Richard Bacon has said he is making “every effort” to understand the “complex world” of the social media “revolution”.
The former Blue Peter presenter, 46, was speaking ahead of his new Channel 4 programme Cancelled, which examines cancel culture and the effect it has on people’s lives.
The term “cancel culture” has gained popularity in recent years and is the calling out or “cancelling” of people or brands for perceived offensive behaviour.
The father of two – he has a 10-year-old son and seven-year-old daughter with his wife Rebecca – said the idea for the programme stemmed from a pilot he made for the broadcaster some three years ago which featured him, comedian Jimmy Carr and sports commentator Gary Lineker debating the “cancellations” of the week.
He told the PA news agency: “I made this pilot, it was six months before cancel culture actually had a name, but it turned out to be about it.
“And the idea of the show really was (there’s) such a rush to judgment at the moment, when a 15-year-old rather homophobic tweet (surfaces) do we, are we doing the right thing?
“And the idea was, let’s just pause and go, does that person deserve it or not? Is that public shaming right or wrong?”
“And Channel 4 didn’t pick it up, which I’m very comfortable saying I think was a giant mistake.
“And then six months later, a name emerged which was cancel culture, and I realised that that show that we made back then was about that, about this subject.
“So they came to me, went ‘Oh, well, you brought us that interesting pilot, and we know you like the subject’, so that was where it came from.”
Bacon was forced to hand in his Blue Peter badge in 1998, after admitting taking cocaine and losing his job.
But his career rebounded and he is now a successful TV producer and presenter based in Los Angeles.
Asked if cancel culture will change the way he educates and brings up his children, he said: “Well, it will impact on how I educate them and what I say to them, they’re both on TikTok already.
“My day job is inventing TV shows, and I’ve been working with a team from Silicon Valley on a television show about TikTok, YouTube shorts, Instagram reels and Snapchat.
“And it’s taught me so much about that world. And the main thing it’s taught me is how quickly things are changing and that what we’re going through, in a way, it’s a bit of a revolution.
“We went through the social media revolution over the last 12 years or so and now you’ve got this sort of TikTok, YouTube shorts revolution, which is a version of social media but more performative and it’s exploded.
“And so the dominance of all of these now, social media and short form, is absolutely enormous and it will dominate the lives of my children.”
The TV star said he feels that “it’s more important than educating them about almost anything else now”.
He said: “Because if you fall foul of a public shaming, a lot of cancel culture is public shaming, really.
“Almost the most interesting cancellations and public shamings aren’t the really famous, national ones.
“They are happening locally, you can be publicly shamed just on your campus, you could be publicly shamed just in your town, just in your office.
“And I think the psychological impact of that could be absolutely awful.
“And so I do wonder what can I do to prepare my kids for this very complex world, and I am making every effort to understand it more and more and really try and keep up, because I think there are so many positive things about this revolution.
“And there are also loads of things that are really frightening about it.”
Bacon fell ill during a flight from Los Angeles to London in 2018 and was put in an induced coma as doctors fought to save his life.
He said he thinks he is now “fully recovered”, but having come so close to death he still thinks frequently about almost dying.
He said: “It is five years until all of the chemicals that were depleted out of my body are fully back in place, because they didn’t know what it was.
“So they had to pump so many things into me that my immune system won’t be 100% for another two years, it was three years ago, which obviously makes me nervous during Covid, and it was a respiratory illness…
“I came within a few seconds of dying, I turned blue, they got the crash equipment over me. I was very close to death and it makes me think about death all the time now, but in terms of my health, I feel great.”
Cancelled is on Channel 4 on December 2 at 10pm.