Jane Bradley: Don’t axe CBeebies, BBC

Young Alyssa Arkotxa-Lakha plays with an In The Night Garden toy. Picture: TSPL
Young Alyssa Arkotxa-Lakha plays with an In The Night Garden toy. Picture: TSPL
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THE NEWS hit the parenting community earlier this week. It caused shockwaves. Cries of pure anguish. Panic. Protests. Yes, it was reported that the BBC was considering axing CBeebies. “Absolute insanity!” cried every parent of an under-five. This is no BBC Three or BBC Six Music nonsense. This is CBeebies.

The functionality of every family in Britain with a child under five was at risk. Dinners would no longer be made, exhausted parents would no longer be able to put themselves into time-out with a cup of tea for the length of an episode of Bing (seven minutes and 25 seconds in case you’re wondering).

Christmas would be a nightmare, with thousands of newly advert-riddled children suddenly demanding swearing Furbies and snowboarding Elsa dolls which they previously didn’t even know existed.

The proposal was thought to be part of a range of potential cuts recently mooted by the Beeb in a shake up of services which could also see BBC Four and BBC News 24 given the heave-ho. But there was an answer to these parenting prayers. Within a few days, more than 130,000 panicked mums and dads rushed to sign a petition against this ludicrous proposal. I was among them.

A short time later, director general Tony Hall told a select committee of MPs that of course he wasn’t planning to axe CBeebies, nor was he ever considering making it on-demand only. Don’t be ridiculous.

I have to say the U-turn, or clarification, or whatever it was, was a major weight off my mind.

While children’s TV, which had entirely passed me by until three years ago, is generally unwatchable, it is saved by CBeebies and CBeebies alone.

The “other channels” (muttered in a hushed and derogatory tone by CBeebies fans) have adverts. In other words, crack cocaine for toddlers.

My daughter loves television. Loves it. If there weren’t strict rules in our house – two short CBeebies programmes before breakfast, one episode of the Mysterious Cities of Gold (yes, the 1980s South American crazyfest cartoon set in the time of the Inca Empire. She loves it) while we cook her dinner after nursery – she would do nothing else.

But for the time she is allowed to watch TV, as long as it’s generally CBeebies, I actually don’t mind it. Most of it, if not all, is educational in some way. And also, as far as she’s concerned, fun.

At the moment, she’s obsessed with Messy Goes to Okido, which by name and first glance looks like something created by a drugged up Teletubby on work experience in a Tokyo film studio, but is actually a highly educational science programme.

There’s another one which is an English translation of a French toddler philosophy programme, dealing with such weighty issues as “What is the difference between want and need?” which I feel is an invaluable lesson for any small child to learn.

A year or so ago, we had a huge Mr Tumble phase in our house. Did I mind? Not at all. His Something Special programme, which features only disabled children, promotes diversity and also taught my daughter the basics of Makaton sign language.

Many parents rely on In The Night Garden, followed by the CBeebies Bedtime Story and the ensuing little end of day tune “The time has come to say goodnight… at the end of a lovely day”, to give their child the Pavlovian message that it is seven o’clock and therefore time for their parents (sorry, the child) to have some rest.

Most importantly, the idea of having to allow my daughter to see adverts is horrifying. She recently spotted an ad for Legoland Windsor in a magazine and has talked about nothing else for days. The thought that every day, possibly multiple times a day, companies would place the concept of their expensive plastic toys in her impressionable little head is terrifying both for me and my wallet.

So BBC bosses, please don’t even joke about getting rid of our lovely, educational, ad-free CBeebies. Not only does it give harassed parents a marginally less guilt-ridden break (to do the washing up, cook dinner or mop up after a messy child – glamorous things like that), it is also a vital part of a child’s learning.

Take anything else, BBC axe man. Just not CBeebies