As the BBC’s head of children’s programs, Anna Home has fought for children’s programming and won, expanding the public broadcaster’s commitment to kids TV and bringing in such shows as Jackanory, Byker Grove and the long-running Grange Hill. KidScreen salutes her as she embarks upon her last year at the BBC and tackles new challenges in children’s television
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In the world of children’s television, there are few more formidable figures than the BBC’s head of children’s programs, Anna Home.
Over the course of three decades, most of which she has spent at the BBC, Home has been responsible for some of British broadcasting’s landmark programs. For generations of British children, Play School, Jackanory, Grange Hill and Byker Grove are names that have become part of the national fabric.
Home has also expanded the corporation’s commitment to kids output into new areas of the schedule. With daily slots on BBC1 and BBC2, she is currently responsible for 1,200 hours of programming a year.
Through it all, Home has made every effort to innovate. The introduction of contemporary teen dramas such as Grange Hill and Byker Grove have demonstrated BBC’s willingness to tackle difficult subjects in a distinctive manner. This approach hasn’t always made the BBC popular with parents and politicians. In 1991, a member of the British government described BBC children’s programs as ‘wicked, brazen and sinister.’
In her 1993 book, Into the Box of Delights, Home wrote of how ‘television for children can be an emotive subject [and] is blamed for deteriorating reading standards and sloppy speech.’ And now, the launch of a groundbreaking preschool series, Teletubbies, has proved her point by causing a parental backlash with its unconventional teaching techniques.
Home’s influence on the international stage is also profound. Next year, when she leaves the BBC, her first job will be to chair The Second World Summit on Television for Children. Of her long and varied list of commitments, perhaps the most noteworthy is her role as chair of the European Broadcasting Union’s (EBU) working party for children and youth programs. In that capacity, she has nurtured two complex animation co-productions: The Animals of Farthing Wood and, more recently, Noah’s Island.
Home began her career as a BBC radio studio manager in 1960 and transferred to the children’s department as a researcher in 1965. She stayed for another 15 years before leaving to work at the BBC’s commercial rival, ITV, in 1981. Six years later, she was coaxed back to head children’s output by the BBC’s three senior programming executives, Bill Cotton, Michael Grade and Brian Wenham.
Home’s career is marked by a number of significant stages. During the 1960s, she was instrumental in rebuilding the children’s drama department. ‘I suppose children’s drama is my passion,’ she says. ‘I am a great supporter of it because I think it is very important in holding the schedule together.
‘At that point, children’s drama had ceased to exist. Theoretically, it was coming out of the adult drama department, but in practice, it didn’t.’ With support from then-head of BBC Children’s Monica Sims, Home built up the drama output, moving from directing to executive producing.
Sims took over the department after Home had already joined and recalls that she ‘immediately respected her understanding of storytelling and her literary judgment. She had the ability to read an enormous amount in order to find what was right for television and, more specifically, for different age groups.’
Sims praises Home’s bravery. ‘I trusted her judgment and we stuck our necks out a lot on things, like Grange Hill. She was very bold in terms of what she thought children were capable of taking, though I tended to be a bit more careful.’ Looking at Home’s later career, Sims says she is ‘straight-talking and that has made her some enemies. But she has survived in the face of a lot of bullies and kept the flag flying for children.’
Although Home bears the unmistakable stamp of a BBC executive, her foray into commercial television played an important part in shaping her later career.
It came about when she was secretly invited to be part of the executive team bidding for a regional ITV license in 1981. When the bid succeeded, Home became deputy director of programs at the new broadcaster, TVS. ‘It was fantastic,’ she recalls. ‘I’d been at the BBC for 20 years and I was throwing up all that security.’
The range of her new brief did not concern her. ‘One of the things about working in children’s television is that you get the opportunity to work in all types of programming,’ she says. ‘You are not a drama or a news specialist.’ That said, she maintained close involvement with TVS’s children’s output, overseeing an innovative Saturday morning magazine show called Number 73.
