The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Virtual Children’s Media Yearbook

The Children's Media Yearbook

… ish.

Mark Wilson

Yearbook Editor, The Children’s Media Foundation

 

 

The Children' Media Yearbook content 2020 is sponsored by:

 

 

 

 

It’s probably a bit bonkers, and a tad selfish, to moan about abandoned media projects during this surreal and tragic pandemic … but, what the heck, I’m gonna have a lockdown mini meltdown:

WOBBLE! SOB! TAAANTRUM!

The Children’s Media Yearbook 2020 is now in the shredder:

D-D-D-Zzz-sssh-Zzz-sssh-klunk

Well, actually, not the whole book—only research, schedules, and a cover sketch featuring pyjama stripes to celebrate Andy Pandy’s 70th birthday in June (awww, bless!). Luckily, I managed to stockpile Yearbook articles—thank you, brilliant early-bird authors—and these will pop up on this CMF Blog once a month for the rest of 2020. So, to pinch and paraphrase this year’s theme for the online Children’s Media Conference, we’re

Still Here, Right Now … kind of … ish.

 

Over the coming months, our virtual Yearbook will feature World Children’s Day; disruptive entrepreneurs; Bugs Bunny’s 80th anniversary; children’s books about mindfulness and self-esteem; and even a 15th century guide to ‘Lytille Childrene’s’ table manners and atrocious spelling.

 

 

But first, an overview of the Foundation and of the Children’s Media policy landscape during these unprecedented and challenging times.


Greg Childs

Director, The Children’s Media Foundation

 

Unprecedented times!

Lockdown: a new world of media and screen use for children. Parents relaxing their concerns about screen time. Children and teenagers turning to screens for learning more comprehensively than ever before. Wide foraging for new content on new platforms—music concerts in Fortnite, daily playdates with Joe Wicks on YouTube. A host of new experiences both in children’s media use and real-world relationships. Social media contact with friends becoming the norm, with questions as to how much “distancing” will imprint on this generation of children. There have been seismic changes in such a short time.

What lies ahead will be tough times for charities and not-for-profits that depend on donations. As we move into recession, and as people’s and companies’ disposable income is severely curtailed, the work of foundations like ours risks going far down the order of priorities. In many ways rightly so, but there is all the more need for scrutiny during difficult times. How much will children have given up in terms of their privacy? How much more dependent upon screen time will they be? How has their relationship with public service content changed? And many more “unknown unknowns” are yet to emerge, no doubt.

Equally, there’ll be significant effects on the industry that serves children’s media, and it will need advocates in the form of its trade associations and its friends, which is how we see ourselves at the Children’s Media Foundation: a critical friend to the industry.

So, the situation for the Foundation itself, as we go through the crisis, is one of huge financial strain, but one that’s matched by continuing enormous enthusiasm from our volunteer Executive Group (who do the work) and our Board (who guide our policy).

We're going to stick around for the rocky times ahead.

While we are sorry not to be publishing a printed version of the Yearbook in 2020, we were able to move quickly to a virtual plan and tie that into our relationship with the Children’s Media Conference. Although we won’t be sponsoring and producing a session for the conference in Sheffield, our monthly Yearbook articles will be promoted along with the CMC virtual content season.

We were able to re-establish the All-Party Parliamentary Group in the new Parliament, and our stewardship of that will remain a core purpose, especially as we explore the implications of these difficult times on children and their media use.

Our Academic Advisory Board now has access to over a dozen senior-level academics for guidance and intelligence from the world of research. They will be a key source of advice and potential partnerships as we explore the prospects of developing a report on the future of public service content for children and young people. In that task we’ll take a comprehensive long-view approach to all the changes, pressures, and new sources of content, as well as new ways of viewing, using and even participating in media, that may be accelerated by the Covid-19 crisis.

Meanwhile, we continue to work “on the ground” in responding to consultations from regulators, government, and Parliament. I won’t list our interventions here; you can see them on our website.

CMF’s monthly newsletters will keep you in touch with not only our activity but also all the key trends and issues in children’s media, regulation and policy, and offering the Children’s Media Yearbook monthly articles as a sort of ‘part-work’ version of the book.

I won’t pretend that finances aren’t an issue. Times are hard. But they’ve been alleviated by the commitment of two new Lifetime Patrons in recent weeks, as Maddy Darrall and Billy Macqueen of Darrall Macqueen join the ranks of Philip Pullman, Ant and Dec, Anne Wood, and Brian Cosgrove in support of CMF. And their support has also energised everyone who works in volunteer capacities for CMF to pursue the best possible media for children in the UK, and ensure our responses are motivated and informed by research and reasoned discussion and underpinned by a positive view of what the future holds for kids and the content they enjoy.

If you can help us by joining as a supporter or patron, or if your company can set aside a small amount annually to join the ranks of over 30 corporate supporters who back what we are doing, now would be a good time to come forward.

Meanwhile the work goes on, and Anna Home, our Chair, will outline the key issues ahead.


Anna Home OBE

Chair, The Children’s Media Foundation

 

The arrival of Covid-19 has had a life-changing impact on us, our children, and the media, and it will continue to shape our social and economic futures.

For kids, media has never been so important in terms of information, communication, education, and entertainment. It is crucial that this is recognised as future broadcasting policy is debated.

There are currently two major policy topics under discussion which will impact on children and which concern CMF.

The first topic is the future of public service broadcasting (PSB) in the context of the ongoing rise of subscription video on demand (SVOD), the decline of advertising revenue for commercial PSBs, and the future of the BBC’s  role and funding.

CMF is pleased that Ofcom’s intervention into the provision of children’s content by the commercial PSBs, together with the companies’ encouraging response to the Young Audiences Content Fund pilot, has the potential to lead to a real increase in original UK content. However, Covid-19 has disrupted the pilot timetable and delayed the evaluation process. There also seems to have been no public discussion of future funding beyond the pilot. Given the likely economic downturn caused by lockdown, and the inevitable pressure on budgets, this lack of discussion is worrying, and something CMF will pursue.

We are also concerned about pressures on the BBC. Despite the fact that the midterm review is not due until next year, and charter renewal not until 2027, there is already a great deal of speculation around the future of the Corporation. It is important in this debate that children’s interests are protected, and the continuing need for a wide range of properly funded content for all ages and platforms recognised.

CMF believes that these issues need to be thoroughly debated and researched. With that in mind, we intend to initiate (in partnership with others) an in-depth investigation into what the scenario for kids’ PSB content might be in the future.

The second critical issue is that of online safety for children and potential regulation and legislation.

The need for some form of regulation to protect children online has been controversial, but has recently become more accepted. However, no legislation has yet been passed and, at the time of writing, the government's Online Harms Bill appears to be in coronavirus limbo. It is important that this bill is passed and other international discussions continue.

CMF will continue to pursue these and other issues concerning children’s media which arise in the next year; we will also support our colleagues in the industry who are under great pressure at present.

My thanks go to the ever-enthusiastic and hardworking CMF core team, to the Advisory Committee, the Board, and of course to our supporters and patrons who are our lifeblood.


Finally, back to the Lytille Childrene’s Lytil Boke and a few of its prophetic guidelines from the Middle Ages to future-proof our health, well-being and table manners. Please, stay safe and remember to always …

 

“Clene handes and nailes, clensed fro all blaknes and filthe.”

 (Wash your filthy hands and nails!)

“Spette not ovyr thy tabylle.”

 (Don’t spit over your table!)

 “Pyke notte thyne errys nothyr thy nostrellys”

 (Don’t pick your ears or nose!)

.

 

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