The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

10 years of Celebrating (and fighting for) Children’s Arts and Media

60 children's specialists from across the creative industries gathered in the House of Lords on 25 November 2021 as guests of Baroness Floella Benjamin to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children's Media and the Arts.  

Guests included Sir Tony Robinson, Julian Lloyd-Webber, BBC Director of Children's and Education, Patricia Hildago, Peter Duncan, CEO of Pact, John McVay, a collection of Professors, Strategists CMF patrons and contributors to our Public Service Media Report Our Children's Future: Does Public Service Media Matter? They represented the many facets of children's culture and entertainment that have contributed to the APPG information sessions over the years (from traditional TV, digital media, visual arts, theatre, music, publishing) and they also symbolised the eclecticism of the young audience.

In a speech thanking everyone for the part they play in shaping young people's lives, Baroness Benjamin - co-chair of the APPG - recalled some of its achievements.

These range from broad interventions such as providing parliamentarians with reality checks and basic myth-busting on topics such as 'what children are really doing online,' to more focused actions like gathering support and momentum for the animation tax break in the 2012 budget (and subsequent extensions to children's television). In the culture sector championing music education and the Cultural Backpack, or in digital media working with the Office of Fair Trading to curb unregulated in-app purchasing have been APPG activities. The Group has also been the seeding ground for important contributions to debates, questions and parliamentary business, including amending legislation such as the Children and Families Act and the Digital Economy Act. The amendment proposed for the DEA effectively re-established the power of regulation so that Ofcom can ensure more children's programmes on the commercial public service broadcasters (ITV, Channel 5 and Channel 4) - a power that had been lost since 2003.

The APPG was extremely active in campaigning or the Young Audiences Content Fund - and more specifically to ensure that nearly all of the Fund's finance was directed at supporting content for children and young people.  More recently online age verification and the forthcoming Online Safety Bill have been in the APPG's sights.

With politicians having little time for what is often seen as a low priority, the APPG has been creative in its campaigns: joining with other groups, to lobby for the inclusion of arts subjects in the English Baccalaureat, distributing DVDs and a regular newsletter, ensuring that parliamentarians across all parties and both houses recognise a healthy, vibrant and resilient children's creative industry helps raise healthy, vibrant and resilient children.

There was much to celebrate but the Baroness was under no illusion that the work is all done. She handed over to Anna Home, Chair of the Children's Media Foundation to outline some of CMF's concerns for the future.

Anna presented our recent Public Service Media Report - Our Children's Future: Does Public Service Media Matter? which was distributed to all the guests.  In considering the future, Anna was clear that the preservation of public service content for children and young people should be a priority for everyone in the room.  With threats to Channel 4, The BBC and licence fee funding, and no news about the continuation of the Young Audiences Content Fund - the future for public service funding and therefore provision, was in doubt.

She stressed the need for vigilance and continuing pressure on government to ensure they put young people first rather than political objectives; that now is not the time for cutting back on funding, rather a perfect opportunity - given the power of the big new streaming platforms and social media's hold over young people - to consider new ways of raising public service finance beyond the licence fee for more innovative, relevant and appropriate content for kids and teens in Britain.

Saying that publication of the CMF Public Service Media Report was the first step in a long campaign - Anna revealed CMF plans to respond to the calls of many contributors to the report that decision maker should listen more to young people. With that in mind handed to Rachel Ramsey, who presented research by CMF Partner, Dubit Ltd, into the attitudes, concerns and opinions of young people in the UK.  You can read a summary of the initial findings of that research here.  CMF is working with Dubit to analyse further and has plans to develop further research projects to ensure that young people are "being heard" in relation to their need for  public service content.

Wrapping up the event Baroness Benjamin thanked CMF and in particular CMF Board member Jayne Kirkham, who helped set up the APPG ten years ago, and has acted as its Clerk ever since. Jayne keeps in touch with the 75 or so members in regular newsletters, and working closely with its co-chairs Baroness Benjamin and Julie Elliott MP, brings not only the issues facing children's media and culture, but also many of the practitioners, into Parliament to inform their thinking.

And long may it do so...

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)