Home’s six years as part of the ITV system proved an advantage when she took charge of the BBC Children’s department in 1986. ‘Although, in one way, it felt as though I’d never left the BBC, I had learned a huge amount by going outside and coming back.’
In particular, her time at ITV was good preparation for the new-style BBC, which began to adopt a more rigorous attitude to cost controls in the mid-1980s. ‘At that time, ITV was much more commercial and stringent in terms of budgets,’ says Home. ‘The pressures to deliver were much greater.’ On her return to the BBC, she ‘was amazed at how generous the staffing was and how unrigorous some of the financial controls were.’
One of her more controversial decisions, upon her return, was the axing of the long-running preschool series Play School-a move that was greeted with about as much enthusiasm as if she had drowned a bag of kittens. ‘Play School had got into a situation where people were saying, ‘Oh, we don’t do it like that on Play School.’ It was so set in its view of itself that it couldn’t evolve.’
In certain respects, Home is experiencing the same resistance to change with the new series Teletubbies, which is produced by Ragdoll Productions for BBC Worldwide, BBC Education and BBC Children’s. It has drawn criticism from parents for its reliance on cognitive learning techniques rather than formal teaching methods. ‘Teletubbies took a year to evolve and a year to make,’ says Home. ‘We wanted it to cater to an audience that has never been catered to before-a young, truly preschool group.’
She appreciates parental concerns. ‘A lot of people, who, for absolutely the right reasons, want their children to learn, don’t see Teletubbies as sufficiently formally educative. It is much more about learning through play.’
However, she is committed to the concept. ‘When you do something that breaks the mold, there is always an element of surprise. People expect instant hits, but the ability to grow things is one of the BBC’s great strengths and it has to hang on to that.’
Ragdoll managing director Anne Wood, who devised Teletubbies, says Home ‘is very strong in understanding what children need. She constantly keeps up standards without losing the child’s voice. There is a tendency for people to pay lip service to the audience, but she addresses all children, not one narrow band.’
About the recent fuss over Teletubbies, Wood says that ‘Home has been [the show's] champion and is not deterred by some of the reaction. She is prepared to trust and support the integrity of producers.’
Not all Home’s activities have shocked unsuspecting parents. One of her most important achievements has been to hold on to a slot in BBC1′s early Sunday evening schedule for classic children’s drama series such as The Chronicles of Narnia, The Borrowers, Little Lord Fauntleroy and The Prince and The Pauper. As competition intensifies, the BBC still runs two six-part children’s dramas a year.
Commitment to high-budget drama means, however, that the BBC has had to be pragmatic elsewhere. Home put it bluntly at a recent industry conference when she told independent producers she was looking for original productions that didn’t cost a lot more than acquisitions. ‘Sunday night drama is expensive-so we’ve been trying to get better value for money by longer runs of simple productions during the week. We do things, like The Queen’s Nose, which are successful but slightly simpler.’
Securing international partnerships is also crucial. The latest Sunday night production, an adaptation of E. Nesbit’s The Ph’enix and The Carpet, is being made in association with independent distributor HIT International. Acquisitions have also played an increasingly important role in the schedule as children’s airtime has expanded to include a breakfast slot.
Home, however, is not averse to forming partnerships with the new broadcasters, and has shared Rugrats with Nick and Jonny Quest with Cartoon Network. In fact, she bids a cautious welcome to competition. ‘I’m all for giving kids more choice, if the new players actually do what they say they will do and make new programming in this country.’
Nick UK managing director Janie Grace was a protégée of Home’s who started her television career as a 24-year-old at the BBC and later joined Home’s team at TVS. ‘Anna was inspirational as a leader,’ says Grace. ‘Her commitment and dedication to children’s programs was a role model for me. She did a lot of brave things and gave a lot of people their chance in children’s television.’ Grace describes her as ‘a bit of a rebel. If you have that, you don’t shed it, and it has helped her take the part of the child.’
Grace notes that Home could be a hard taskmaster for her young employees, ‘but was very generous in her commitment to you. If she believed in you, she’d do anything for you. She taught me the importance of giving people the right to fail and letting young people with ideas come through.’
