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‘Newsround was a brilliant idea 50 years ago and it is just as relevant today’

As it marks a half-century on air, Newsround announces it will launch its first BSL version this spring

The BBC’s flagship news programme for children reaches 50 years of broadcasting on Monday, 4th April.

John Craven’s Newsround was created by Edward Barnes and John Craven, and debut on 4th April 1972.

Newsround started in 1972 because the TV executives in children’s television had a six-minute gap to fill with the schedules on Tuesdays and Thursdays,” said Craven speaking about the show. “They decided to create a news bulletin for children, as research showed that children hated the news. They were tired of being told by their parents to be quiet when the news is on which built up a huge resistance to it. Our job was to try to break down that resistance in these six weeks.

“I was asked to do it because I was already doing a children’s programme called Search, which was a current affairs programme,” he added. |I came up with the title of Newsround because it reminded me of a paper round. The boss said, ‘if it’s a paper round, it’s normally somebody’s paper round like Joe Bloggs’ or Gillian Greene’s paper round. So this will be John Craven’s Newsround. And that’s how it got the title.”

Craven explained that during the first broadcast, the team really had no idea what they were doing. “There were only three of us and we had no experience of big television news. I’d never been in the newsroom before. Somehow, we found our way around Television Centre, put a show together and it went on air – it seemed to work perfectly okay.”

“We decided to have a funny story at the end because we wanted to send the children off with a smile at the end of the programme. We didn’t want them to be too worried about what they’d seen. That was a format that stays to this day – keep it short, keep it simple without being simplistic, and make it interesting.”

The show became Newsround in 1987 when Craven was joined by a group of presenters, including Helen Rollason and later Krishnan Guru-Murthy who joined in 1991.

Over the years Newsround has dealt with major news events including the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981. It was the first British TV programme to break the news of the loss of the Space Shuttle Challenger on 28 January 1986.

In November 2011 Newsround moved from London to a new home at dock10 in Manchester, where it continues to be based today. According to the BBC, the show is watched by an estimated 2 million children at least once a week.

Speaking about the show’s landmark birthday, BBC director general Tim Davie said: “Children want to understand events and the world around them. Newsround was a brilliant idea 50 years ago and it is just as relevant today – perhaps even more so in a world of misinformation.”

Director of BBC Children’s Patricia Hidalgo added: “For 50 years Newsround has been an iconic part of Children’s TV and continues to inform, educate and entertain the children of today. We are so proud to see it reach this milestone and we look forward to watching it flourish for the children of tomorrow.”

As it looks towards its next half-century, the show has announced it will launch its first BSL version this spring. Each weekday the online bulletin will include a sign language interpreter and, in the near future, transcribed subtitles will also be introduced, said the BBC.