The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

CMC Exchange at London Book Fair 2019

By Diana Hinshelwood

Member of CMF Executive Group and Editor, CMF Newsletter

 


London Book Fair took place this month over 3 days at Olympia London, and it was a wonderful opportunity for writers of all genres to come together and celebrate their work.  Children's authors and publishers were there in high numbers, which shows how  important the publishing world considers the children's market to be.

On Thursday 14th March, Children's Media Conference held an event that centred round a rights market for children's media content providers. The CMC Exchange has become a regular feature of the London Book Fair, and is an initiative to bring together the many different creators of children's media to collaborate on different ways of producing content. I was there in my role as Editor of the CMF Newsletter as well as an independent producer, and it was interesting to see so many different genres come together to explore not only ideas, but the potential for collaboration and cross-platform content. It's a great example of the interconnectivity of media, and the multiplicity of funders and backers needed to develop an IP or content idea from a germ in the creator's eye to a delivered content brand which excites and fascinates kids.

Considering a variety of platforms to deliver that content is also vital because the young audience are fast turning to alternative ways of consuming media, and the makers and distributors of that content need to keep up. The explosion of devices and new players in the financial equations - such as Netflix and Amazon - not to mention the vast expanse of YouTube - are all of course of major interest to TV creators, producers and book publishers alike.  All the more reason to ensure that those delivery platforms are regulated to be the best that they can be for the children's and family audience - more on that when the government White Paper on Internet Safety emerges - presumably now post-Brexit.

To turn proposals into reality CMF understands the need to explore different ways of funding content creation. Commercial opportunities are necessary in order for media professionals to make a living and so continue the creative process.  To that end we don't support the campaign for a commercial-free childhood, as appropriate content requires appropriate funding. The arrival of the new Young Audiences Content Fund will help, but inevitably collaboration and co-funding is also a way of moving forward to get things made, and CMC Exchange offers that possibility to broadcasters, producers, authors, illustrators, animators and publishers. And the refreshing thing to see at an event like this - however commercial - is that new ideas, which are essential to keep the audience engaged, have a chance to be seen and heard.

The Book Fair is not just a market and networking opportunity, however.  It's also a source of invaluable information and opinions regarding editorial, strategic and policy questions, in the conference events which are dispersed around this large event in Olympia. On Children's Day - Thursday 14th March, CMC produced a series of sessions to discuss issues relating to the children's audience, for example turning collaborations into reality in "Experiencing the Story".  Chaired by Tim Patterson of T1M Consult Ltd, it explored how children’s favourite stories can leap off the page and beyond the conventions of book, film and TV, into real-world experiences, from theatre to experiential marketing.

Generational tastes have changed, as well as the method of accessing content and gentler, more traditional stories don’t always meet with approval.  I experienced that with my son, who at 6 told me that 'Winnie The Pooh' was boring because nothing happened.  All they did was walk around a tree.  And as much as I was disappointed that he didn’t love the stories I loved as a child, he had a point!  The current generation expect so much more, not only in content but in delivery, so it's vital to ensure that they get the content they deserve in the most appropriate way.

While always advocating for the child audience, and protecting them from harm or exploitation, CMF remains realistic about the need for a vibrant business environment in the children's and youth media sector. We are fully supportive of  initiatives like the Exchange which expand engagement by developing new IP, while also allowing producers and others to consider the latest trends and insights, and discuss frankly the implications of what they do.

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