From 2012, long-running children’s magazine series Blue Peter will air just one regular episode a week, with each edition premiering on the CBBC channel, RadioTimes.com can exclusively reveal.
Despite BBC1 being BP’s home since its inception in 1958, viewers will now have to catch the show, currently presented by Helen Skelton and Barney Harwood, first on the digital station each Thursday (beginning 12 January), although there will be a repeat the following day on BBC1.
This is not the first occasion that the show has seen changes to its scheduling. Back in February 2008, Blue Peter was ousted from its traditional 5:00pm slot on BBC1 in order to accommodate the Weakest Link, but ratings at one point dropped to as low as 100,000 children watching. However, this is the first time that BP has seen a shift away from terrestrial TV.
Claire Rainford, head of communications at BBC Children’s and Learning, explains the reason for the decision: “We’re changing the way Blue Peter is scheduled so that it now runs all year round. We felt that we were missing out on covering important events for children, such as the forthcoming Olympic Games, by breaking over the school holidays.
“In addition, we are introducing a series of specials, such as a nine-part series following Helen Skelton’s polar challenge, which launches in late January, to give more in-depth coverage to events and activities of interest to children and give us greater flexibility. We’ll also be doing a Stargazing Live special and, later in the year, a series following the torch relay around the UK.
“We will premiere the show on CBBC at 5:45pm, which is where the vast majority of children in the UK now watch our output and where all our big shows premiere. By moving it into peak time, we hope it will reach the widest possible number of children. The airtime and budget for Blue Peter remains the same.”
Despite this commitment to accompanying specials, this latest development seems a far cry from the 1990s, when BP would (barring its summer hiatus) air three times a week. Even during the early 2000s, spin-offs such as Blue Peter Unleashed and Blue Peter Flies the World would complement the twice-weekly broadcasts.
However, earlier this year, departing presenter Andy Akinwolere – in an interview with RadioTimes.com - offered a more positive spin on then-rumours that BP would migrate away from BBC1.
“When you look at the CBBC channel as a whole, it’s a great place. I think because of the way children watch television now, they need to have a home for something. Where we’ve struggled over the last few years is that we’ve constantly changed days and timeslots, which has had an effect. People need to know where Blue Peter is so that its longevity can be ensured.”