Pupil, 12, takes BBC to task over ‘dumbed down’ current affairs

Lachlann Hinley airs his views on screen
Lachlann Hinley airs his views on screen
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IT is widely known as the show that has introduced generations of children to current affairs.

But a 12-year-old Loretto schoolboy has taken a BBC chief to task in a national television debate over the dumbing down of Newsround.

Lachlann Hinley, from Haddington in East Lothian, went head-to-head with Joe Godwin, director of BBC children’s services, on Newswatch – a programme bringing viewers face-to-face with editors and executives to discuss issues raised on television news and current affairs shows.

Lachlann, who is in year seven at the private Loretto School in Musselburgh, aired his concerns that Newsround, the 40-year-old news programme, is celebrity news-heavy and “does not give you the in-depth news”.

He explained his desire for a greater focus on current affairs, suggesting that the Newsround editors were underestimating the audience and said there was a need for a children’s news programme aimed at the 12-16 age group.

Lachlann said: “Some people are interested in reality television and popular music, but some people are interested in politics and economics. There should be a new show for those who want to find out more about current affairs.”

The pupil ended with the illustration of Newsround’s recent coverage of the ongoing crisis in Syria, which he felt gave the impression that “popular music is more important than Syria”.

He offered the solution that the programme followed the same story order as that adopted by the “real news”.

Jonathan Hewat, director of external affairs at Loretto School, said Lachlann acted on his own initiative and decided to e-mail his concerns to Newswatch during the Easter holidays.

He added: “He wrote in with his concerns that he expressed on air.

“He said there was perhaps a gap in the market for a serious news programme for 12 to 16-year-olds, given that the Newsround he watched was often governed by celebrity stories.

“Last week, the show contacted him and said they would like him to express his views along with the director of BBC children’s services.

“Lachlann showed real initiative in contacting Newswatch with his concerns and ideas about the BBC Newsround programme. He was most articulate when interviewed on national television and I congratulate him.”

The clip, which was about five minutes long, was aired last Friday.

John Craven presented BBC show Newsround from its first episode in 1972 until 1989. It is one of the longest-running programmes in BBC history, beginning on April 4, 1972 with a team comprising three members of staff and two typewriters.

Analysis: Gareth Edwards, Evening News TV critic

BAHRAIN petrol bombs, the European Court of Human Rights and Ken Clarke – after criticism it was dumbing down, perhaps Newsround was trying a bit too hard.

Having seen the programme in recent months, it did seem to feature a lot of stories about TV stars and The X Factor, but not last night.

Opening with the ongoing protests in Bahrain, it didn’t shy away from discussing the oppressive regime or the wider Arab Spring. It then delved into the complex case of Britain’s clash with the European Court of Human Rights, even featuring a Ken Clarke interview.

While it may have ended on items about dinosaur eggs and exploding race cars, that was in keeping with the “and finally” segments beloved of John Craven.