CBBC's Digital Future
is in pole position. With the go ahead for its two dedicated digital
channels, we are set to be in the lead as the digital age of childrens
television unfolds in the UK.
First for quality and
First for large scale
investment in UK and European production.
First for all children
however or wherever they watch television, log onto the web and join
the global community of which they are part.
I have been Controller
of CBBC for just over a year now, and the scale of what we do, and the
impact we have on childrens lives still inspires awe in me. Never
has there been a more exciting, more challenging or more daunting time
to be part of this incredibly successful team. Not only do we provide
an almost incomparable service to children throughout the UK, but we
have been successful in our bid to reach a multi-channel audience that
is not necessarily completely well-served at the moment.
CBBC is the worlds
largest dedicated childrens production department, with over three
hundred people working in areas from entertainment and drama to news
Our commitment and dedication
to making the best programming is well known and acknowledged not only
by our supporters but also by our competitors.
In an average month,
CBBC produces over thirty hours of childrens programming - five
hours of drama, sixteen hours of entertainment, ten hours of factual
and news, over an hour of animation and over three hours of pre-school
programming. In terms of overall transmission hours not as much as our
multi-channel competitors, but significantly outweighing their own expenditure
on original programming in the UK and far broader in terms of genre.
Soon, with the two new
channels as well as the existing analogue service we will broadcast
about eight hundred and sixty hours of programming in an average month.
This rich mix of programming
is made up of every genre found in any prime time schedule - drama,
entertainment, factual, and news - but made with the child audience
Drama should raise questions
and stimulate the viewer. Not only realise the fantasy and the magic
- as in Philip Pullmans I Was A Rat and Clive Kings Stig
Of The Dump - but also portray the real and the contemporary, tackling
difficult and often controversial subjects head on.
Grange Hill - celebrating
its twenty-fifth series in 2002 - tackled controversial yet relevant
subjects last season including rape, testicular cancer and Aspergers
Syndrome. The new series will handle topics such as parental bereavement
and childhood alcoholism. But Grange Hill is not all about "gloom
and doom". It resonates with every day school life. Not all children
are confronted with the harsher realities of life. But they all experience
the "Monday To Friday" routine of school, and this is the
foundation of Grange Hill - their real life.
Grange Hill must always
remain relevant to the audience. The twenty-fifth series affords us
a unique opportunity. To take a step back and look at what Grange Hill
has achieved and where it must go in the future. It must have the same
impact today as it had over twenty years ago when Anna Home first commissioned
it. It must remain as relevant today as when it launched.
Out Of The Ashes - based
on the childrens novel by Michael Morpurgo - recounted the devastating
effect that foot and mouth had on one small farm. When Nicci Crowther
from Pagoda Family approached Elaine Sperber and I with the idea of
translating this for the screen, we seized this opportunity. To make
a drama that spoke to children in their own language and from their
own point of view on what was still a topical and incredibly fresh subject.
The team turned this
project round in a matter of weeks. Not only did this underline our
public service role, but demonstrated that because of our resources
and flexibility, we could make this project a reality in such a short
space of time. It is a credit to those involved that BBC ONE repeated
this drama in a primetime Sunday afternoon slot.
entertainment is difficult. The audiences expectations in this
genre - more than anywhere else - are high, and we are constantly developing
new ideas and formats.
Take The Saturday Show.
It was commissioned for fifty two weeks - the first time that CBBC has
had an all-year-round Saturday series. Winning Saturday morning is not
going to be easy and I have never said it would be. But I have a great
team in place - passionate about what they are doing and building on
their experiences week on week. The proof is that the shows performance
is improving and The Saturday Show is here to stay.
Some other broadcasters
will find it tough to match CBBC when it comes to factual programming.
It is at the heart of our schedule. Short Change protects the rights
of the child as a consumer, and has exposed the scams that take advantage
of them. Take text messaging. We all do it, but children are the leaders
in this new way of communicating. But it is expensive because some operators
charge for messages that do not get through. Short Change revealed this
exclusively and the matter is now being looked into by OFTEL.
