Reform or Revolution: A new blueprint for children’s media

Posted on: Thursday 01 July 2010 12:50pm

For the last five years children’s media professionals have been preoccupied with the debate surrounding the break-up of the old BBC/ITV duopoly and the seismic shifts which followed. This session jettisons some of the baggage from that debate and looks to the future. Moderator: Maggie Brown, Media Writer, Guardian Speakers Joe Godwin, Director, BBC Children’s David Graham, CEO, Attentional Ltd Lyndsay Grant, Senior Researcher, Futurelab Jayne Kirkham, Writer/Producer, Brown & Sticky Productions David Kleeman, President, AmericanCenter for Children and Media Jeanette Steemers, Professor of Media and Communications, , (CAMRI) University of Westminster Mike Watts, Chair PACT Children’s Committee and Producer, Novel Entertainment David Graham thinks our new Government will, at some point, want to define the public service remit more narrowly – making it necessary to talk about the key elements of public service provision. For David, these include the provision of news and information that enables citizens to vote and participate in society and also content for children – undeniably important for the socialising process. As far as he’s concerned, home made content is one of the key elements of public service provision because children need to know where they live, their home culture etc. Jayne Kirkham pointed us towards academic research that has shown that children need quality TV not just as entertainment but as part of their socialising process. To provide this she thinks a healthy production industry is vital. Jeanette Steemers underlined that the UK doesn’t exist in a vacuum, children’s television is global. The UK is in quite a good situation in many ways with three big trans-national players, it is very difficult for the smaller players to compete. She recognizes a shift in emphasis throughout Europe, where public service media is seen as an asset. Simply making content isn’t enough, the key thing today is marketing and distribution. Lyndsay Grant added, for children today, there is no distinction between TV and online. Children spend only 15% of their waking time at school, media plays an important role in their lives. So we need to support children both to participate in media and to evaluate it. Joe Godwin thinks we also need to find new arguments for public service provision stating that it would be vitally important to have more empirical data. Monopolies are not healthy, Godwin added. David Kleeman is convinced that market does well for entertainment, but not for everything else. But it’s not all bad news, as there’s a much more diverse provision for children in the UK compared to the US. Regarding the support of home produced content, Jeanette Steemers illustrated that in the UK we have quite a high proportion of UK produced content. Joe Godwin added: British children want British content. And so to final thoughts from the panel – Lyndsay Grant said it’s important to give children more of a say in what they want. Joe Godwin predicted the future of children’s media as on-demand and underlined the importance of the digital space as the key future platform for children. David Kleeman concluded that the world is changing faster than our ability to keep up. We should think about new measures of success when we think about the future of public service media. David Graham and David Kleeman concluded that media makers need to become better advocates for themselves by speaking up about their good work.

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