Cinekid reports: Children's Media Conference (CMC)

In the first week of July Nienke Poelsma, Head of CfP, and Emma O’Hare, Conference programmer, travelled to Sheffield to immerse themselves in three days of keynotes, workshops and panel discussions at the Children’s Media Conference.

During this 14th edition of the conference the central theme was ‘Open’ and offered no less than 60 sessions with topics ranging from ‘Character Building and Play Patterns in Digital’ to ‘Fake News and False Friendships’ and the ‘Ethics of VR’.

This year’s opening keynote was all about BBC's future plans for children's content, funding, regulation and relationships with the rest of the kids' media industry. It included the big reveal that BBC will have an extra £34 million of funding for kids over the next three years to be invested mainly in digital.

The CMC very much wanted to make clear that despite Brexit developments, the UK’s children’s media industry is still very much open to collaboration and knowledge exchange with other countries. Hence the conference theme: Open. We were therefore glad to see we definitely weren’t the only non-UK participants to attend.

The panel ‘Friends Forever?’ questioned why (allegedly) the UK can’t produce feature films for kids. The Netherlands and Germany have both created successful feature production schemes by bringing public funders and broadcasters together. Sitting on the panel were Signe Zeilich Jensen (Children’s & Family Film Commissioner at the Netherlands Film Fund), Hedda Bruessing (Head of Media Business at Dutch Public Broadcaster NTR, collaborating via the initiative Cinema Junior), Margret Albers (Promotion of German Children’s Film) and Dr. Astrid Plenk (Editorial Director Children’s & Social at MDR) All shared their experiences of broadcasters and funders working together to finance children’s feature films. They stressed the importance of sharing stories for young audiences through film and the ‘long tail’ of the medium from which broadcasters can benefit. Hopefully these successful collaborations can serve as an example for the UK.

Another interesting session (entitled Attention Seekers) on how to engage the digital savvy 10-16 year-olds included a case study on the hugely successful series Skam from Norwegian Public Broadcaster NRK. Additionally we were also glad to see the University of Amsterdam included in the research sessions. Dr. Jessica Taylor Piotrowski presented insights from her newly published co-authored book Plugged-In: How Media Attract and Affect Youth, a highly recommended piece of research for all children’s media professionals.

Besides the many sessions, CMC is an excellent place to meet new people and inspiring makers to include in our own programming. This year we definitely succeeded and we are very excited shortly to be able to announce the first keynote speakers of the Professionals Conference. Stay tuned…