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Children's Television by Alistair McGown
Introduction Scheduling Puppets Merchandising Long-running Presenters
Drama Youth Imports Schools    
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Children's Hours - Scheduling
Still from Dr Who

Doctor Who (ITV, 1963-89)
The Cybermen invade London

Children's television began with just one programme a week on the BBC. The first For The Children, featuring The Hogarth Puppet Circus, went out on Sunday 9 June 1946 from 3.35 to 4 pm. Within two years a weekly hour of programmes was gathered under the same title. In the late '40s and early '50s the people making these programmes thought it dangerous to have children watching too much television!

By 1954 there was a daily hour or so of programmes; a fifteen-minute Watch With Mother film at 4pm, a closedown, then up to sixty minutes more from 5 pm. From the early '60s BBC and ITV ran an hour or more of children's television somewhere between 4 and 6 pm Monday to Friday - after-school programmes continue today on CBBC and CITV.

When ITV opened in 1955, exciting family adventure series like The Adventures of Robin Hood ran on Sunday afternoons and were more popular than the BBC serials shown against them, which were usually based on older classic novels. Sunday serials would remain popular on both channels until the mid '80s. Saturday teatimes also featured family viewing, including Doctor Who and Basil Brush.

The new BBC2 ran Play School in what was considered mum's mid-morning teabreak (around 11am) from 1965. 1972 brought half hours of pre-school programmes like Rainbow to ITV lunchtimes around Noon (this slot continued for twenty years), while BBC2 began running Play Away on Saturday afternoons the same year.

Television usually stayed off the air on Saturday mornings until the late '60s, when BBC1 started showing cartoons or Laurel and Hardy films around noon. The next few years saw similar repeats from as early as 9 am. In 1976 Multi-Coloured Swap Shop brought three hours of live entertainment to Saturday mornings.

The success of mid '80s breakfast TV puppet Roland Rat led to children's television starting earlier - today most stations open with children's shows at 6 am.

The late '80s brought satellite and cable channels showing children's TV all day. Most, like the Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, showed American programmes. In February 2002, two BBC channels opened. From 25 minutes a week in 1946, there are now hours of programmes daily on terrestrial, with all day services on a dozen satellite channels.

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