Richard Marson’s obituary of Edward Barnes shines some light on the introduction of the Children’s BBC strand in 1985. The obituary, published in the Daily Telegraph, confirms he lobbied Michael Grade on this.
Mr Barnes – a hugely distinguished head of the children’s department – was said to be unhappy about the staid presentation linking the department’s afternoon output.
Until 1985, of course, children’s programmes were introduced by the regular announcer and ident.
To be fair, some like Malcolm Eynon and Richard Straker went to some effort to sound friendly and less formal during children’s programmes.
Others though could adopt a tone which jarred with the friendly and informal nature of the programmes. An example on YouTube from the summer holiday mornings of 1985 seems like a classic example of oil and water failing to mix.
Other circumstances may also, perhaps, have helped force the issue.
In 1983 ITV, under IBA pressure, bolstered its afternoon children’s output. It was extended, properly networked and branded as Children’s ITV. The introduction of BBC Micro graphics on BBC One a year later was a mere tweak in comparison.
Then in September 1984 the introduction of the Six o’Clock News meant that children’s programmes lost their traditional bookend. Some days children’s programmes ran until 6pm, some days they ended at 5.30pm and on other days they finished after Newsround.
It could look as if repeats of The Good Life or Star Trek were being shown as children’s programmes. The need for clearer signposting was obvious.
Not everyone in Presentation was a fan of the introduction of Children’s BBC. There is also an argument that using normal presentation may have helped retain some older viewers though, of course, the output was made only with children in mind.
But it soon proved to be yet another of Edward Barnes’ inspired moves. In the press release announcing the launch of the strand it was described as “giftwrapping” for children.
What a nice way to describe the presentation of the output of a department which, at its best, provided “gifts” to so many children which they cherish the memory of decades later.
PICTURED: CBBC ident (1985). COPYRIGHT: BBC.