Home’s international activities have tended to focus on animation partnerships. One of the major recent investments has been The Prince of Atlantis, which is a four-way partnership between the U.S., the U.K., France and Germany.
But The Prince of Atlantis seems straightforward when compared to the EBU’s The Animals of Farthing Wood. ‘For some time, we wanted something that would be a European landmark program,’ says Home, ‘and animation is, comparatively speaking, the easiest way to do it.’
That said, it took a long time to come up with an idea and a production schedule that would suit the needs of the 19 countries involved. ‘It was a nightmare,’ says Home. ‘There were moments when we wondered why we started it. But having done so, it did what it was supposed to.’ The success of Farthing Wood encouraged the production of Noah’s Island, which has followed the first project’s blueprint.
At a time when the British animation industry is gaining in confidence, Home is keen for it to retain a degree of realism. ‘Trying to find really good, original, exciting animation is a problem. There is an awful lot of crap in the market,’ she says. What’s more, in many cases, she thinks the British production base hasn’t moved forward from the cottage industry it started as. ‘Cosgrove Hall and Telemagination are two of the very few companies that have an international perspective, and I think that is important.’
The BBC’s own international activities are, arguably, not as well developed as they could be, thanks to an uncertain relationship with the corporation’s distribution arm, BBC Worldwide. ‘We used to have a good relationship when we had an outfit called BBC Children’s International,’ says Home. ‘But in the various restructurings at BBC Worldwide, that has been dissipated. I think they are coming up with another proposal to bring that back. We want something that has all the publishing, overseas sales and production activity ring-fenced in the genre.’
In terms of reputation, however, Home believes that ‘we are still seen as a benchmark public-service broadcaster that maintains a very broad and varied schedule. But what will happen as the BBC moves into commercial service? I don’t know.’
When Home leaves the BBC, she plans to stay in the area of children’s programming, particularly the politics. ‘Children don’t have a voice and they need people to speak up for their concerns and needs. I don’t want to sound self-congratulatory, but I have a status in the industry that gives me the ability to keep children in the public eye.’
Her first task will be to demonstrate that ability as chair of the World Summit next March. ‘It is terribly important. We may complain about children’s television in the U.K., but . . . in other parts of the world, television for children that reflects their culture and context is very much under pressure. This is a forum where we can get to the regulators and broadcasters.’
Ragdoll’s Wood agrees. ‘There has always been a feeling that the shorter the child, the smaller the budget. The system is changing so rapidly that it would be a tragedy if no one comes through at the BBC to do what Anna has done.’
The Anna They Know:
-Rona Selby, Head of Children’s Publishing-BBC worldwide Publishing
For as long as I have been in publishing, I have always known Anna Home as the doyenne of children’s television. My first job was working for The Bodley Head, where our children’s publisher, Judy Taylor, had formerly acted as a book adviser to Anna on Play School.
When I first met Anna in person at an exhibition a few years later, I was surprised to discover what a likable and down-to-earth person she was-far removed from the daunting figure I had imagined her to be. I remember that we talked about Lucy Boston’s Green Knowe books, which Anna was in the process of making into a four-part children’s drama.
Since joining BBC Worldwide in 1992, I have had the privilege of working with Anna more closely, and I have continued to be impressed not only by her faultless professionalism and enormous energy, but also by her sense of humor and huge enjoyment of life. In 1993, we published Anna’s book, Into the Box of Delights, which traces the development of children’s television in the U.K.-a process to which Anna has made an unrivaled contribution.
-Jeremy Swan, Producer/director
An Anna anecdote: Her awareness of the audience is paramount. When I was working for her on the production of Round the Twist, I telephoned from Melbourne to ask what she thought of a ‘who-can-pee-the-highest’ competition in the script.
There was a flicker of a pause before Anna asked, ‘how do the girls fare?’
