Blue Peter still firm favourite with kids

In a TV market saturated with shows for children, Blue Peter still stands out.

Blue Peter presenters
Blue Peter presenters

A BBC staple for more than 50 years, the show is a voyage of discovery for Britain's youth. As far as PR professionals are concerned, if you want to reach an audience of six- to 12-year-olds, it remains the right target.

MCG PR senior account executive Joss Rankin, who worked on a Harpers Fitness karate campaign with Britain's Got Talent favourites Strike, says: 'Blue Peter was and still is the bread and butter of children's television. The market is saturated with children's TV shows and Blue Peter continues to be at the top of its game.'

But a time slot change in early 2008 to make way for The Weakest Link's move to BBC1 has crippled viewing figures, which have fallen from 335,000 to 100,000.

Bosses are confident the long-standing Blue Peter brand should see it through this tough time. Editor Tim Levell says: 'What is important is that we keep reaching children. Our emails and letters are on the rise. There is no doubt Blue Peter is still the definitive kids' show.'

As well as children, many students and parents would list Blue Peter as a guilty pleasure. But as a core base, Levell says it targets six- to 12-year-olds, 'in order for them to unlock the excitement of life. We realise older people may also watch, but it has to work for ten- and 11-year-olds.'

He continues: 'Extraordinary, surprising, inspiring, daring, funny and real - these are the main points every item has to have.'

Practical could be added to the list. Blue Peter is famed for its try-it-yourself ethic, and has children up and down the country asking parents for sticky back plastic.

Involvement is a key factor to the show's longevity - that and its infectious presenters, currently Andy Akinwolere, Helen Skelton and Joel Defries. Despite falling viewer numbers, recent campaigns have enjoyed record numbers. A Royal Mint coin design competition saw 12,000 entries - three times as many responses as the same competition in other countries. A Royal Mint worker described this simply as 'the power of Blue Peter'.

Inspiring and educational pitches will be sure to catch the four-person development team's eye. The Natural History Museum's Ice Station Antarctica featured on the show in 2007 and a Walking with Dinosaurs piece is imminent. Senior press officer Claire Gilby says: 'Blue Peter tends to be random in its choices, but anything that is relevant to kids stands a chance.'

Gilby is, however, more cautious than Levell about the audience figures and suggests viewers may have simply gone elsewhere. 'Family audiences are more likely to watch The One Show,' she suggests.

Quick facts
Programme times: BBC1 4.35pm Tuesdays and Wednesdays
Viewing figures: 100,000
(source: BBC)
Contact: Development team 020 8576 1331
bluepeterdevelopment@ bbc.co.uk

A MINUTE WITH ... Tim Levell, editor, Blue Peter

- What story ideas are you looking for?

It does not have to be about kids, but it does have to be aspirational. Recently Blue Peter featured the Red Arrows and climbing Nelson's Column.

- What should PROs not send?

Don't bother with competition prizes unless they are incredibly special. We only have one or two a year and prizes have included painting a jumbo jet, designing a Christmas stamp and creating a Dr Who monster.

- What is the best way to reach Blue Peter?

Ring our development team and pitch them your idea. Phone is better as then you can turn it into a great proposal. Email us back with your improvements and we'll go from there.

- Your charity appeals are always a success, but is it appropriate to target children?

It is the first time they are aware that not all children are as privileged as them, so it is important. We never ask for money. We encourage them that doing something, however small it may be, makes a difference.

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