The provision of a dedicated
news service for children is unique to CBBC. I am not talking about
a series of thirty minute shows that is broadcast once a year, but about
Newsround - reporting news as it happens every week day. I cannot begin
to describe the scale of Newsround but it will be thirty years old next
year and has provided a daily bulletin almost every week day since John
Craven launched it. And in its new 5.25pm slot it is growing a bigger
audience, including a fair few adults. It has a team of twenty-five
journalists and send teams out across the globe. Recently Newsround
travelled to Pakistan and Afghanistan for a series of compelling reports
from Matthew Price as well as to the US.
Bolstered by a new online
site and you can begin to get an idea of how only CBBC could make daily
news provision for children a reality. Newsround has no peers and no
Our provision for the
pre-school audience is unsurpassed. We work with pre-school leaders
to make programming that is essential for this audiences development.
And I will be commissioning a third landmark preschool series by the
end of the year.
And the Animation Unit
at BBC Bristol now joins CBBC.
Animation is at a disadvantage
in the UK, not least of all because there is a lack of adequate funding.
In France and Canada, animators receive numerous incentives to ensure
their success. Here, animators are lobbying for similar advantages.
We will support this and by making the Animation Unit an integral part
of CBBC we hope to extend their remit, working with the team not only
to develop new ideas but also to manage all animation across the BBC.
I want to see the Animation Unit become a centre of excellence.
for the child audience is only one part of the equation. The other is
engaging the audience themselves and making their televisual experience
more active and participatory. Television should not always be a passive
experience. It should entertain, engage and stimulate - encourage participation
and empower the viewer.
This will set CBBC apart
from other childrens providers in the UK. There will be an immediacy
to CBBC that will be unrivalled.
All childrens channels
provide some form of presentation that binds the schedule together.
The recent appointment of Paul Smith as Head of CBBC On-Air - the man
who discovered Zoe Ball, Jamie Theakston and even Andi Peters - signals
that presentation is integral to CBBCs future and vital to our
success. Across analogue and digital, presentation will create an environment
in which the programmes will live.
For the pre-school viewers
presenters will perform songs, recite rhymes and tell stories, involving
and encouraging parents to continue these ideas when the television
is turned off.
For older children we
will adopt a more magazine style. The presenters will not
just tell the audience what is coming up next, but will have their own
editorial focus. These faces will be integrated into the programming
to create a seamless flow from presentation to programmes and back again.
And some of our programmes
go further as well - to meet the child halfway and create a community
where they can interact, have a voice and make a tangible difference.
The greatest and most
enduring example is Blue Peter. This series has been a cornerstone of
CBBC for over forty years - yet it is not an institution. It has remained
relevant to the audience by growing, developing and embracing change
with them and at their pace. It is an organic part of what we do. I
realised this when I visited the studio for the first time. On my first
day at the BBC, the show was broadcasting live and stepping onto the
set was a "hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck" moment. For me that
was the moment that I realised the huge power and responsibility that
comes from joining the CBBC team.
Up to three times a week,
fifty two weeks a year, over seven hundred thousand children - and a
few adults too - watch the four presenters and share in their experiences
and exploits, their travels and their discoveries. And Blue Peter takes
them even further with other projects such as the Blue Peter Book Awards
- a celebration of the written word - the Summer Roadshow that fifty
thousand people attended and the annual Appeal. Celebrating forty years
of child action this year, The Blue Peter Appeal has raised millions
of pounds and this year is working with Help The Aged to strengthen
the ties that bind young and old.
It would be easy just
say that Blue Peter fosters a sense of good citizenship - it does -
but more importantly it gives children a focal point in the world that
surrounds them and the unique opportunity to effect change.
I have already mentioned
Newsround because it gives an unparalleled window on the world. News
affects us all and we often forget how aware children are of the world
around them on both a local and global level.
