Sunday, July 04, 2010

The Children's Media Conference - part 6

The BBC Trust is due to issue its provisional conclusions to the Strategy Review shortly. The Citizens' Coalition for Public Service Broadcasting is a broad mix of civil society groups, charities, community groups, unions and arts organisations who believe public service broadcasting to be a public good, worth preserving. They believe the BBC should increase investment in the depiction of contemporary British cultures as these are experienced by children living in the UK. They say there is a particular gap in the provision of programmes for older children, and this should be remedied by the BBC (see also part 3).

This blogger has drawn attention over the years to the quite obviously misguided attempts by BBC management to hive off services for older kids to a separate 'brand' - Switch - which (given the limited funding available) was never in a million years going to be capable of achieving much, other than unnecessarily draining resources from an already cash-strapped organisation. The motivation was opaque, and my request for the rationale was met with platitudes.

John Farmer, responding on behalf of the Director-General, stated (1/4/2008) that: "Creative Futures spent a year researching the breakdown in age groups and it seemed sensible and obvious to segment the offerings in this way and in fact these age segmentations are very common across different industries and educational providers." Further, I was informed: "The BBC is dedicated to providing a more wide and varied output for 12-16 year olds, including television, radio and online content. The launch of BBC switch has proven a great success and will long continue to provide programming for this target age range."

It is quite astonishing that those working at the coalface have expressed few reservations publicly about what's been happening over the past few years. Last year's Showcomotion was an exception, as there was some discussion and concern about the absence of drama for older kids. But it seems, from the Conference blogs available, nothing like that concern was reflected at the Children's Media Conference 2010.

Now the chickens have home to roost, and the BBC seeks to withdraw, to all intents and purposes, from proper provision of services to teens. This should be resisted by all who value the principles of public service broadcasting. I did receive a response to the email to Jana Bennett mentioned in part 3, but the question of providing a proportion of the licence fee to Channel 4 was not addressed.

In summary, the BBC needs to get its house in order, especially regarding openness and honesty with the public. The rationale for Creative Future has never been satisfactorily explained; it was self-evidently a mistake from the get-go. What is needed, once again, is a diverse-friendly and inclusive approach to children's services. This will be difficult to achieve unless those responsible are prepared to admit they goofed badly.

As this is being published, Team Newsround is heading back to South Africa to report on the World Cup (see last two paragraphs of blog on 1 July)

The latest Newsround Special, Living With Alcohol, will be broadcast at 4.55pm tomorrow on BBC One.

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