-Theresa Plummer-Andrews, Head of Children’s Acquisitions and Creative Development-BBC
I first met Anna when I joined TVS after they had won the franchise for the ITV south and southeast region. Anna was in charge of children’s programming and head of the Maidstone Studios, and hadn’t really a clue as to who I was, but was aware that in a previous job I had bought programming from overseas. One morning, she just dumped some cassettes on my desk and said, ‘have a look at those and tell me what they’re like.’ As I had never had much to do with children’s programming before, I felt this was very brave of her-and she didn’t leave much room for argument anyway! However, this is how she started my career in children’s programming.
During the TVS days and thereafter at BBC, Anna has raised the profile of BBC children’s programs on a worldwide basis; defended children’s right to have a schedule that is totally dedicated to them; crossed boundaries with the range of programming supplied by BBC to the British audience; pushed through many new international initiatives, including drama co-productions and the first EBU animated co-production, which has since evolved into a second; initiated the highly successful BBC Children’s International venture with BBC Worldwide; approved the first-ever block of BBC children’s programming to be seen on another channel. . . . I could go on.
It hasn’t always been easy, but you’ve got to give it to the girl. She’s a fighter!
-John M. Mills, executive producer-Telemagination
‘Do you think there is any way European animation studios can be persuaded to work together?’ Anna Home’s question may seem surprising in today’s world of co-production deal making, but in 1987 it was clear she did not expect an unqualified ‘yes’ from the independent producers to whom her question was addressed.
Telemagination’s founders-myself and Elphin Lloyd-Jones-were proud of the independent status of our small British studio and had no doubt that most other European independents felt the same. Nevertheless, we were keen to explore any possibilities that might enlarge the operation.
‘No single broadcaster can really afford to fund major animation series on their own anymore,’ Anna said with that well-known air of finality that is one of her trademarks. ‘We need to be able to share the costs between at least three countries-more if possible,’ she said. ‘But most of them will want to give the work to their own nationals. How far can one project be split between different studios?’
Mental pictures of interminable wrangling across the cultural and national frontiers of Europe would have been enough to deter even the sunniest optimists, but Anna Home was not alone in her thinking. Already the foundations were being laid for the European Community’s media initiative, with a special place being marked out for animation in CARTOON.
However, for Anna Home and her counterparts elsewhere in Europe, there was a ready-made mechanism for international co-production. The EBU, based in Geneva, had a long and distinguished track record of serving its broadcast members with Eurovision co-productions. Now, for the first time, it would provide the framework for a major children’s production in animation.
In Cologne, WDR had acquired the rights to a British book, The Animals of Farthing Wood. Already in translation in a number of European territories, the story focuses on the way animals learn to co-operate in order to survive in an increasingly hostile world-a fitting theme for European children who might be tempted to follow more narrow national interests.
Anna Home gave the project her considerable energy and support, and when she assumed the chair of the influential EBU children’s steering committee, she was in a position to put into practice the vision that she had articulated in 1987. The answers came quickly enough.
With 18 public-service broadcasters joining in the first series co-production consortium, Anna’s committee delegated creative decisions to two executive producers-one British, Theresa Plummer-Andrews (BBC), and one German, Enrico Platter (WDR).
Two production companies were nominated-Telemagination in London and La Fabrique in Montpellier (the work was later continued by the same French team in Praxinos). The music would be composed and performed by the WDR orchestra in Germany. Each broadcaster would take care of their own language dubbing/subtitling of a project that started out as 13 half-hours, but grew over almost five years of production to a total of 39 episodes. During that time, there were inevitable occasions when differences of culture and creative emphasis raised questions among the consortium partners. But throughout, it was Anna Home’s overall vision of the project and her instinctive feel for the young audiences she was aiming to serve that provided the focus for the creative team.
This was to be a European project in its look and feel. It was to be produced solely by European talent, and its primary audience was European, although it has subsequently enjoyed considerable success elsewhere.
Farthing Wood proved that international co-production d’es work-though few others have attempted to harness the resources and co-operation of so many different partners. A large measure of its success must be laid at the door of Anna Home, without whose diplomacy and strong creative drive the project might all too easily have lost its focus and clarity of purpose.
