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New children's TV station to counter 'mindless' shows: Mrs Thatcher considered new channel in wake of riots across the country
08:58 GMT, 28 December 2012
Children's television was often so 'lifeless, moral-less and mindless' policy makers suggested setting up a 'Children's Broadcasting Corporation'.
The idea came in 1982 as Margaret Thatcher looked at ways to renew the values of society in the wake of the riots in St Paul's, Bristol, and those in Brixton, Handsworth in Birmingham, and Toxteth in Liverpool the previous year.
Ferdinand Mount, head of the government's policy unit, said many programmes of the day had a 'mind-numbing effect', offered 'no food for thought' and contained 'not much laughter either'.
'Mindless': Keith Chegwin in the BBC1 series Cheggers Plays Pop was a popular show of the time
Grange Hill, the BBC's longest-running children's drama was also seen as 'lifeless, moral-less and mindless' by ministers
Even 'rightly complained of' violent crime serials and Westerns 'at least illustrate the distinction between right and wrong and make it clear that this distinction matters', he added.
No shows are named, but popular children's programmes of the era included Grange Hill, Rentaghost, Cheggers Plays Pop and He-Man and the Masters of the Universe.
Mount suggested setting up a 'CBC' to do the job for broadcasters 'on all channels much as ITN does for news for all the independent companies' and ensure 'more nourishing stuff' is offered to children.
'Such as CBC would not be a government stooge, nor would it be unremittingly 'educational', although it might naturally include schools broadcasting… Our aim should be to shake the BBC and the independent companies into re-ordering their priorities,' he said.
His wide-ranging paper, which also looked at everything from education and social policy, to law and order, unemployment and the role of women, was presented to the Cabinet.
Another idea was a 'British General' exam for school children on the country's Parliament, law and economy to provide a 'partial antidote to the half-baked Marxism which dupes so many 18 year olds largely because they lack other social and political knowledge to match it against'.
Margaret Thatcher looked at ways to renew the values of society in the wake of the riots in St Paul's, Bristol, and those in Brixton (pictured)
Policeman and Fireman at scene of burnt-out buildings after the riot in Brixton in 1981
Ministers were asked to come up with ideas and policies. Home Secretary Willie Whitelaw saw school sports were important so 'our teenagers unleash their physical energies through games rather than bricks and petrol bombs'.
Industry Secretary Keith Joseph bemoaned the 'sharply rising trend' of irresponsible parents and suggested a television campaign modelled on anti-smoking adverts could be used to discourage teenage pregnancy.
The Chancellor Geoffrey Howe blamed 'state paternalism' believing it was only by 'thinking the unthinkable' that public spending could be reduced.
Mrs Thatcher said many of the problems faced by the Government were the product of a general decline in discipline and authority in society as a whole – and 'only in the armed forces were such values now the norm rather than the exception'.