We’ve long stated that Doctor Who is family viewing – but The Sarah Jane Adventures is most definitely aimed primarily at children, and stands as a solitary beacon of the best in television for the younger members of the viewing public.
So it makes sense that someone with considerable experience in both children’s TV and The Sarah Jane Adventures, the great Floella Benjamin, should point out to the nation that children’s television is failing to engage the targeted viewers.
Baroness Benjamin is now a Liberal Democrat peer, and her history in children’s TV goes back to the late 1970s and the old daily BBC Play School program (which I personally recall with fondness!) and stretches right up to The Sarah Jane Adventures, where she played Professor Rivers in The Lost Boy (2007), Day of the Clown (2008) and The Eternity Trap (2009).
Speaking in the House of Lords during Lord Northbourne’s debate on “the role of good early parenting in preparing a child for success in school”, Lady Benjamin stated:
“Appropriate children’s television is beneficial to childhood development. It can improve attention, expressive language, comprehension, articulation, general knowledge as well as social interaction and life skills. So I urge the government and broadcasters to wake up to the crisis in the production and quality of public service broadcasting for children.
“I ask the government to find creative ways of funding to maintain the traditional well-made British pre-school programmes which contain all the necessary and essential elements required for our children’s well-being.”
Now just last night I watched the entertaining critic Charlie Brooker on BBC Four bemoaning the degeneration of quality children’s TV from shows like Swap Shop or even Network 7 to the rather ridiculous slang-ridden Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow (they don’t look like black teenagers, so why talk that way?) and some horrific expletive-laden promo clip of the so-called Plan B.
As cuts are made and other entities try and muscle in on the BBC’s services the corporation has to start showing some backbone and originality in this area of programming.
Being trendy does not equal being useful – if children’s TV isn’t in crisis now, it soon will be.