A radio diet of songs, stories, rhymes and word games would encourage essential listening and communication skills amongst young children across the UK. It would help immigrant families learning English as an additional language, and also be a service to teachers and language therapists.
The Sound Start Group of parents, educators and speech experts, led by the Baroness Warnock, is recommending that the ailing Asian Network, currently under BBC Trust review, becomes a more inclusive service to support families with young children across all communities, including Asians. They are calling for a period of evaluation, including the requisite Public Interest and Public Value Tests, prior to a revised Public Service Licence.
Responding to the Trust’s consultation, the group has submitted Ipsos Capibus MORI research showing 26% of the public chose a licence-funded network for younger children and their families over the Asian Network, at 7%.
Lady Warnock commented, “This is convincing new research which shows that support for children’s radio comes from respondents across all social bands and educational levels: the concept is not just a middle class whim”.
This is the third public survey to place a children’s radio service on the top line, and the Asian Network last. With a primary target audience of British Asians aged 25 – 35, this network is the most expensive format per listener and has cost the public £70m since launch in 2002.
Children’s radio campaigner and broadcaster, Susan Stranks says, “Here is a key opportunity to support all UK families with young children, in a cost efficient and accessible way. Last year BBC children’s radio was cut by 75% and moved to R4Extra – the licensed home of horror, sci-fi, stand-up comedy, murder and thriller hours, which breaches BBC Guidelines“.
Complaints about potential harm and offence to children in R4 Extra’s Scheduling are currently under BBC and Ofcom review.
Speech and language therapist, Gila Falkus, says, “The number of children with language delay is worryingly high. Radio is an ideal medium to help them learn to concentrate and to listen without visual distraction. Parents often tell us that they do not know enough stories or nursery rhymes. Shared radio listening would support and give them confidence.”