April 2022

CBBC's Newsround celebrates 50 years

CBBC's Newsround celebrates 50 years

John Craven's Newsround burst onto screens in 1972, and on Monday 4 April the UK's longest-running news show for kids celebrates its 50th anniversary with some exciting new additions.

For half a century, Newsround has played a significant role in making news accessible to generations of children and enabling them to understand the world around them.

John Craven's mantra of "keep it short, simple and interesting" is as vital today as it was in 1972, and in the era of fake news Newsround is seen as a trusted and credible news source.

The show is watched by an estimated 2m kids at least once a week in schools and visited online by around 850k unique browsers a week to read latest articles on world news, animals, celebrities, gaming and the latest playground trend.

Each story is told with truth, clarity and simplicity, to keep kids informed on issues including racism, equality, Covid-19 and more recently the Ukraine crisis, where the show has reported on the conflict and continually reassured its young audience.

Newsround has been at the heart of many historical events, reporting on natural disasters, wars, famines, elections, terror attacks and many other key moments from the last 50 years. From breaking news stories, like the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II in 1981 and the Space Shuttle Challenger crash in 1986, Newsround has continually been at the forefront of explaining news to children.

John Craven's Newsround was much more informal, with the newsdesk removed, the presenter standing in front of the camera and John himself wearing a series of fun wool knits. John also coined the phrase "and finally", rounding the show off with a lighthearted news story that is still used today.

Many famous faces have passed through the Newsround studio as presenters, including Channel 4 News Reader Krishnan Guru-Murthy, ITV News Reader Julie Etchingham, BBC Entertainment Correspondent Lizo Mzimba, and many more.

Following in John Craven's footsteps, the show continues to produce award-winning specials on a range of topics including: The Holocaust, periods, dyslexia, bullying, mental health, racism and many more. These specials reflect the lives of British kids and offer them a voice.

Tim Davie, BBC Director-General, says: "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 says: "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."

Newsround is broadcast from dock10 studios at Media City in Salford.

Interview with John Craven

John Craven presented Newsround from 1972 - 1989
John Craven presenting Newsround

How did Newsround start?

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. 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. 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.

What was your first day like?

On the first day, 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.

This experiment went well and we came back and expanded with current affairs programmes. For instance, I went to China. I was the first Western reporter to be allowed to film in China on one of the panda reserves. This is because pandas were very important to us, they were our symbol of wildlife conservation. I also interviewed Mother Teresa in Calcutta - she only gave me the interview because it was for children.

I've gone all around the world for Newsround. I felt it was very important to let the children of Britain see what it's like to be a child somewhere else, in a different part of the world having different experiences, maybe suffering from abject poverty, or starvation or maybe having a great time as well. All aspects of children's lives around the world were important to us.

What was your favourite moment?

I don't really have a favourite moment. I did over 3,000 episodes of Newsround and I was Editor for some of that time. There were so many important stories that we told and often we were breaking the news as it happened just before we went on air. For instance, the Space Shuttle Challenger exploding and the attempted assassination of Pope John Paul II.

At the beginning, the main news wasn't always happy with Newsround breaking these stories, but we managed to compromise where I would break the news and a BBC correspondent came alongside me, giving the background information. This worked very well.

Why is Newsround still important today?

Newsround's importance today is greater than ever. In the early days there were only three television channels. There were no mobile phones or internet. Children just got their information from television. We felt it was important that they received information and the truth in a way that they will understand.

This is even more important today because there are so many outlets that children can hook into to get information. And often that is false news, or it's wrong information. And at least when they're watching Newsround, the teachers, or their parents, or whoever is there with them knows that they're getting the truth. It's so important that they have a programme which they feel is theirs, which is directed at them, and which tells them the truth.

Can you recall a funny moment?

In its early days, we weren't quite sure what we were doing and there were an awful lot of mistakes and bloopers. I prefer not to remember any of them. Because if I did, I would never dare to face the camera again. We were the first news bulletin to have automatic cameras. I remember one day saying hello and the camera in front of me went up so I just tried to get up and kept on reading the news as though nothing was really happening. And then suddenly, it dropped down so I leaned back into my chair and carried on as if nothing happened.

Describe Newsround in one word.

Well, if you asked me to describe Newsround in one word, I'd say ‘Newsround’ because every child in the country knows what that word means. And it means a programme on television, which will tell them the truth about what's happening in the world, more importantly, in their world.

What did you learn from working on Newsround?

What I realised during Newsround is how little I knew about world events, because when you have to make them simple, and analyse them in a way that a nine year-old would understand, you realise just how little you know as well. So that's what I used to do.

I used to get all the information I could on a particular story, often a complicated story and say, I'm nine years old, how am I going to understand this? And then I'd sit back and work it out.

What would you say to aspiring young presenters?

Well, it's hard for me to give advice to anybody just joining television news, because things have changed so much since I was doing it. It's a great career with huge opportunities to inform people and find out a lot about life.

I've been very lucky in my career that I've interviewed a lot of significant people, from royalty, to world leaders, and prime ministers. And lots of very nice, very interesting, ordinary people. And I love this window on the world and on life, that a job like mine offers.