The BBC is to end the teatime edition of Newsround after almost 50 years, having concluded that children no longer turn on traditional television channels when they return home from school.
The news show has produced an afternoon programme ever since it was launched by John Craven in 1972 but it has been hit hard by changing viewing habits. It has suffered from a move from BBC One to the CBBC channel and even during the lockdown each episode was attracting just 24,000 viewers aged six to 12.
Instead, the BBC will focus on producing a single morning television edition of Newsround aimed at schools, where it is often used by teachers in classrooms, in addition to investing in the programme’s website.
Stuart Rowson, the head of discovery at BBC Children’s, said the corporation had to accept the reality that the best place to provide news to young Britons was online: “Times have just moved on and nothing lasts forever. It’s not that kids don’t want the news … They just want it in a different format.”
He said that the morning edition of Newsround remained popular with teachers who showed it to children in classrooms in order to provoke discussion. He estimated that about 750,000 children watched the bulletin every day in classrooms, with particular spikes around 9am and 1pm.
As a result this bulletin will expand from five to eight minutes, with the hope this will prove popular when children return to schools in the autumn.
Ofcom approved the changes to Newsround on Thursday, along with other reforms that will allow the BBC to prioritise iPlayer as the home of its children’s content.
Newsround staff have raised concerns about potential personnel cuts and changes to working patterns, in addition to reduced visibility for the programme, as many children come to the site by searching for episodes they have seen at school.
However, Rowson said the objective was to reallocate Newsround’s budget towards the internet, where the programme’s easily comprehensible coverage of coronavirus won plaudits. There would also be increased climate change and environmental coverage to reflect the interests of children.
“Whenever you mess with a national treasure, people are always ready to throw stones. We want to effectively introduce the next generation of BBC audiences to BBC news.”