The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

It’s Istanbul, not Constantinople!

In November 2013, Turkey held it's first Children and Media Congress, and they invited a CMF representative to come along.

Who better to go than the CMF clerk to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s Media and the Arts, and general lover of Turkish Delight, Jayne Kirkham? She reports below.

Given that people are always talking about us living in a ‘global economy’, a ‘global village’ and I’ve even heard of a ‘Global World’, it should come as no surprise that other countries are facing the same kids’ media issues that we’re dealing with here in the UK.  Nevertheless I was surprised when the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkey invited me to speak at a congress dedicated to developing a children’s media strategy for their nation.

Some 2400 delegates from across Turkey and from all age groups came together in Istanbul for two days of seminars and workshops with a handful of experts from overseas.  I’ve not spoken at such an event before and someone advised me that they rarely achieve anything, so I had little expectation than to come away with the warm fuzzy feeling you always get when you meet with a lot of like-minded people.  But this conference seemed adamant that it would achieve something other than the ‘warm fuzzies’.  While there were lots of sessions and discussions, they were all focused on a single target: to create a ‘strategy’ for children’s media AND a team of people to effect that strategy in the year to come.  With the deputy prime minister, not only turning up to open the congress but hosting a dinner in the evening, it would seem that there is a genuine political will to give the young people of Turkey media that meets their cultural, social and developmental needs.

The Turkish press was more interested in deputy prime minister Bülent Arinҫ’s rumoured retirement so whether there truly is political will, remains to be seen.  However, Mr Arinҫ stated “this is the age of the screen and our common responsibility: we cannot shut it down.” It was gratifying to hear him speak out against banning or blaming the media but instead to call for better media literacy.  He did however remind media providers of their huge responsibility and called for an holistic approach to programming, “Please make programmes that develop self esteem and confidence.”

To this end, Bülent Arinҫ must have appreciated the Unicef Resource Package “Communicating with Children: applications to nurture, inspire, excite, educate and heal” Grounded in the UN Convention on the Rights of the child, and authored by Barbara Kolucki and Prof. Dr Dafna Lemish, Unicef encourages programming that promotes:

  • Curiosity
  • A desire to be friends with people who are different
  • Open-minded caregivers who approve of new friendships
  • Social justice

In short, programmes that promote emotional as well as physical survival.  A lot of this is best practice that programme makers in the UK are doing already.  However, British producers can’t be complacent: there are issues regarding negative modelling and inclusion here as much as elsewhere in the world.

Given that the majority of delegates were there to learn from we supposed experts, thankfully the bulk of speakers were reasoned and well researched. “We supposed experts”, “we” – now that was alarming.  What research did I have to share?  None. But I did have a brilliant testimony to give.  Entitled, “Developing New Discourses on Children’s Media”, I told how this little group of people that love and value young people and their media punched above its weight and had an impact at a national level.  I told them how the Children’s Media Foundation seeks to bring everyone with an interest in children’s media together (academics, parents, welfare, industry, politicians, regulators, young people themselves) for the benefit the audience; how we have influenced policy, bills, taxation, regulation…   The session received a terrific response: so much so that Prof. Dr Davut Dursun, President of the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council, called it “a critical presentation for the congress” and said that the Children’s Media Foundation model should serve as an example and be studied.  Go us.

So will there be a Turkish version of the CMF?  The congress ended with the ratification of the newly hatched strategy for children and media, and the formation of an executive council to take it forward.  Going back to the deputy prime minister’s opening speech, the strategy was largely about media literacy rather than programming policy (although, there was a call from the 9-12 year old delegates for “less fashion and more science in magazines, and less violence and less radiation in cartoons”).   But if the congress learns anything from the Children’s Media Foundation, it would be that the best solutions will only be found if all interested parties are brought together: parents, producers, professors and politicians:  a simple strategy but maybe that’s all we need in this ‘Global World’.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)