KidScreen recently reported on an initiative, launched here in the U.K. by a group of independent animators, to lobby the British government for financial support in the form of tax incentives and production levies.
Such support has existed, of course, for many years in a number of countries, and is intended not only to support indigenous animation but also to encourage local production in other programming genres like drama and documentary.
At the Second World Summit on Television for Children, which took place in London earlier this year, much of the debate focused on how children’s programming would continue to be funded in an increasingly competitive world.
While there can be no doubt that kids television is big business-video, licensing and merchandising in particular, can reap significant financial rewards, for rights holders and broadcasters benefit both directly and indirectly from high viewing figures and program profile-nevertheless the perennial issue is how to ensure the continuing existence of a rich diversity of quality programming which even the most cynical amongst us would acknowledge to be essential, for cultural as well as commercial reasons. In some countries, we are able to fall back on legislation which has been introduced with the intention of protecting this diversity, in some measure at least, and whilst we might debate the efficacy of such legislation, it continues to exist.
But let’s imagine a televisual world where there are no subsidies, no legislation, no designated children’s schedules or slots, where the word `window’ remains simply an architectural term.
This parallel universe exists, of course, and at the World Summit, a number of its inhabitants were engaged in what, at times, seemed like a parallel debate. Mary Robinson, UN Commissioner for Human Rights, spoke eloquently in her keynote address about the potential of television in children’s lives-in Africa, television will have replaced radio as the primary mass communications medium within a decade, and many practitioners continue to publicly voice concern that an increasingly homogenized Western media will stifle local production and cultural diversity.
Naturally such debates could never be resolved during one five-day conference. But the World Summit did promote action as well as talk. Chris Grace, from S4C (Channel Four Wales), launched an innovative and truly international co-production, to which participants contribute what they can afford. This series of 26 animated tales will bring together broadcasters and creative producers from highly industrialized nations such as the U.S., as well as from developing countries, and each story will be indigenous to the country in which it is made.
This project, along with producer Anne Wood’s `Open A Door’, which has been operating for some years now, are both pioneering ventures, actively promoting cross-cultural collaboration while maintaining cultural integrity. And they mark only the beginning of what we could achieve if we really took up the challenge.
Lucinda Whiteley is Senior VP, production for PolyGram Visual Programming and was vice chair of the Second World Summit on Television for Children, which took place in London in March 1998.