So there I was frantically building content for my Grange Hill 30th Anniversary special last week when the bomb dropped. Two days before its 30th, Grange Hill got the boot and another BBC institution bites the dust (RIP Grandstand and Top Of The Pops). Last month, the show’s creator Phil Redmond was scathing in his assessment of the Beeb’s plans to turn Grange Hill into a show for six to 12-year-olds. He called for it to end. Well, you’ve got your wish mate.
Once upon a time, Grange Hill was the punk rock of TV: gritty, shocking, uncompromising and in-yer-face. Thanks to the BBC’s editorial shift, it will end its life as the Westlife of kids TV: safe, homogenised, bland, square.
Anne Gilchrist, the CBBC controller, said: "The lives of children have changed a great deal since Grange Hill began and we owe it to our audience to reflect this." Changed how? Last time I looked, kids still have to go to school. They still get bullied. They still smoke. They still swear. They still write sick notes to get out of lessons. They still have fights. They still get pregnant. They still get racially abused. So Ms Gilchrist, I don’t accept your assertion. I think you’ll find it’s not kids that have fundamentally changed; it’s their viewing habits – especially that of adolescents and young teens. Remember them? They’re the demographic you don’t cater for anymore.
Back in 1978, with no internet and no satellite/cable channels, the choice, if you were staying in, was BBC, ITV or homework. Now it’s surfing, downloading, texting, MP3s, Friends on E4, SpongeBob SquarePants on NickToons, Power Rangers Operation Overdrive on Jetix and too many others to name. The audience that should be watching Grange Hill is watching EastEnders and Hollyoaks instead. Playground chat isn’t about Togger Johnson’s escapades (Tucker Jenkins’ nephew) – it’s about the Mitchells and the Slaters. And that’s the rub.
The axing of the iconic series will leave an undeniable void, especially if it isn’t replaced by home-grown dramas. Have any of you watched kids TV lately? It’s a foreign country out there. Literally. Y’see, the decline in British-made children’s programmes has reached such alarming levels, media regulator Ofcom has called for a national debate on the future of children’s TV. Just 17% of the UK’s output originates here thanks to an overwhelming reliance on (mainly) US imports. And the figure will fall further; the BBC has increased its children’s output only slightly, but ITV and the other main commercial channels have cut theirs by more than 50%.
So, nearest and dearest and others (you know who you are) to be clear; I am not just mourning the death of Grange Hill and yet another nail in the coffin of my childhood. I am also mourning the future of children’s TV in this country; it is not orange. It is not bright. It is dark. And if the BBC reckons Grange Hill no longer reflects the lives of children anymore, get ready to wave goodbye to Blue Peter which is 50 in October. It didn’t even reflect my life when Grange Hill started back in 1978 so gawd alone knows how it’s still on air. Be afraid for its survival. Be very afraid.
Today I am mostly lovin’ – Al Murray taking the rhymes-with-miss out of Westlife was absolutely hilarious
Today I am mostly hatin’ – UKTV Gold, where is Dallas??!? Cliff’s still in that poxy coma!
MSN Editor Coops
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