The Salford Key

Posted on: Thursday 07 July 2011 1:43pm

#tcmc Blog by Colin Ward… who has promised readers a free John Lennon quote with every blog! Host:Lisa Campbell, Editor, BroadcastSpeakersJoe Godwin, Director, BBC Children’sProduced by:Matt Locke, Consultant, Storythings This session wasn’t just about BBC Children’s moving house to Salford, it was about the current health and future ambitions of the best public service children’s broadcaster in the world. BBC Children’s is the unchallenged leader of children’s media in the UK. If a producer has an idea for a big show the only question they ask is, ‘Will the BBC want it?’ The BBC has the money and a strong creative leadership team, and even if you’re developing for the international market, you probably won’t get far without some interest from the biggest UK commissioner. With that power comes responsibilities, both to the children’s audience and to parents. Joe Godwin gets that and everything he says demonstrates his determination to deliver fun, entertaining children’s media that will also broaden the audience’s experiences, deepen their understanding of the world, and challenge them to think about who they are and what kind of person they want to be. Joe is a self-confessed children’s media geek. When he was growing up it was kids’ tv that excited him and influenced what he wanted to do with his life. His ambition is to continue that tradition. He wants Salford to be open and accessible, a place where children will come to watch their programmes being made. He wants programme makers to take the opportunities provided by the location – right at the heart of the UK – to go, literally, ‘All Over The Place’ (CBBC) and feature places and children from across the country. He wants BBC Children’s to bring in new, young talent from the region that will, as much as possible, reflect the make-up of their audience. Inclusive programming is important to Joe Godwin. He acknowledges he inherited a strong service from his predecessors, but inclusion was one area where he saw room for improvement. He wants to give a voice to those children who don’t always get heard. There is a personal dimension to that commitment; Joe’s sister has learning difficulties so he had first hand experience of how some children felt excluded. That’s why he is particularly proud of Cbeebies ‘Something Special’, which is about to celebrate its 100th episode. It’s not a show about people with disabilities, it’s a children’s show that features ordinary children with different challenges in their lives. Joe is also committed to strong factual programming and concedes that in the past Children’s BBC may have been too focused on factual entertainment. The ‘My Life’ documentary strand was a chance to explore serious issues in a way that still engages the audience. It was also a chance to build relationships with new producers and that is another part of the ‘Salford Plan’. “We don’t want to be thought of as all kind words and nice tours and then bugger off. It’s all about ideas. Come to us with a good idea. We have already commissioned companies in the region who have never made a children’s programme before.” So how will the Salford move change Children’s BBC? Joe says the move has gone well so far and is still in process. The senior team have moved in, but so far only one fifth of the department are in their new offices. It just isn’t possible to get everyone over at the same time. He acknowledges that it’s a huge wrench for many people and the impact it will have on personal lives is significant. But well over 50% of staff are committed to the move. The worry for the BBC must be the number of senior production staff they might lose, given that people with children at school or homes to sell are more likely to stay behind. The BBC will need to find new creative talent because the department’s ambitions are undiminished. Joe Godwin is looking to the future and is already thinking about how they will react to the arrival of connected television. He agrees with Lord Puttnam, that children will lead the changes in their media landscape and it’s our role to facilitate and respond. So, time for my promised John Lennon quote. I was genuinely inspired by what Joe Godwin had to say. He cares about the audience and comes out of a great tradition of UK children’s media producers. I found this Lennon quote, which I feel is appropriate. I hope it doesn’t sound to pompous. “My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.” John Lennon