None of us are professional lobbyists and it’s been ‘interesting’ learning how to navigate around Westminster and the various broadcasting Powers That Be:

“Children’s TV, ah you want Culture Media and Sport” …

…“Oh, Children’s TV: that would be Children, Schools and Families”…

“Oh that would be Education.” …

Is children’s media just a Media Industry Thing? Or an Education Thing?  Or a Biz Thing?  Moshi Monsters has a strong public service ethos at its heart but is raking in huge sums.  As the most powerful communication tool we have, what about children’s media being an Equality Thing?  When she was Minister for Equality, Harriet Harmon, talked about reaching disenfranchised young people.  Even the most disenfranchised have a telly.  When I was a girl, I discovered Persian poetry through a Rocky and Bullwinkle Cartoon – The Ruby Yacht of Omar Khayyam!

I’m not talking here about preaching, or social engineering but INVESTMENT in different voices and ideas, giving people a choice and a chance to engage with the society they’re part of.    Oh, so maybe it’s a Home Office Thing?  It’s definitely a Democratic Thing.   So when the then Minister for Culture Media and Sport Ben Bradshaw suggested to SKTV an all-party parliamentary group for kids’ media, we saw an opportunity to bring all these departments and interests together and ‘join the dots’ to make a Very Useful Thing.  We thought we’d run with it.

The initial support I found at all three party conferences last autumn was strengthened over the winter months with Baroness Benjamin and MPs Lisa Nandy and Tom Watson getting behind the project.  We developed and shaped it until last June in the House of Lords we held the inaugural meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Children’s Media and The Arts.  With support from over 60 MPs and Peers, and me, on behalf of SKTV, to administrate, the plan is to arrange a programme of events that feed into the debates about children’s media and the arts, giving parliamentarians information and insight on a range of issues.  The first meeting came hot on the heels of Reg Bailey’s Report into the commercialisation and Sexualisation of childhood, so we were able to bring in one of the contributors, Ian Douthwaite of Dubit Limited, who delivered an incredibly well researched presentation on what children are really up to online.  The parliamentarians that attended were astonished and clearly wanted to pursue some of the issues raised in both houses.

You’ll notice that the Group’s interest includes all media and arts.  Just as the parliamentarians across the parties and the departments need to join the dots, so Save Kids’ TV recognises that children’s cultural entitlement is about more than just the screen: theatre, books, music, fine arts, comics, cartoons.  We have always had strong links with organisations such as Action For Children’s Arts and The Writers’ Guild and the APPG offers us the chance to come together and support one another’s endeavours in Westminster.

So I’m feeling a little proud that we have this new group off the ground.  Save Kids’ TV is tiny, run completely by volunteers and on a mouse’s shoestring. But what we have is a vision and the tenacity to get it done.  I’m hardly starry eyed though – Westminster is a crazy place and saying something and doing it are two very different things.  Nevertheless we have opportunities we didn’t have before.  Over the years, I’ve written to ministers and eventually got back the stock answers and then been forgotten.  But questions asked in either house, written and oral, recorded in Hansard have to be taken more seriously.  There are many MPs and Peers that genuinely and passionately care about children and their needs.  The APPG gives us an opportunity to serve them; bringing information, insight and helpful contacts so that they can serve our young people and their media and maybe actually get things done.

Jayne Kirkham

Autumn 2011