Report: Question Time – Right Now and What’s Next?

Posted on: Tuesday 07 July 2020 3:38pm by Catherine Trewavas


  •       The Covid-19 pandemic has hugely impacted children’s lives, as well as the media industry.
  •       This period of time does, however, present an opportunity to pause and bring our attention to issues affecting young people.
  •       Content should reflect the diversity of audiences and encourage voices to be heard.
  •       Creativity can flourish in challenging times, and we need to encourage policy makers to listen to young people’s campaigning, as well as support the mental health of future generations.

Right Now and What’s Next?

Looking ahead to a future post-Covid 19, this session explored what’s next. Led by Newsround’s Leah Boleto, panellists Tracy Brabin MP, Ollie Bray from Lego Foundation, writer Russell T Davies, Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE from 5Rights Foundation and Charles Lauder from Indie Club explored the impact of the pandemic on children and the industry. They asked if policymakers are doing enough, as well as how we can listen to children’s voices and learn from this time to create a better future for young audiences.

Impact of the pandemic on children and the industry

Without doubt the biggest challenge of the last three months has been the pandemic, but how has this impacted on children’s lives and what they will need in the long term? Tracy Brabin MP discussed the digital divide and children’s mental health struggles during this period, saying, “I think there needs to be more understanding about what children and young people have gone through.” 

Baroness Beeban Kidron also discussed anxieties facing children, saying the pandemic “both revealed and exacerbated privileges and problems”.

Covid-19 has also had a huge impact on the media industry. The Creative Industries Federation has reported that 1 in 5 jobs will be lost in the near future. The future of commissioning is also uncertain. Charles Lauder explained that in the last few months, we have heard from different and diverse voices, bringing to our attention the disadvantages and disparities between parts of the country. He said: “I want to see [young people] much more involved in what is produced for their consumption.” 

Russell T Davies expressed concerns around the government’s lack of commitment to supporting public service broadcasting. However, he said the Families@Home project research presents surprisingly positive results, and that “in a crisis magnificent things emerge, creativity is creativity, artists are artists”. He believes children’s broadcasting will survive but “we all need to be ready to fight”.

Protecting children online

Children’s online safety is more important than ever, particularly during a period of lockdown and remote learning. Ollie Bray from the Lego Foundation said that the UK has fairly robust policies but the government needs to do more “to build a digital resilience in children”. Baroness Kidron advocated for standards and frameworks. She said children should not be asked to police the content they are presented with by  global corporations “who really only have profit in mind”. She believes there is a better digital world possible for our kids.

The panel discussed online safety, especially on social media platforms, and the issue of easy access to pornography, which Russell T Davies described as “our greatest challenge”. Baroness Kidron referenced online dangers, saying, “We can’t keep trying to patch up the kids after they’ve been hurt […] we’ve got to design a better system”.

Children campaigning on issues that matter most to them

There has been a huge upsurge in campaigning by children on issues such as racism and climate change. The panel discussed how policy makers should take young people seriously and act. Russell T Davies said: “There is no ceiling to their creativity. The most interesting person on earth right now is Greta Thunberg.” He questioned if this campaigning is touching the government, though. Charles Lauder does not believe it is simply individuals who should be icons for change saying, “If we have a very diverse multiplicity of individuals taking those stances, if the noise is loud enough, people start to listen.”

Tracy Brabin MP encouraged young people to get engaged in their community not just online and feel they have made a difference on issues like inclusion. Schools should have a school council and ask their MP for a visit to parliament.

Support for children’s mental health at this time

There will undoubtedly be a social, political and economic impact on children and families as a direct result of the pandemic, and these factors will also link with mental health. Accessing support and engaging with young people is vital.

Are children growing up faster than they need to? Olly Bray said play is more important for children of any age than ever before. Imagination and creativity develop resilience and well-being in young people. They need to stay interconnected.

What we can do to create a better future for young audiences

Looking ahead, the speakers believe in the power of future generations, their creativity and resilience. They hope schemes such as the Young Audiences Content Fund, will be an opportunity for people who would not normally be seen or heard to have their stories told. The pandemic has allowed us to pause and reassess values. Russell T Davies said, “Revolutions have to keep on happening, keep the money coming, we need children’s voices on screen!”

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Catherine Trewavas

About the author

Catherine Trewavas

TV Researcher

Catherine began writing for The Children's Media Conference blog in 2017 and is delighted to be back this year! She works as a TV Researcher at Avanti Media and Nine Lives Media, previously having worked in various departments at the BBC. These included Blue Peter, CBeebies Radio, BBC Children’s Acquisitions… Read more