The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

We Don’t Know What We Don’t Know…

But we may be getting closer... Colin Ward discusses the last CMF Academic Advisory Board meeting, the CMF Research blog, and the importance of having an interdisciplinary community dedicated to children's media. 

When I worked as a children’s TV producer for Citv and the BBC, I had my head down in my work, beavering away at a laptop or in the studio, making shows for kids. I don’t know if it was down to being focused or sheer exhaustion, but I was pretty much oblivious to anything else. It was when I realised the seriousness of the threat to children’s media in the UK that I started to look up from my desk and ask questions.

I wanted to know why ITV wasn’t making any kids' shows anymore. I wanted to know how the industry was organised. I wanted to know what we could do about it. How could we make sure our children would get access to the same wide range of quality media that we had enjoyed? Media that was relevant to their lives and also age appropriate.

Imagine my surprise when I found out there was a community of academics who had been thinking about those questions for many years! This disconnect between the industry, and the policy makers, on the one side, and the academics on the other, was one of the reasons I wanted to work to build the CMF’s links with the research community.

This week we had the third meeting of the new CMF Academic Advisory Board, hosted again by Professor Jeanette Steemers, who has just taken up a new post as Professor of Culture, Media & Creative Industries at King’s College, London. Now, they say that if you want to get something done you should ask a busy person, and that is certainly true of the people we have invited onto the AAB. While it is challenging  getting everyone in the same room at the same time, in our first year just about everyone has managed to make one or more of our meetings and last week’s meeting built on those earlier discussions.

We looked at some of the main functions of the AAB, including how we could share knowledge and expertise through the Research Blog on the CMF’s website. We also discussed the form and content of the briefing papers that members are preparing for the CMF Board and for the All Party Parliamentary Group on Children’s Media. These briefing papers will try to identify the challenges facing children’s media in the UK over the next two to five years, helping the CMF to decide where it needs to focus its energy and resources.

We also spent some time looking at the recent CMF submission to the Lord’s Inquiry on Children and the Internet, which is excellent and well worth a read, irrespective of whether or not you have a particular interest in the topic. We are fortunate to have on the AAB Professor Sonia Livingstone from the London School of Economics, whose research in this area has received international recognition. In our discussions we were able to identify a number of areas where the AAB could support the CMF’s future work around children’s online activities.

So, not yet a year gone and we have made substantial progress, and next year we will look to further integrate the AAB into the CMF’s work. If you are a parent, a politician, a journalist, or a member of the children’s media production community, may I suggest taking a short break so you can have a look at the CMF’s Research Blog? I hope you will find answers to some of your questions, and if you don’t find the answer then just send me the question and we will see what we can do.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)