Monday, June 28, 2010

The Children's Media Conference - part 3

The BBC is involved in a rethink of its long term strategy objectives. One of the proposals relates to BBC Switch:
BBC Switch and Blast!

Neither of the BBC’s current teen offers — BBC Switch on television, and Blast! in the learning portfolio — is reaching its target audience effectively. The BBC will continue to serve teenagers through its mainstream services, but recommends that the Trust considers both Switch and Blast! for closure. Although the BBC should continue to offer high-quality programmes and services which appeal to teenagers, and should continue to commission some content in all media specifically aimed at younger teenage audiences, it should accept that its role in addressing the gap in public service television for this audience group will be secondary to that of Channel 4 and other broadcasters.

On 30 March 2010 I wrote to Jana Bennett to ask whether the BBC would, under the circumstances, be making available a fair proportion of the licence fee to Channel 4.

The Voice of the Listener and Viewer has published its response (pdf) to the BBC's Strategy Review. In it they say they're not happy that children's output so resolutely excludes material aimed at younger teens. They further make the point that, in the past, children's schedules have successfully included such programmes as the BBC's Byker Grove and ITV's Press Gang. The abandonment of entire age groups is characterised as an 'abrogation of public service obligations.'

I wrote to the Trust about an earlier consultation on editorial guidelines, asking why they no longer published responses to their consultations as they once promised to do. I wrote on 16 October 2009 (excerpt):
When the Trust was set up, it used to publish all responses including those from individuals. The reason for that policy was stated like this (in the "Complaints Framework" consultation document) :- The BBC Trust would like to publish as many submissions as possible in order to be as open and transparent as possible..
and on 29 October 2009 I was told: To be as open and transparent as possible, we will normally publish a summary of responses from individuals and the full responses from organisations and individual experts/specialists, alongside our conclusions, on the Trust website following the end of the consultation. ..

It's been reported that the BBC Trust will not be publishing responses to its strategy review consultation, but chairman Sir Michael Lyons will be talking on the subject in two days' time to The VLV.

On 1 May 2010 I blogged about a misleading programme, where I said ..'I have suggested to the BBC that Election: Your Vote breached editorial guidelines, and am waiting to hear what they have to say.'

CBBC insisted that there was nothing wrong with the programme and, bolstering their case, misquoted Angellica as saying towards the start of the programme: "This is the first CBBC General Election Special." In fact those words were never used. There wasn't even a hint of contriteness for the misleading information. It was suggested that I refer the matter to the Editorial Complaints Unit. The text of my last message to the ECU is here.

It might seem that this is making a mountain out of a molehill, but there are very good reasons for contesting the matter. Last December, Joe Godwin, Director of BBC Children's stated his belief that "we are serving the top end of our audience better than ever, especially in drama and factual." And presumably a claim for the 'first ever CBBC election' fits neatly into his contention.

The truth is that Election: Your Vote was not the first ever CBBC election, and neither does BBC Children's serve kids better now than it did in the past. This is not the first example of deceit from BBC Children's. Readers of this blog will recall the lie told by the BBC when Grange Hill was axed - namely that the decision to axe had the overwhelming support of their audience. In fact available statistics showed that most wanted Grange Hill to stay.

A recent series of six factual programmes called My Life is an example of an attempt to bring back cutting-edge informative documentary-style programmes like The Lowdown. But taken as a whole children's programming in the UK is in a parlous state.

It will be interesting to see whether First TV, a broadband-based kids' news magazine manages to make any inroads. It will hopefully be inclusive, diverse-friendly and not make artificial distinctions according to age, as CBBC/Newsround have done in recent years. Presumably Ofcom's junk food advertising regulations will not apply to the First TV service.

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