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Monday, February 8, 1999 Published at 18:03 GMT


Blue Peter presenter quits

The Blue Peter team: Stuart Miles is second from the left

Blue Peter presenter Stuart Miles is leaving the BBC TV programme - claiming the show is out of touch with today's children.

New Blue Peter editor Stephen Hocking defends the children's TV programme
His announcement comes just over three months after his co-presenter, Richard Bacon, was sacked for taking drugs.

Miles recently applied for the post of editor on the programme - but was turned down.

Blue Peter too 'twee'?

[ image: Blue Peter in 1969: Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves meet Lulu the elephant]
Blue Peter in 1969: Valerie Singleton and Peter Purves meet Lulu the elephant
Miles, 27, who has been with the TV show for five years, has criticised it for being "twee".

In an interview with The Guardian's media section Miles said he was frustrated with refusals to modernise the programme.

He said that children are now less interested in pet labradors and models made from toilet rolls - the stalwart traditions of the programme since its early days.

"The show needs to tackle subjects like divorce, or bullying, or eating disorders, or drugs," he said.

Blue Peter's new editor Stephen Hocking was confronted by Miles' criticisms on his first day in the job. He defended his programme:

"We are in no doubt about what the core interests of Blue Peter should be.

"Children continually tell us that what they want to see is things to cook, things to make, things to do with the pets... all the things that many adults consider very old fashioned because they enjoyed them when they were children," he said.

Drugs sacking

[ image: Richard Bacon was fired after admitting taking cocaine]
Richard Bacon was fired after admitting taking cocaine
Miles also said that the sacking of Richard Bacon last October should have been better handled by the show's producers.

"I pushed for it to be referred to on air by the presenters - which it was, we said we'd miss him - and I think the department should have made a drugs special," he said.

Bacon was fired after he was spotted taking cocaine in a nightclub. The discovery led to an unprecedented on-air apology by Lorraine Heggessey, the BBC's head of production for children's programmes.

He was the first presenter to be fired from the show in its 40-year history. Bacon has been replaced by Simon Thomas, a committed Christian and the son of a vicar.

Show 'haunted' by the past?

[ image: Simon Thomas: New Blue Peter presenter and a Christian]
Simon Thomas: New Blue Peter presenter and a Christian
Miles said the show is "haunted" by the ghost of Biddy Baxter, the legendary editor who ran the programme for 27 years. Baxter, who retired from the show in 1988, had a reputation for being very domineering and set the tone for the show in its early days.

Miles commented that the current editors talk about her "as if she is still around".

A Blue Peter spokeswoman said: "We are surprised and sad that Stuart has decided to knock the show he has so loyally supported.

"Blue Peter is fully ware of the need to keep the programme relevant to continue to attract younger viewers. The success of this has been proved in the recent rise of the children's viewing figures and the fact that after 40 years Blue Peter still regularly features in the children's top 10."

Miles, who replaced Anthea Turner as a Blue Peter presenter, has insisted that he enjoyed his time on the show.

He has speculated that in future he might like to present factual entertainment shows or move into a more behind-the-scenes role in TV at the BBC or elsewhere.

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