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Last Updated: Friday, 30 May, 2003, 16:14 GMT 17:14 UK
Has children's TV got worse?
Blue Peter presenters Simon Thomas and Konnie Huq
Children's television is trivial and doesn't offer enough mental stimulation, says veteran presenter Johnny Ball.

Viewing figures have fallen since Mr Ball presented science and factual shows in the 70s and he criticises Blue Peter presenters for talking to each other "as though the kids are not there".

CBBC chief Dorothy Prior responded that popular children's shows now combine "entertainment with information and learning" and that parents send hundreds of approving letters to the channel.

Has children's TV become more trivial? Are children missing out or are Johnny Ball's views just old-fashioned?

Thank you for your e-mails. This debate is now closed. A selection of your comments is published below.

The most intelligent, interesting and sorted kids I know don't watch a lot of TV, and not because they are banned from watching it, they just find it too tedious. It's patronising, adults trying (and failing) to be cool by dropping their aitches.
Simon, London, UK

There's always been a mix of kids shows at both ends of the extreme, with many old shows just as stupid as today. I remember watching Bananaman and Count Duckula in the 80s that are just as stupid as many of today's shows.
Dave, UK

There's always room for improvement!
Jo, UK
Whether TV has got worse or better, there's always room for improvement! There's plenty of scope for programmes to be both more entertaining and more educational. Even children can only take so much of the hyped-up, hysterical screaming that most programmes seem to revolve around now. I'd like to see more programmes that engage with children's minds and make them think more.
Jo, UK

Surely it is the responsibility of parents to decide which programmes they feel are best suited to their children? All TV sets are equipped with off buttons - a fact which some folks seem to forget!
Lisa T, UK

What's so special about children's TV? It's a struggle to find anything worth watching for any age group these days.
Adam, UK

I guess that's just how it is nowadays
Andy R, UK
I think it's difficult for adults to judge this objectively. We tend to think of everything as having been 'better in our day' but let's be honest it was just appropriate to the time, and maybe today's TV is appropriate to the young, now. I have noticed though, that there is less emphasis on having quality presenters on shows like Blue Peter. The focus seems to be on getting good looking young adults in cool clothes who are really just there to look nice and smile sweetly. Style over substance, but I guess that's just how it is nowadays.
Andy R, UK

Don't children get enough education at school that we must be ramming it into them on the telly? As if supposedly grown-ups' programmes are any better.
John, UK

I totally agree with Johnny Ball. Children's TV at times borders on the offensive and crude. One flagship Saturday children's TV programme features a competition where the children have to belch as loud as possible! Manners make a person - something the BBC evidently doesn't understand, or chooses to ignore.
Nick Jones, UK

There wasn't much substance in those days either!!
Zac, UK
I don't think it has. If you watch kids' programmes from yesteryear - once you've removed the nostalgia element, it becomes fairly clear that there wasn't much substance in those days either!!
Zac, UK

I certainly think Johnny Ball should be listened to. An excellent presenter, his enthusiasm for science was infectious in Think Of A Number. I used to love it and I am sure it helped me to take science related GCSEs and eventually go into the field of electronic engineering.
Paul Baker, UK

Kids' TV is too obsessed with being cool. Being young hip and groovy doesn't necessarily make someone a good presenter/educator. Bring back John Craven, Tony Hart and Johnny Ball! They may have been cheesy and wore v-neck sweaters but I learned loads from them!
Tim, UK

I think children's TV is spot on. For ages I wished there was a children's equivalent to Pop Idol, and then my prayers were answered. Like me, they would rather watch that than something teaching science or crafts. Science isn't cool - being a pop idol is though!
Frank, UK

The programmes have grown vastly in quantity, if not all in quality. But my kids still watch some excellent programmes, that are educational and entertaining. Perhaps parents should spend more time watching and discussing with children the content of TV, rather than treat it as an unpaid childminder.
Pete, UK

TV is not as important as it used to be
Kevin Parker, England
Children's TV is suffering in the same way as adult TV. Mass dumbing down and taking everything to the lowest common denominator. TV is not as important as it used to be. Computer games, internet, DVDs and more channel selection have all played a part.
Kevin Parker, England

Hang on - why not repeat Think Of A Number? The BBC aren't scared of repeating shows, and if they did it on their digital channels, it might persuade more people to tune in. In fact, they should repeat all their old children's shows - CBBC Gold, if you will...
Jamie, England

Has Mr Ball not heard of Blue Peter or Newsround, nor did he see the young football commentator competition that MOTD ran for the world cup? On other channels there's the likes of teen soap Hollyoaks which has been praised by MPs for tackling issues as diverse as male rape, self-harming, death of close relatives, homelessness. How many programmes does Mr Ball want me to highlight?
Alex, UK

Some programmes are great and well thought out. I don't remember enjoying any kids' shows when I was young, apart from Crackerjack and Take Hart, which were hardly highbrow... I especially hated Newsround, Blue Peter and Think Of A Number!
Vicky, Scotland

What have suffered most are the cartoons. True, the current crop of Warner Brothers are as magnificent as ever but the sheer strangeness of Bagpuss, Roobarb and Custard and the original Magic Roundabout could ignite enquiring minds instead of trying to sell them a toy.
Toby, UK

Whatever programme you watch now the same themes seem to run through them all, mobile phones, computer games and matters concerning the opposite sex. If you are someone who does not own any of these items or doesn't have a boyfriend/girlfriend by the age of 12 you are made to feel stupid.
Sarah, UK

Let's dunk your teacher into a pit of goo!
Drew, UK
The quality of the presenters has gone down yes; But also the style of programme(s) made has also changed - to less intelligent "Let's dunk your teacher into a pit of goo!" style programmes.
Drew, UK

There seems to be a belief in producers and commissioners that the average child has the attention of a brain-damaged bee and the IQ of a hamster. Added to which, it's faintly embarrassing to watch all of the young, rather middle class presenters trying really hard to be "street".
Darren Stephens, UK

I agree with Johnny, none of the presenters sound like they sat GCSE English, their conversations are never intelligent. What they do seem to get right is the latest fashion.
Mary Swook, England

Was it ever good?
Harold, UK

Some of the shows for the tiny tots (five and under) are great. Unfortunately, it seems that the same formula is being passed to the older kids' shows. It seems there's no imagination going into the shows today. A few cheap special effects and a poor script make 'chewing gum for the brain'. It's as if the makers have lost touch with their audience.
Steve G, UK

I think children's programming concentrates on teenage populism and the shallow world of music and fashion. But if that's what the kids want....
Paul Edmonds, UK

Johnny Ball 'slates' children's TV
29 May 03  |  Entertainment


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