In the end, Anna answered her own question: An international co-production is indeed possible. More than that, it is now an almost inevitable part of the TV animation mix. But with the considerable pitfalls that await the unwary, it is only with clearest vision of the type for which Anna is famous that co-production can deliver the desired quality on time and on budget.
-Andrea Wonfor, Joint Managing Director-Granada Productions
Anna Home is an extraordinary talent and an extraordinary woman. She combines the toughness and clarity of thought of the seasoned professional with a great eye for the unexpected and a talent for fun that shows in her work in children’s programming, and occasionally in her own life.
I remember a children’s conference in the early ’80s at Granada in Manchester, hosted by the unrivaled party-man Steve Leahy (now chief executive of Action Time). The conference ended with an evening’s entertainment, including the chance to ride on a particularly vicious bucking bronco machine, with money going to charity for every minute you managed to stay on.
One after the other, a number of high-ranking TV executives slipped out of the saddle and flew in an undignified way through the air to crash onto the ground. Not Anna Home. Firmly astride the beast, she withstood every twist and turn, even cheekily waving at the stunned onlookers with one hand. A woman of true grit!
I’m sorry I haven’t a photo of that evening for the archives.
(Anna commissioned Byker Grove from Andrea Wonfor when she set up Zenith North in Newcastle. The series is still running very successfully nearly 10 years later.)
-Stephen Whittle, formerly Head of Religious Programs-BBC TV
I first got to know Anna in the wastelands of BBC Television Centre, where children’s programs and religious programs occupied the heights of the East Tower. We always baked in summer and froze in winter. Sometimes, I felt it summed up what the BBC felt about ‘minority’ programming.
Anna’s reputation had, of course, preceded her. She was coming home after her commercial exile with TVS. It was very clear, very fast that Anna was not going to let anyone think of children’s programming as minority. For her, it was the beginning and the end of everything. I could only watch in admiration as she fought her corner, and took on all comers from channel controllers to managing directors and heads of sport. And she won.
Under her leadership, children’s programs were a force to reckon with. She extended her airtime, launched a hundred new initiatives, developed exciting and groundbreaking approaches. But it was never for the sake of empire. It was children who came first. Anna had a shrewd idea of her audience, their likes and dislikes. She encouraged her producers to do likewise.
Anna will be remembered above all for children’s drama, which straddled the safe and reassuring, as well as the exciting and the dangerous. But she should also be celebrated for encouraging the careers of many talented young presenters, especially young women and young blacks. Children’s programs were the first to show the new Britain back to itself.
For myself, I learned how to do battle on behalf of another minority. I was nowhere near as successful, but everything I know I owe to Anna.
-Lewis Rudd, Senior Executive Producer-Children’s Programs-Carlton Television
It is difficult for someone who has known Anna for as long as I have to sum her up with just one story. And we do go back a long way. Nearly 40 years ago, we were fellow students at Oxford University, both studying modern history (although I don’t think we ever actually met!). And, a bit later, in 1980, when the incumbent company in the south of England, Southern Television, lost its franchise to a new consortium, Anna was my opposite number in that new company, and thus pinched my job-in the nicest possible way!
What I would like to stress about Anna are two things: her persistence and her radicalism. At the time she created the storytelling program Jackanory, children’s drama had been taken away from the BBC’s children’s department. Anna, through the medium of Jackanory, managed to get children’s drama back where it belonged. She followed that achievement by creating what I think must be the longest-running children’s drama series in television history, Grange Hill. In that program, and in many others, Anna, both as producer and as executive, has taken children’s programs into areas that at one time would have been thought impossible to tackle-and she has always dealt very calmly and logically with the inevitable flack that these developments caused. Indeed, even as I write this, she is parrying attacks on Teletubbies, Ragdoll’s innovative new preschool program for the BBC.
And just one short anecdote about her courage: In the early 1980s, ITV held a conference on children’s programs at Granada Television in Manchester. The after-dinner entertainment consisted of a mechanical bucking bronco, and Granada’s managing director had promised a pound to a children’s charity for each person who dared to ride on the thing. I must confess that I hid behind one of my producers, while Anna gallantly earned the pound.
