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UK kids TV under the microscope

TBI’s Megan Edwards attended children’s programming festival Showcomotion in Sheffield, England and got the low down on kids TV in the UK. Here are some of the best bits from the conference:

The role of Channel 4 was one topic causing debate. Some said that the broadcaster’s plan to spend a chunk of its budget on programming for older children this year was an effort to reinforce its argument that it should receive direct public service funding, and that the channel was not genuinely interested in helping the kid’s production sector.

Channel 4 maintained that it would like to do more original children’s productions but it doesn’t have the financial means.

Anne Brogan, Director of Kindle Entertainment said: "[The kids TV crisis] may be on a few politicians’ lists, but it’s not on every politician’s list. We have not gotten to the point where it is politically important, and time is running out." Brogan is also a member of children’s television activist group Save Kids’ TV.

Members of the BBC Trust asked for input their ongoing children’s programming review – the consultation closes next month. Specifically, the Trust asked the Showcomotion delegates whether they thought all demographics were adequately and equally represented in the programming output.

Producers and kids TV advocates thought that the tween demographic was underserved.

Anna Home, chair of Save the Kids TV said that the BBC should extend its kids programming output past 9pm. She also kicked off a discussion about whether kids aged nine to 13 were being served. She said that tweens did not have enough drama programming available to them with series such as Grange Hill being cancelled earlier this year, leading them to watch more adult drama.

One attendee said: "Preteens do not need programs that about being a 15-year-old, but about the journey to becoming a 15-year-old."

The "Farewell Fully-Funded, Hello Co-Pro" session gave producer a chance to talk about their experiences of coproduction.

Nia Ceidiog, Director of Wales’ Ceidiog Creations and Mohmoud Orfali of Al Jazeera Children’s Channel talked about their coproduction Baaas. RDF Director of Family Entertainment Nigel Pickard and Kim Shillinglaw, commissioning executive for the BBC, described the process that led to their coproduction Escape from Scorpion Island.

All the panellists said that while coproducing is challenging, the effort can pay off. Shillinglaw said, "If not for coproductions, these shows wouldn’t be on the air."

Pickard said he expected that broadcasters and children’s producers will have to re-evaluate their relationships in the next two years. He predicts the majority of programs will be coproduced by then.