Planet Preschool

Plus ça Change…

By Greg Childs, Guest Blogger The recent merry-go-round of execs vacating and taking top jobs in UK kids’ media has left this industry-watcher a bit breathless.   What does it mean for ...
June 1, 2010

By Greg Childs, Guest Blogger

The recent merry-go-round of execs vacating and taking top jobs in UK kids’ media has left this industry-watcher a bit breathless.   What does it mean for us mere mortals?

I thought I should maybe start by summarising who’s been through the revolving doors in the last few months.

First Howard Litton announced his departure as MD at Nick UK.  So far he’s the only exec not to have re-emerged in another role but that’s only a matter of time.  Then Finn Arnesen left Cartoon Network, to be replaced temporarily by ex-Turner staffer, Tina McCann, who has now popped up as the new Nickelodeon MD.  Meanwhile CBeebies Controller, Michael Carrington, jumps over to Turner to head up Content for EMEA there…are you following me so far?

At the BBC they have a new Director of Children’s, Joe Godwin – a popular choice amongst the staff there.  And with Carrington turned Turner, Kay Benbow takes up the CBeebies commissioning role, with Damian Kavanagh still at the helm at the older channel, CBBC.  Steven Andrew (ex-CITV and ITV digital channels) is now in a new role running all the in-house production for CBBC – across drama, entertainment and factual, and the final piece in the jigsaw  – who’ll get Kay Benbow’s old job, heading up CBeebies production and acquisitions?

And what became of Finn?  Well he showed up just recently, running the European arm of the new Hasbro/Discovery Kids, The Hub.

So for all the talk of an industry in decline there’s still a thriving trade in executive positions.  And with Kidsco planning to launch and talk of a new online delivery service for locally produced content, there’s also no shortage of outlets for kids’ programming.  But funding in the UK remains tight and apart from the BBC, the major commissioning forces have retreated.

It’s been “all-change” too at the conference I run.  Formerly known as “Showcomotion,” (why do I keep thinking of “Purple Rain?”) the Children’s Media Conference has been re-branded to “tell it like it is on the tin” and re-positioned as a not-for-profit company with the stated aim of looking after the interests of UK kids by building the capacities of the media industries which serve them.  It’s allowed us to expand our ambitions and we’ve already provided a series of seminars for producers and interactive specialists based in the north of England to consider whether and how they might enter the kids’ market, as the BBC plans its 2011 Salford move of Children’s and Learning – including the commissioners.  I wonder if Josh has taken out that lease on Little Airplane offices in Manchester yet?

We still love our Sheffield base for the annual conference so we’ll be back there again June 30th – July 2nd with our unique approach to content.  It’s very much the product of the collective brains of the industry – with the theme developed by our amazing Advisory Committee of 20+ industry luminaries, and then each individual session or event produced by volunteers from the various sectors we serve.  Our cross-platform approach now extends from TV through radio, film and interactive media, to games, licensing, toys and book and magazine publishing.  The fact that conferences covering other genres are now starting to reflect this mix makes us smile.  We know we got there first.

We had to.  Because the kids’ industry was amongst the first to be bit by the seismic changes affecting the way we all work, do business and build our relationships with the audience.  We feel that only by developing new partnerships, sharing skills and experience, spending some time to learn what’s vital about storytelling, or compelling about play, and seeking out creative innovation and new business models, can our industry hope to survive and maybe even thrive.

So, plus ça change, plus c’est le même chose?  It remains to be seen if, after the musical chairs, our top movers and shakers can re-energise UK kids’ media.  We do know they’ll all be in Sheffield, along with around 450 others who care about kids and content, and the conference will be all about change;  understanding it, embracing it and working out how through it we can make a positive impact on kids’ lives.  All this and Henry “the Fonz” Winkler giving the opening keynote address.  Can you afford to miss it?

And remember Josh, Sheffield is so convenient for property-hunting in Manchester…

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