CMC 2022 Report – Opening Keynote, Ben McOwen Wilson

Posted on: Tuesday 05 July 2022 9:45pm by Lorna Partington Walsh


  • Think about young people’s passion for environmental issues when commissioning content.
  • Honour kids’ interest in conservationism by being ecofriendly in your production processes.
  • The industry will need to take its responsibilities to young people even more seriously in the next few years.
  • The industry will need to respond with positivity and creativity to the forthcoming regulatory and funding challenges.

Aneeshwar Kunchala

Sue Nott and Tim Patterson welcomed delegates back to Sheffield for the first time since 2019 before introducing CMC Changemaker, conservationist, and Britain’s Got Talent star Aneeshwar Kunchala.

Seven-year-old Aneeshwar spoke to the audience about ‘Inspiration’. He explained that his inspiration comes from the natural world, declaring that all animals have a superpower. He described how he was inspired by Sir David Attenborough and Steve Backshall on TV to make his own content and share it via social media. Aneeshwar concluded with a dual appeal to media makers:

  1. Make more environment documentaries by and for young people, who are the most passionate about this topic.
  2. All media production must be ecofriendly.

Next to speak was Ben McOwen Wilson, who marvelled at the difference in opportunities for today’s children, like Aneeshwar, who want to make and share media content, compared to when he was Aneeshwar’s age. But, he said, what has endured is the UK’s global reputation for producing inspirational content for children: it’s an industry to be proud of.

He addressed three aspects of the theme, ‘What Next?’

  1. The next generation, so-called Gen Alpha (Gen A): Everyone in this generation was born in the 21st century. According to recent research of seven- to fourteen-year-olds by Beano Brain, their top-two platforms are YouTube and Netflix. Ben believes that YouTube appeals to kids because it’s where kids can both fit in and express their individuality; where they feel safe and valued; and it’s a platform that shares their commitment to the environment (it’s moving towards carbon-free operations).
  2. The next level of responsibility: Ben stated that YouTube wants to set the standard for kids’ online safety. The platform is aware of its power and responsibility, which increased during the pandemic. Wilson stated that ‘trust is key’, and (in the Q&A) outlined the 4 Rs: removing harmful content, reducing the reach of poorly made content, raising up good content, and rewarding good content makers through partnership payments. He believes that the new wave of UK legislation (the Online Safety Bill and the Media Bill), are opportunities for the sector to innovate and adapt for the better.
  3. The next business model: With old funding structures disappearing, the ongoing effects of the pandemic and Brexit, and the cost-of-living crisis, media makers face a tough few years. But the current situation should encourage creative entrepreneurship now that the streaming/social media ecosystem is more stable and there are fewer barriers stopping young people creating good content.

Ben eBen McOwen Wilsonnded his speech by reminding the audience that the ‘linear vs. streaming’ issue is not one kids care about: all they care about is content.

In the Q&A, Ben was asked how the industry should work with YouTube creators, and he replied that production companies should seek to add value to the work of established YouTubers with, for example, skilled crew and higher production values. He also discouraged production companies from seeking YouTube funding for shows that they think YouTube wants. Rather, the companies/producers should make what they are passionate about because it’s those shows that find audiences more easily.

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Lorna Partington Walsh

About the author

Lorna Partington Walsh

Editor and Writer

Lorna Partington is an editor, writer and creative writing tutor based in Sheffield. Her professional association with The Children's Media Conference goes back several years, and she is pleased to return in 2022 to coordinate the Conference blog. Read more