The nation’s beloved Blue Peter was once the cornerstone of after-school TV viewing and earning a ‘Blue Peter Badge’ the pinnacle of achievements (I never managed it). The hosts have taught countless generations of Brits crafty tricks such as how to make a Mother’s Day card out of some cornflakes, a coat hanger and an egg box. Everyone must remember traipsing into your parents’ bedroom with a slightly dubious looking, but lovingly crafted, gift the show taught you how to make. Key childhood skills.
Shockingly, a repeat broadcast of a Blue Peter episode aired on 13th June received a catastrophic ‘zero’ rating on the BARB box system used to measure our viewing habits. This ‘zero’ means no viewers at all were recorded in the 5,100 households throughout the country with the boxes installed. Ouch. Although the show was somewhat foolishly aired at 2.30 pm when children are likely to be at school, the major lack of audience has thrown the show’s future in jeopardy.
BBC bosses have insisted that the show is still “a national institution”, but the figures beg to differ. The failure to gain a single viewer is a million miles away from the numbers during the show’s heydey, in which an estimated 7.9 million would eagerly tune in per show. Even 10 years ago, the show was still a major part of British culture, with an average 970,000 tuning in per episode. Nowadays, Blue Peter only manages to attract a measly few thousand viewers per episode.
So why has the Blue Peter ship sprung a serious leak? The answer could be a series of cuts and changes made by the BBC. First, it was cut down from 3 episodes a week to only 1 and then was shunted from flagship BBC One to children’s channel CBBC in 2012. The once sought after Blue Peter badge lost many of its privileges, such as free entry to children’s attractions Thorpe Park and Alton Towers. It appears no one wants the Blue Peter badge anymore.
BBC bosses also suspect the wholesome show is losing its young audience to lucrative American shows on Netflix. These embarrassingly dismal numbers come just a week after the BBC promised to spend £34.4 million on new kid’s content to lure back those lost viewers. But is it all too little too late?
There could be a more alarming underlying issue behind the children’s show’s tanking performance. Is its loss of audience prompted by the meteoritic rise of technology and social media? Maybe this technology-enthralled younger generation are no longer interested in the wholesome art and craft ‘makes’ and outdoorsy fun which has historically made Blue Peter a household hit. In 2015, a huge 71% of children aged 5-15 had access to a tablet at home. Perhaps then this is an issue of children needing to reconnect with crafts and the outdoor world and disconnect from their screens.
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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.