Report – Opening Keynote

Posted on: Wednesday 05 July 2017 2:16am by Simon Bor

Broadcaster Nihal Arthanayake introduced the two keynote speakers from BBC, James Purnell, Director of BBC Radio & Education, and Alice Webb, Director of BBC Children’s and Director of BBC North, to discuss the details of the BBC’s increase in children’s spending announced today.


  • ​BBC announces additional £34m spend on children’s content over next three years.
  • CBeebies and CBBC content and channels remain in place though fewer and bigger will become the watchwords.
  • The new money will mainly be used for digital developments, greater interactivity and new content for 12-16s.
  • A key development will be personalisation of the iPlayer, allowing older children and young teens to receive recommendations and customise their content from a range of BBC content, not just the kids’ or youth material.
  • The BBC plans to ‘reinvent’ the corporation ‘for a new generation.

Sue Nott, chair of the CMC advisory committee, opened the 14th Children’s Media Conference and introduced changemaker Jeremiah Emmanuel (BEM), as well as this year’s theme: ‘Open’.

‘Hi Sheffield,’ announced Jeremiah, Youth Campaigner & Founder of EMNL Consultancy. ‘Never been here before and I’m loving it already.’

Jeremiah started working in the community at 4 years old, by 14 had received a Radio 1 Teen Hero award and by 17 the British Empire Medal. Now, two weeks after his 18th birthday he was at the opening of the conference to promote opportunities for young people in the media.

Jeremiah described his experience of working with Radio 1 and the initiative he had suggested to include a youth panel in its decision making. He thought that consulting with the audience should become natural to us all.

‘Is it really a good idea to produce for children without engaging them first? A four-year-old could come up with a crazy idea which could be the future of television.’

Nihal Arthanayake introduced Alice and James and said his main aim was to ensure there were plenty of questions from the audience.

James Purnell was the first of the two BBC executives to talk about the new injection of cash into children’s programming. It’s part of the first annual plan which is a result of the new BBC Charter. It’s the biggest investment in the sector for a generation, at a time owhen there is still pressure on budgets. There will be more money for content, over and above what’s available today. It means that the UK’s two most popular children’s channels, CBeebies and CBBC, have a secure future and that the corporation will be able to sustain the breadth of what they do, including animation, drama and news.

James said that Ofcom’s research amongst parents had praised the BBC for high quality educational content and the.distinctiveness of its children’s services.

Alice Webb outlined a large number of new and returning programmes on both channels, but warned that there would be fewer brands in the future.

Online is the destination children are going. There’s a growth in programme-related Apps, and iPlayer Kids has had 1.4 million downloads. It was announced that all 93 episodes of Tracy Beaker are going to be made available as a series stack on the iPlayer.

Alice discussed the BBC  as a “trusted guide” and more content that helped children run their lives would feature.

An example was the existing ‘Stay Safe’ initiative, primarlity aimed at the under 13s but which engages parents and carers as well. ‘

There would be new content for the young teen audience (12-16s)  based on the sort of audience conversations Jeremiah talked about. While many had said the audience were lost to YouTube and social media, it became clear that this age group still expects something from the BBC, and they were keen on drama about themselves, and current affairs, as they had opinions.

To solve the problem of CBBC branding being too young for this age group, they would be served by the iPlayer. Sign-in for the iPlayer would be enhanced, so that they could personalise their experience of not only the new youth content but content from across the BBC, provided it was appropriate, so the iPlayer would become their customised and recommending destination for the content they liked. The iPlayer will be an important factor in targeting appropriate content to the various age groups.

In the Q&A session, James defended the earlier decision to turn BBC3 into a digital-only service, saying that the online version had been awarded Channel of the Year, and that cutting back the service had been the only long-term solution.

And is this funding just a one off? James thought not. The increase is now part of the three-year rolling budget. It could be revised, but the new figure of £124m would be the baseline going forward.

PACT asked about producer’s rights. It was pointed out that ‘Terms of Trade’ applied to broadcast content, not digital content, which means that smaller digital indies could not make any money out of the IP in digital commissions. James did not think that the ‘Terms of Trade’ should extend to digital, because the BBC impact in this area was small compared to the Netflix and Amazons of this world.

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Simon Bor

About the author

Simon Bor


Simon studied Animation at Farnham, and, more recently, was awarded an MA in Professional Writing from Falmouth University. He set up Honeycomb Animation with Sara Bor and has been involved in children’s television since the mid 1980s. As a writer, Simon has co-written and created several shows including Milkshake’s 'Funky Valley'. As a director and… Read more