-Patricia Edgar, Director-Australian Children’s Television Foundation
I first met Anna at PRIX JEUNESSE more than a decade ago. Since that time, we have met often at many locations around the world, and I have had the opportunity to experience Anna’s commitment to the production of diverse, high-quality, challenging programs for children in many contexts.
In the face of increasing commercial demands, Anna’s view usually prevails because she has the right combination of idealism, pragmatism, stamina, determination and diplomacy. Anna also knows how to fight-she can say ‘no’ more firmly than anyone I know. But she also likes to party. We’ve eaten our way through some excellent cuisine together from New York to Manila to Andros. After the final dinner at The First World Summit on Television for Children in Melbourne, Anna was asked how she enjoyed the Australian wine. ‘Too much,’ she replied.
Her contribution to children has been immense. Her influence will be felt for many years to come.
-Eina McHugh, Director-The Second World Summit on Television for Children
Anna Home is the chair of The Second World Summit on Television for Children, which is scheduled for March 9 to 13, 1998, in London. I have had the great honor of working on the summit with her over the last year.
The Second World Summit is a complex, fascinating, exciting project that follows The First World Summit on Television for Children (so brilliantly organized in 1995 by The Australian Children’s Television Foundation). It takes courage and commitment to chair a new company, to set oneself the task of raising £2 million within a two-year time period and to host a major summit that will offer high-quality training masterclasses, workshops, public debates and seminars to 1,000 delegates.
All of this work has been undertaken by Anna Home with determination, passion, clear-sightedness and unflagging energy. Her knowledge and experience in children’s television is legendary, and she leads the Summit team with her extraordinary insight and understanding of children’s television throughout the world. Most of all, her leadership has integrity and vision. The future of quality children’s television is a subject that fires her and, in turn, she inspires others with her authority and commitment to quality. She is powerful in the truest sense of the word, and she uses her power for the service of others, shaping it with a strong sense of values and fairness.
In comparison to many of the other people offering tributes, I realize that my working relationship with Anna has not been a long one. But I appreciate my great good fortune in having had an opportunity to work alongside her and to learn from her.
I have enjoyed every minute of it!
Anna Home is unique in the world of children’s television and no one else is more deserving of a tribute celebrating her outstanding qualities.
-Linda Kahn, Senior Vice President-Programming and Distribution-Scholastic Productions
I always wanted to meet Anna Home. Years ago, as a brand-new acquisitions executive, I’d heard about her and seen her name in the credits of many programs I had screened. In fact, I licensed a series she produced long before we ever met. Over the years, I’ve admired and respected her enormous contributions and have come to regard Anna as a valued friend.
Anna takes her views seriously, putting children first. As an executive and as a producer, Anna has always taken risks, experimenting with new types of programs. Her productions embrace a child’s viewpoint. She’s given preschoolers to teens a full range of programs-extraordinary, award-winning drama, news, groundbreaking animation, comedy and game shows.
As a leader, Anna advocates a world view. Her genuine concern for improving the quality of children’s television is felt in the U.K. and around the world. Her concern is not only with the present, but also with the future and how current trends in public policy will impact children’s TV. Her example and her commitment are sources of inspiration. As an advocate for quality children’s TV, she possesses a rare combination: the ability to influence decision makers and to delight kids.
-Helen Cresswell, Writer
I have known and worked with Anna for something like 30 years. She is both a personal, family friend and a work colleague. The two are kept almost entirely separate, but the Anna I see in both roles is exactly the same. In other words, she has integrity. I have never known her to compromise on quality or to dodge a possibly contentious issue. She is tireless in her pursuit of excellence. I am told by others who know her that she is also an astute politician. I wouldn’t know. This is a side of her I have never seen, but I’m sure it’s true. How else could she have survived so much change and challenge, and come through with her own agenda still intact? An agenda for which generations of children-and parents-should give thanks.
As a friend, she is generous and loyal, calm in crises (often precipitated by myself!) and she makes me laugh. We share a passion for reading, and endlessly discuss books and writers. She is now mentor to my first grandchild, and in the whole world, there is no one I can think of better to instill a sense of true values, and to share a life-enhancing conviction that the world is a good place and that we can take our place in it in the hope of making it even better. And have fun!
