Edward Barnes, the mind behind iconic children TV shows Blue Peter and Newsround, has died aged 92, producer Richard Marson confirmed on Twitter. A cause of death has yet to be reported.
Marson said he had taken a call from Blue Peter editor Biddy Baxter, who delivered the news of Barnes’ passing.
“One of the true greats of children’s TV, founding father of Blue Peter, creator of Newsround, Swap Shop and much more but also a dear and loyal friend,” he tweeted.
What sad news. Edward made sure that, after I left Blue Peter, I had plenty of work from the BBC Children's department. I remember him best when we filmed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1989, and we worked well together. RIP Ted.— Peter Purves (@purves_peter) September 8, 2021
In response to Marson’s tweet, Peter Purves, who presented Blue Peter from 1967 to 1978, said: “What sad news. Edward made sure that, after I left Blue Peter, I had plenty of work from the BBC Children’s department.”
The Doctor Who actor added: “I remember him best when we filmed in Ceylon (Sri Lanka) in 1989, and we worked well together. RIP Ted.”
As well as producing Blue Peter, Barnes became Deputy Head of Children’s Television in the ’70s. It was during this time that he came up with the idea for Newsround, the classic news bulletin for children.
Despite becoming a staple of British TV, the idea for Newsround was met with resistance at the BBC at the time.
“Even within my own department there were people who said we shouldn’t be doing this,” Barnes himself explained during an acceptance speech for a special Children’s BAFTA award for the show in 2011. “Why should we tell children about disasters and massacres and murders?”
He added: “They thought it was violating children’s innocence. There was a Victorian idea of childhood, that it is something to be protected and guarded – there was still a lot of that around at the time.”
Barnes revealed that, if it weren’t for his head of department, Monica Sims, “was crucial,” as well as Paul Fox, “probably the best controller the BBC has ever had,” the show wouldn’t have gone ahead.
Almost 50 years on, and Newsround is still going strong.