising that the average is apparently in their mid-50s? (though isn't this very close to Radio 4's general audience profile?). And I guess though I'm not THAT old, all the listeners who I know who are fond of Barney and his weekly GFI-ers are over 40.

But the programme allows a rare space in the network - and on analogue radio - for children's voices to be heard at all: for their point of views and their insights to be articulated. On the day when the Guardian publishes a piece by Tanya Byron that we're becoming a nation terrified by young people, do we really want to be getting into the habit of isolating their voices from the networks?* When questioning writers, musicians, artists and programme makers, they ask not just the obvious questions, but also often very savvy ones -- and I don't think I have ever heard a contributor appear less than engaged with these young interrogators.

Besides, I defy anyone who heard the marvellous edition talking to children about death, to not have been touched or found it incredibly useful to help talk with children experiencing the death of loved ones. Michael Rosen must be gutted to hear of the demise of this always enjoyable programme.

Is it enough to just head CBeebies radio to Radio 7 between 5 and 8 am on weekdays? Given this targets specifically those aged 0-6? Where will the 7-14s be heading and what is the BBC doing to create the next generation of audiences for its output?


*Hat tip to Cloud for his timely contribution


Jane Henry said...

D'ya know. Somehow Go For It has entirely passed me by. You're absolutely right of course there should be somewhere on radio for sprogs. Sounds like this was it. What a shame. Mind you we may be lucky to even have decent kids tv soon if the loss of advertising revenue from ITV doesn't get made up somewhere. That's under huge threat too, which is a great pity, as some of the best tv often comes from kids' programmes.

Ms Heathen said...

Thanks for drawing attention to this, Lisa. Although Radio 4 does broadcast a number of programmes which look at issues such as education, these all tend to be aimed at either parents or teachers. As you so rightly point out, GFI is the only programmes on analogue radio which gives children the opportunity to voice their own opinions. I often find myself listening to 'Go for it' while cooking dinner on Sunday evening, and will definitely miss Barney and his young guests.