Edward Barnes, deputy head of BBC Children's Television, first mooted the idea of a short news bulletin for younger viewers as a buffer for under or over-running schedules. Raw stories would be sourced from the BBC News department, editorial control resting with Children's.
John Craven, from BBC Bristol's factual series Search (BBC, 1971-75), was chosen to anchor after first choice Jonathan Dimbleby declined. Craven wore shirt and tie but not a suit (later preferring woolly jumpers) and sat in front of a desk, not behind, so as not to remind children of a teacher. A six-week trial run of John Craven's Newsround aired twice weekly from 4 April 1972, and by 1974 it was showing Monday to Thursday.
Newsround provided background to headlines which adult news programmes took for granted their audience knew about, and conflicts from Rhodesia to Northern Ireland were explained. Investigative reports covered such issues as school dinners, school uniform and pocket money. Animal stories featured heavily - the programme's first story covered the near extinct osprey's return to the UK.
The bulletin carefully aired difficult subjects without unduly upsetting younger viewers, for example removing overt violence from film reports. All news programmes must avoid bias and subjectivity; Newsround had to self-censor without editorialising. It dispelled playground rumours that children could catch AIDS from toilet seats, while never detailing how the disease was spread.
Newsround fought for the right to break news stories in the days when there was no BBC TV news between lunchtime and 5.45pm. When the space shuttle Challenger exploded on take-off in 1986, it was decided to break the story in Newsround instead of in a BBC newsflash. The shooting of Pope John Paul II (1981) was another exclusive.
Craven became programme editor in 1986, with Roger Finn and Helen Rollason increasingly assuming presenting duties in a year that also saw a Friday bulletin added. In summer 1987 the title became plain Newsround. Craven bowed out as presenter on 22 June 1989 and received an OBE in 2000.
The programme has seen many changes and a rapid turnover of presenters since the mid-'80s. The Newsround of 2003 is as interested in reflecting its viewers' emailed opinions via information-dense graphics as in breaking stories, now news is more readily available. Newsround's website marks a move towards a genuine children's news service, while digital TV channel CBBC offers five bulletins throughout the day.
References and Further Reading
Home, Anna. Into the Box of Delights: a history of children's television, BBC, 1993. esp Chapter 4: Information and Specialist Programmes
Newsround website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround