Briefing Notes: Children’s Media
Fresh Start Productions/FYI: firstname.lastname@example.org (creative director)
First News: email@example.com (editor)
Paul is newly appointed Editor of Newsround which is the CBBC’s daily news show aimed at children aged 7-12. There are three bulletins a day. He was brought in from BBC Sport to expand its digital presence and many of its reports that are now only shown online or on iPlayer. The TV bulletin tends to focus more on entertainment, gaming, sport. The more serious content can be found online. They run 20-25 digital pieces a day and he has a big team of 45 people. On any given day he will have six reporters out making original content.
There is a limited budget for foreign trips. Paul spoke about a 10 day filming trip to the Mexican border where they shot a number of stories. They will do three big foreign trips like this every year. On the Mexican trip they made four short films for iPlayer. The main focus of all their international coverage is children and children’s perspectives.
Children are at the heart of all their coverage. They have a regular meeting with a group of children who act as a focus group – it was their interest in Trump that led Newsround to do a set of stories on the US-Mexican border wall. One of these films followed a seven year old and her family who were part of the caravan. They had travelled for 3 months to reach the border and were now being held in a holding camp. Another story featured students from Mexico attending a school, just over the border in the US. The Mexican shoot included video diaries – something that FYI are also keen on.
Paul is working to expand the online audience – at present a quarter come direct to the Newsround site (there is no app) and the average viewer consumes 9 pieces of content; a quarter come from social or search and a half come from other parts of the BBC. Discovery is a huge challenge and they work closely with other BBC outlets to drive audiences to their content.
Newsround has a strong presence in schools and many children in IBT’s recent research said they had watched Newsround in the classroom.
He’s open to working with NGOs and hearing their story suggestions – these could be for forthcoming overseas shoots. He’s keen that all their content sees the world through children’s eyes so when pitching to him and his colleagues, concentrate on the child’s perspective and give them a specific case study of a child who they could feature. Newsround are also open to using NGO footage.
FYI has been going for six months, it is Sky’s weekly children’s news show, shown free to air on Sky News and available for Sky Kids subscribers through catch up or the app. It’s also shown on the First News website as First News is one of the partners working with FYI. Its target audience is 10-14 year olds but younger children watch too. Shy believes there is a strong interest among children in global events and the viewing figures for FYI are good. They are getting 4m downloads of the show every week. Sky Kids have 6m subscribers. There are plans to expand the scope of the show, if funding is forthcoming.
FYI is different from Newsround as all the presenters are children and one of the key features of the show is the children discussing items in the news. All the stories feature children or a child’s perspective. Their Our World strand hears from a child in another country. These interviews are often shot by partners or NGOs. Chris showed a clip of an Our World item from Venezuela featuring a boy who lived in Caracas. The boy was filmed for FYI by an NGO based in Venezuela. The show has a limited budget for foreign filming. FYI use children as reporters on their foreign shoots. They are just back from a shoot in Uganda/Kenya/Namibia/South Africa on which they filmed six Our Worlds and other material for a documentary on Prince William and his wildlife charity.
Another regular strand on FYI is called I Don’t Get It which offers an explainer of an issue in the news – Brexit, Islamic State etc. Chris said it was a real skill to explain these complicated events in a language that is accessible to children and not patronising. There is also a strand called Check This Out where the presenters sit with their tablets and talk about items that have caught their attention – a recent topic of conversation was the school climate change protests.
FYI is building up its presence in schools and has plans to produce support materials for use in the classroom.
In addition to FYI, Fresh Start makes documentaries for the CBBC My Life strand and for a range of broadcasters. Recent examples of My Life films, which they’ve made, include one on a 12 year old boy living on the streets of Delhi. He and his friends set up a newspaper for street kids and Fresh Start followed him investigating child labour in India. Another film told the story of America’s youngest anti-gun campaigner. They also make content for an adult audience that focuses on children – for example a recent Panorama special on child prostitution.
FYI are open to working with NGOs. They already do a lot on child rights with Unicef. The best opportunity is with the Our World strand so if you are thinking of pitching you should identify a child that could be interviewed for the show. You would need to shoot the interview and let them edit it. There would be no NGO credit given, but if a longer item was filmed then the NGO would be name checked. Chris emphasised that whilst FYI could show NGO footage they would need to edit it themselves. They could not go on NGO funded trips as this would contravene Sky’s guidelines for editorial independence.
Ideas should be pitched to Chris and he will pass them on to the relevant person.
The Week Junior
It’s a weekly magazine that is the sister publication to The Week. It can be bought in the shops or on subscription – they have 67,000 subscribers and are the fastest growing magazine in the UK. Schools also subscribe. The magazine was set up four years ago and sees its role as making sense of the world for children. They will take complex issues and explain them in a way that children understand. Their core audience is 10-12 years olds but the magazine is read by a wider age range – 8-14.
They have an online presence via Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but on social media they are mainly trying to connect with parents. There is no website as their USP is that they are a magazine. They also use social media for a dialogue with their audience, running regular opinion polls for example. They have no editorial line – their philosophy is that children should make up their own minds about issues. Each week they run a Big Debate strand – asking serious questions like should there be a second referendum or should we start eating insects – and more trivial questions like should adults be allowed to dance (answer no).
Anna said that parents value advice from the magazine about how to talk to children about controversial issues. She said that children cannot hide away from the News so parents often seek help as they are not quite sure how to frame events in a way that works for children. Anna, like all the speakers, agreed that writing for children is a particular skill. Her background is in children’s magazines not news – she was editor of Thomas the Tank Engine magazine.
Anna is keen to hear from NGOs and suggested that they target the Explainer which is a two page spread on a topical issue, which highlights a child’s perspective. They have featured Yemen in this section of the magazine.