First an Apology…
It’s been nearly a year since we contacted our supporters and for that we apologise. However I think that many of you will have seen or heard our forays in the press and on the radio. And we certainly haven’t been inactive. In fact the amount of lobbying we’ve been doing is our excuse for not being in touch for so long.
What’s Been Occuring…
Working with our allies in PACT, the VLV and the entertainment unions, we were in contact with politicians of all three main parties during the run-up to the election. Meetings with Shadow Broadcasting Minister Ed Vaizey produced clarity, though not much support for our campaign to create a funded solution to the crisis in kids’ content provision. The Lib-Dems were supportive but pessimistic that additional money could be found at a time of financial constraint. After various submissions over the last 12 months to the DCMS as part of the “Digital Britain” process, it became apparent that while there was clear understanding of the issues amongst government officials and politicians, in the end very little appeared in the Digital Economy Bill. The most it could muster for kids was a reference to extending Channel 4’s remit to address the 10+ audience but with no extra money from public funds.
However at our meeting with the then Culture Secretary, Ben Bradshaw, a small chink of light appeared. Bradshaw was busy trying to get the Digtal Economy Bill through Parliament before the election was called, and he was hoping for support for the Labour proposal that money from the TV Licence Fee should be used to fund regional news programmes on commercial TV. This was to start as a pilot in a couple of regions, and then be extended. The pilot would be funded from money left-over from an add-on to the licence fee which was intended to give assistance for disadvantaged groups, like the elderly, to make the switch to digital TV. Take-up had been low and the uderspend was planned to finance the proposed pilot. Thereafter the idea was to maintain the additional element in the Licence Fee rather than reducing it after digital switchover (which was the original plan) there would be a continuing stream of extra funds available, some of which could be used to pay for regional news programming across the country.
Note the word “some”. At his meeting with us, Bradshaw made it clear that his next priority for this “digital dividend” would be additional funding for children’s programmes. This is of course what Save Kids’ TV has been advocating for the last two years – a funded public service alternative, providing plurality, healthy competition for the BBC, and greater range, variety and choice for our kids.
However, as soon as the election was called, the Digital Economy Bill disappeared into the political haggling called the “washup”, which allows certain parts of legislation to be nodded through if the opposition parties agree. And the Tories did not agree with the regional news pilot proposals. So they died. And along with them the glimmer of hope for a funded solution.
So now we start afresh with new ministers and a renewed vigour. We need to get them to not only agree that there is a problem – that our kids are facing diminished choice and are in danger of being marginalised in their own media, (which most politicians understand now) but also to decide to do something about it (whch most are reluctant about). We will work with our campaign allies at the Party Conferences, and lobby the DCMS directly. The new Culture Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has professed a strong interest in the fortunes of the creative industries. We need to capitalise on that and persuade him that these industries need support if we are to maintain a healthy media diet for our kids.
We’re also lobbying for the creation of a new Parliamentary cross-party group dedicated to children’s media. We are looking for sympathetic MPs and Lords from across the political specturm to help form this. If you feel you could help the campaign, now would be a good time to write to your new MP to ask where they stand on the question of providing additional funds for better public service media provision for kids. You could send them theSave Kids’ TV proposal and ask them to back calls for the all-party group.
We’ll try to keep you informed – and we are welcoming volunteers to join us in these activites. Please contact our Secretary, Greg Childs on admin@:savekidstv.org.uk if you think you can help in any way – contacts, experience in lobbying, or more general help with running the organisation – all would be more than welcome.