1 9 7 2 – Current (UK)
BBC 1 saw John Craven present his Newsround at five past five on weekdays. It aired twice weekly in the beginning and went to every weekday in 1979. Cheesecloth shirts, pandas and domino toppling were all on the agenda of this news programme for children.
John, then a journalist on the West Country regional current-affairs programme Points West, and Edward Barnes, head of children’s programmes at the BBC, had both been saddened by a survey which had shown that only 0.7% of children ever watched the news.
They felt this could be changed if John could lead children through the same items their parents saw later in the evening, but with the intricate made simple and all the disturbing bits left out.
The compilers asked themselves “is it news and will it interest children without distressing them?”.
Most children catch glimpses and more than glimpses of half-understood headlines and fragments from adult programmes. The programme tried to explain the stories behind the news.
John Craven’s Newsround included hard news items (about Northern Ireland, for example) which, if unexplained, could puzzle and distress children.
At the same time, it reported disasters in terms which encouraged sympathy for the victims without being sensational. On the day a jet crashed on takeoff in Nairobi, for instance, a London evening newspaper headline was `”Jumbo Jet Crash Horror”, whereas the Newsround story began “A plane crashes on takeoff – but 93 walk away from the wreck”.
Investigative reports covered such issues as school dinners, school uniform and pocket money. Animal stories featured heavily – the programme’s first story covered the near-extinct osprey’s return to the UK.
But how do you explain this complicated and sometimes violent world to children between the ages of five and 12? The show carefully aired difficult subjects without unduly upsetting younger viewers, for example removing overt violence from film reports.
The show dispelled playground rumours that children could catch AIDS from toilet seats while never detailing how the disease was actually spread.
In the days when there was no BBC TV news between lunchtime and 5.45pm, Newsround would often break important news stories – When the space shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off in 1986, it was decided to break the story in Newsround instead of in a newsflash. The shooting of Pope John Paul II in 1981 was another exclusive.
From the start, the programme drew audiences of 6 – 7 million, and it still does. The show was presented until 1989 by John Craven, and since then various presenters have anchored a show simply called Newsround. Spin-offs have included Newsround Weekly and Newsround Extra.