Viewpoint – Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children’s.

Posted on: Sunday 03 July 2011 1:39am

Joe Godwin will be will be participating in The Salford Key session at the Children’s Media Conference, which takes place this week in Sheffield between 6-8 July.   

 BBC Children’s has been based at MediaCityUK in Salford for just over a month now and all the signs are that we’ve not just moved offices, but have embarked on a very different way of creative life.

 The journey here has been a long one: in the planning for many years, the move has been a huge logistical and technical feat for the project team and the moving departments. For Children’s, the move won’t be over until Newsround starts broadcasting from here in the Autumn. 

 But even when the moving is done, the story of building a new BBC in the North of England has only just started.  This isn’t just about new buildings and a state of the art studio on the banks of the Manchester Ship Canal – amazing though they are. For me we have some once in a lifetime opportunities: to get physically closer to a much broader range of children in our content and through our outreach; to create a world class centre of excellence for children’s media in Salford – and one that is accessible and visible to license-fee payers; and to fundamentally alter attitudes to the BBC and our content in the North.

 Visibility and accessibility are improved just by the act of moving here – take the tram to MediaCityUK and come and see. Visit The Lowry and the Imperial War Museum or hear the BBC Philharmonic perform in our amazing new studio block. 

Already we’re producing content across the north of England, and when Blue Peter and Newsround are broadcasting from here in the Autumn, visitors to MediaCityUK won’t be able to escape the fact that this is the home of BBC Children’s. CBeebies favourites like Mr Maker Comes to Town, Zingzillas, and Justin Fletcher’s new show Justin’s House are all being filmed in or around Salford. 

We have CBBC shows filming in Bolton, Liverpool, Newcastle and Manchester. Great projects from existing and new indie partners are already coming on stream, and smaller indies in the north of England who’ve not worked with us before are already enjoying the benefits of closer proximity to commissioners and their money!

On the subject of money, the BBC is going through a complex and challenging process to find the savings needed in light of the new license fee settlement. This process is the implementation phase of last year’s strategy review, Putting Quality First. I’m confident that Children’s will still be well funded and highly valued through this process – both because the move to Salford gives us a real chance to be more efficient and because Putting Quality First placed quality children’s content at the heart of the BBC’s mission, as one of its five editorial priorities. 

Salford provides some new ways to make the license fee work harder, by making it easier for us to collaborate with other bits of the BBC. We’ve already co-commissioned content with new Salford neighbours BBC Learning – The Lingo Show will be making its television debut on CBeebies soon and Deadly Days Out returns this Autumn for CBBC’s wild animal addicts. 

We’ve launched a BBC North Apprenticeship scheme to help local people get their feet over the threshold of the BBC. Part of our mission here is to invest more of the license fee in the North West economy, and to create a different workforce, better reflecting the whole of the UK. A more diverse workforce should eventually change the flavour of our content and give BBC Children’s a new tone of voice, rooted here in the physical heart of Britain.

Finally, I want Salford to become synonymous with world-class children’s content – production, debate and training – in the way Bristol is for natural history programming. We’re working with Salford University, also on the MediaCityUK site, on their new MA in digital children’s production and, from next month, the public space here will be the regular home of public events for children and their families. Before I hang up my chain of office, I’d like to see a major children’s conference make its home here.

So our ambition for BBC Children’s at MediaCityUK doesn’t end with unpacking the crates. That’s just the end of the beginning. 

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