BBC told it must ‘must serve younger teenagers better’

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BBC drama output is failing to represent the “problems and lives” of younger teen-agers, a leading lobbying group has claimed.

Voice of the Listener and Viewer has warned that the BBC “does not serve or represent a developmentally very important period in young people’s lives”. It claims young people aged 13 and 14 are not catered for, and argues this is the time “they are beginning to grow up, but are not yet grown up”. The statement comes in response to a consultation being carried out by the BBC Trust into services provided by the Corporation for children.

It states that CBBC’s self-imposed upper age limit of 12 has hampered its scope, and says “realistic drama about real children’s problems and lives” is not readily available to 13- and 14-year-old viewers.

It says: “The failure to serve older children and teens represents a failure by the BBC, and there is no effective bridge that links CBBC content to content which is supposedly for younger people (BBC3) but not always age appropriate.”

It adds: “After all the hard work in engaging six to 12 year olds with CBBC, it seems a shame that older children have nowhere to go.”

The same response states that CBBC may be commissioning more reality programmes than drama, and adds: “CBBC appears to be undertaking less short-form, harder-hitting drama that speaks directly to children’s experiences, as Tracy Beaker and Grange Hill have done in the past.”

However, the submission praises the BBC for its “valuable contribution” to “high-quality, high-budget family drama”, such as Doctor Who, which it said “go some way to maintaining a link between children’s output and the main BBC channels”.

It recommends extending CBBC’s hours beyond 7pm, claiming little is offered in this pre-watershed time to children.

“This approach might also attract children older than 12, who are currently under-served by BBC services. A 7-9pm slot on CBBC would be a good place to showcase groundbreaking drama and factual content for children aged 9 to 12,” it states.

Voice of the Listener and Viewer’s submission to the trust also argues there is a lack of radio for children offered by the BBC.

It says it has concerns about limiting children’s radio output to a “digitally only station” – BBC Radio 4 Extra – particularly if it is “scheduled at only limited times”.