Building bridges within kids’ media

Posted on: Tuesday 06 July 2010 9:19am

Greg Childs, editorial director of The Children’s Media Conference, reveals that education is set to be a key theme at the new-look Sheffield confab this week.

June in Sheffield: ah yes, it must be Showcomotion. Except this year it’s not. The cream of the UK’s children’s media industry will still be gathering at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield to talk about all the latest trends in the kids’ content industries. But while the venue remains the same, the name has been changed to a more straightforward brand: The Children’s Media Conference (CMC). And we have changed ownership to a new not-for-profit company.

As usual, the Conference itself will focus on bridge building. Because we now bring together a wider array of professionals than any other event of its kind, it makes it almost inevitable that our delegates start thinking out of their boxes. They meet new people, experience new ways of approaching the audience, and they share learning and understanding, either in the sessions or in the bar afterwards.

Of course, we’ll also be building connections between those rare animals the commissioners and the production community; between research companies and the rest of the kids’ sector; and between interactive and linear media, merchandising, publishing and beyond.

Another area of bridge construction will be our exploration of education, entertainment, learning and play. We’ve been getting feedback from people in the education sector who are crying out for rich content to send into schools. And at the same time the children’s industry is starved of funding and looking for every opportunity to build new working and funding relationships. We’re planning a discussion at the CMC that could kick-start some new thinking in the years ahead.

By making some noise, we aim to get policy makers and others thinking in new ways. We hope we will give producers the opportunity to think about who they need to ally with, or to approach, to make an impact in the education market using the undoubted skills the UK kids’ media industry has in making things that really attract and engage young people – whether it be at school or at home. But we also want to drop a pebble in the ponds of two sectors that are so often separate in this country but which really need to come together.

You can be sure that the new government is going to take a big interest in kids, education and the social problems around their use of media. But how much notice will they take of what a powerful influence for good kids’ content can be? And how much are they prepared to help the UK industry make more and better content? It seems like a good time to invite politicians and policymakers to Sheffield to meet the people who have such an influence on kids’ lives, and to talk to an industry that they so often ignore.

And recently the bridge building has spanned continents. Anyone following the CMC Twitter feed (@childmediaconf) will know that I have been, very irritatingly, tweeting from The Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore. It isn’t exactly Stephen Fry but it keeps you up to date on how we’re expanding the CMC’s role. The Singapore event was a first stab at a cross-media conference like ours, to serve the whole of Asia. But it was early days for the organisers and they need help to grow it, so the CMC will be working with them to stage something bigger next year.

A bridge to Asia? In the long run it could be very handy. Let’s see how it goes. But it certainly fits nicely with our new vision. The CMC’s business is to oil the wheels of creative and business capacity in UK kids’ media. From now on we’ll be pursuing every connection we can to that purpose. The UK has the best content creators in the world. Our job is simply to maximise their chances of success.

The 2010 Children’s Media Conference runs from June 30 to July 2 in Sheffield, UK.

© C21 Media 2010

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