The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

CBBC and CBeebies content moving from BBC ONE and TWO

The BBC Trust yesterday announced its approval for the proposal to close the children's "blocks" on BBC ONE and TWO at digital switchover, saving around £2.6m in "repeat costs" of the programming on the mainstream channels, and freeing up the airtime for repeats of daytime and primetime programming.

The CMC has publicly declared its understanding for the logic of the BBC's position - that the great majority of children watch CBBC and CBeebies output on the channels rather than on the time-limited blocks. We also welcome the Trust's assurances on budget:

"Children‟s output remains a cornerstone of the BBC‟s public service offering and one of the BBC‟s foremost editorial priorities. In line with this, we support the Executive‟s plans to maintain the underlying levels of investment in original content production for CBeebies and CBBC. By safeguarding the additional investment into such content over recent years, this means that the proportion of the licence fee spent on children‟s output (excluding productivity savings) will be higher than currently."

However we have some concerns about the message this sends out, despite assurances that the children's channels  "are seen as core to the BBC‟s public service remit."   Relegating the children's services to niche channels not only tells children they are not important enough to warrant inclusion on the BBC's flagship channels, it also potentially tells adults that their programmes are less important to the BBC. 

It's noticeable that the savings from the closure of the BBC ONE and TWO services will not be given back to children's programme makers to develop new strands of programming, and our fear is that once a service is made so completely "niche", that budgets in future may be threatened.  Should this emerge as a result, the CMF will campaign vigorously against it.
Equally, the BBC has through this move given up a huge advantage it had over its international competitors, by abandoning the powerful cross-promotional potential of services on BBC ONE and TWO.  They will potential diminish the reach of the children's channels through this move.
Finally there is a possibility that as a result fewer adults will watch children;s television with their children.  As all TV's become digital, children may retire to their rooms to watch the channels while adults can continue to have daytime TV as the background to their lives.  The separation of adults from awareness of their children's viewing, shared viewing experiences and opportunities for discussion around kids' TV content is regrettable, and the CMF will be watching carefully for evidence of this as a trend in future.
There are also concerns being expressed that the shift from BBC ONE and TWO will mean a loss in residuals earnings for writers and other talent.  Apparently new contract negotiations are under way - but making savings on "repeats" may actually mean cutting payments to the all-important creators of the programme content.  No doubt the talent unions will have something to say about that.
CMF Twitter feed retweeting public reaction to the change.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)