Creating an open, more distinctive BBC…


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With evidence of such marked public preference for a DAB network for young children, the Sound Start Group responded to the BBC Trust’s Review of the Asian Network  proposing that this scarce bandwidth could more cost efficiently target young children and families across all ethnic groups which would increase listenership, promote DAB take up in homes and cars, and encourage greater social cohesion – as reported in the Telegraph.

The BBC aims to spend £150m on New Ideas.  Changing the Asian Network to a Children’s service would make sound economic and social sense.

There are concerns that BBC Children’s may be targeted for wholesale transfer to internet delivery via iPlay but to confine this vulnerable audience to online only or commercial pressure is to rob them of the rights and choices in publicly owned free-to-air platforms enjoyed by adults.  To use BBC Children’s as a shoe-in for commercial interests, top slicing and contestable funding, over and above other PSB services is plainly unfair.

 Professor Jeanette Steemers warns in BBC Charter Review and children’s content: beware the Trojan horse!   “… the overall tone of the Green Paper seems to be lining up children’s programming as a potential Trojan horse to cut the BBC down to size”.

Children are a deserving audience today and the consumers and creators of tomorrow. They may not pay the licence fee but equitable investment in them is fundamental to the purpose and future of the BBC.  Notwithstanding decisions on funding, governance and size, the new BBC Charter must make full and fair provision for children to remain at the heart of public service broadcasting on all platforms, including radio. This will continue to set high standards and distinguish the BBC from other broadcasters.

In closing we make three suggestions:

  1. Re-title the TV Licence as Public Service Broadcasting [PSB] Licence, to properly record that this public funding covers radio, internet and any future platforms.
  1. Conduct a transparent in depth study into the purpose and value of PSB radio for children, with a view to safeguarding children’s rights and needs in all BBC strategy.
  1. To inform the study: Adopt the Asian Network to pilot a two year service of music; song; story; rhyme; quizzes; games and information for families with pre and primary school children, mixing BBC and other archive with new content. Publicise widely.

In the unlikely failure to engage this audience in sufficient numbers the service could move to annual subscription of 50p [less than a penny a week] per child. Disadvantaged families and cared for children could be subsidised via family charities; Lottery grant;  BBC Licence fees and/or the DfEE and DCMS                                                                                                                                        Do the math!                                                                                                                                    

Documents relied on

Susan Stranks,  Coordinator                                                                                    03/11/2015  


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