I admire Anna hugely. She seems to me to be a true citizen of a world in which I myself have often felt a stranger. She g’es out and deals with it, while I stay at home and write about it.
I salute her.
-Tony McLaren, Managing director-McLaren Entertainment
In 1981, Anna Home was controller of children’s programming for a new ITV network company called Television South.
I met her at a pitch meeting before she even had an office. She was carrying two large suitcases, which she said were both stacked full of ideas. They were empty. However, the meeting went so well that Anna had the confidence and courage to let me create and produce my first kids series, On Safari, a comedy/game show set in a studio jungle along with a disgusting bog and real wild animals! The show was such a network success that it ran for three years and even today, people still stop the host in the street with the catchphrase ‘Safari So Goody!’
Anna then had me produce an innovative teen drama series, Radio, set in a local radio station, which again was an amazingly vibrant and exciting show, well ahead of its time.
Anna is someone who gives her producers two invaluable assets: time and space. Time to experiment, learn, then really succeed. Space to grow, improve and excel.
She remains a close friend to this day and I wish her well in her continuing career. I cannot believe she will really ever retire. It has been my privilege to work for Anna in the past, and I think it’s my turn to pay for the next lunch!
-Geraldine Laybourne, president-Disney/ABC cable networks
In 1982, Nickelodeon had 1.5 million subscribers, no viewers, a handful of programs and no image. We were the newcomers at MIP-TV, and frankly, the only thing we had going for us was that we were from America.
One of the first meetings we had was with a company called TVS, where Anna Home was then a principal. We fell in love with a show-The Haunting of Cassie Palmer-and we fell in love with Anna. She took us under her wing, this giant of children’s TV, and over several lunches, she schooled us in the ‘Homesian’ view of kids TV.Six of her principles struck a chord: (1) start with respecting your audience and end with respecting your creators; (2) get the best talent you can to work on shows for kids; (3) get the resources to do it first-class; (4) don’t be afraid to show real kids with real problems; (5) avoid sugary sweetness wherever possible; and (6) don’t forget kids deserve a sense of humor.At a stage in the U.S. when no one was talking about kids as a smart audience, our discussions with Anna brought hope and reassurance to us in our brave quest to do something different for American kids.For me personally, the lack of female executive role models in U.S. TV was also an issue. Anna and I would swap management stories and do a lot of eye rolling about this, but in the end, we encouraged each other to manage differently. When Anna and I got together, especially in those early years, I felt so much better knowing that I wasn’t alone in my concerns for kids or about the management process.Anna’s generosity with ideas and good wishes puts her on a pedestal above others.-Vanessa Chapman, controller, children’s and youth-ITVAnna Home is a remarkable person.For as long as I can remember, her name has been synonymous with quality children’s television.She inspires with her passion and determination to achieve high standards and recognition for a genre that, sadly, some people take for granted or misguidedly undervalue.She has a commanding presence and is not frightened to stand up for what she believes in. I have enjoyed battling it out with her over the last few years in this increasingly competitive environment. She has been a formidable opponent.But, although we are on rival channels, I shall remember working together with Anna on the forthcoming World Summit on Television for Children with affection. I wish her all the very best for her future.* * *Anna Home: Career at a Glance1960
Joined the BBC as a radio studio manager in external broadcasting.1965
Moved to children’s television as the corporation’s television production expanded in preparation for the launch of BBC2.1965-1981
Rose to become executive producer in charge of children’s drama and introduced such series as Grange Hill.1981-1986
Joined regional broadcaster TVS as the deputy director of programs at ITV.1985
Won the Pye Award for distinguished services to children’s television.1986
Returned to BBC as head of children’s programs.1993
Wrote a book on the history of children’s programs, called Into The Box of Delights, and was made an officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE).1996
Won the Women in Film and Television lifetime achievement award.1997
Her last year at the BBC. Next year, she will chair The Second World Summit on Television for Children.