This was so clearly demonstrated
by recent events in the United States on September 11th. Everyone was
touched by those tragic events, but only Newsround was there on the
"newsroom front line" for children. It reported the actual
events, explained the background and reached out to children to hear
from them. In a very special - and uniquely peak time - report, Terror
In America: Children Speak, Newsround listened to from children from
around the world.
But news is not one sided.
It is not just about a team of journalists sitting in a CBBC newsroom
and deciding what the stories are. Newsround has a two way dialogue
with the audience. The Newsround Press Packers are unique. There are
already forty thousand children who write and file stories for the daily
show and the website - another innovation from CBBC. Together with BBC
News Online, we have created a rolling, 365 day-a-year online news service.
This does not only deliver the headlines every minute of the day but
also the in-depth stories behind the headlines as well as the latest
from the worlds of entertainment, sports, science and technology.
Since it launched on
22nd October, the new site has received over three million hits.
If I had been giving
this speech about ten years ago, it would have been a very different
one. And I do not mean it terms of commitment, or quality of vision.
CBBC has always championed these values.
But rather in terms of
the marketplace. Then there was no "competitive arena". No
dedicated childrens channels. And no talk of a level playing field.
But the landscape has
changed. CBBC is not one of two television choices. We are one of many
and in some homes we are not the first choice either.
At any point in the day,
the audience can turn to other channels over and above CBBC. The audience
has choice which on the whole is a good thing.
But our competitors
entry into the UK market - offering choice though not always quality,
offering all day programming, though not necessarily breadth - has made
a radical and industry-changing difference.
By their arrival in the
UK - most of them from the US - these channels have put childrens
television on the agenda.
The industry has moved
on and so has CBBC to ensure that we are part of the future. Since the
BBC announced its intention to launch two dedicated childrens
channels, some of our colleagues have attempted to unsettle not only
the industry but parents as well. They seem to have forgotten that the
interests of the child audience are paramount. Not just the commercial,
"bottom dollar", concerns.
They have prophesised
the doom of childrens television. The end of choice. The end of
their status quo.
They refuse to admit
and accept that CBBCs entry into this otherwise closed, commercial
landscape is in the best interests of the key audience - children.
CBBC will provide the
digital audience with originally produced programmes across all the
genres - taking our analogue heritage and using it to develop new, more
daring and increasingly innovative programming combined with the latest
technology to stretch the boundaries even further.
This is programming that
our colleagues either do not make or have no plans to make themselves
despite being part of - in almost all cases - multi-million dollar global
entertainment giants. Giants that state that they put the interests
of the child first but command massive revenues not only from advertising
but by merchandising their own branded products directly to the audience.
Such revenues are not available to CBBC.
Our colleagues have repeatedly
quoted a report stating that they will lose up to four hundred million
pounds in revenue. How? CBBC is advertising and sponsorship free. No
advertisers or third-party-partners can advertised on our channels.
And as television remains one of the most efficient and cost effective
ways to reach children, I cannot see that advertisers pulling significant
levels of advertising from these channels. And even if advertising rates
decline - although all long term predictions are for an upturn - no
other medium affords companies such a captive audience of children and
I think I should briefly
talk about the current situation at CITV as I have a unique perspective
and genuine concerns. We are all aware of the difficulties facing CITV
at the moment. According to recent reports, Janie Grace and her team
stand to lose up to twenty-five per cent of their funding. This is bleak
news. Such a significant drop in funding can only mean a decrease in
the level of new original productions, and more repeats. Although this
does not necessarily mean that Janie and her team cannot continue to
be daring and innovative with whatever original programmes they make,
it does inevitably mean fewer will be made.
CBBC is already committed
to a significant spend on original programming and a decrease in original
programmes and spend by CITV cannot be met by our other colleagues in
childrens television. The end result is clear. Less choice for
I urge the ITV companies
to reconsider the proposed funding cuts or at least give an undertaking
to reinstate the loss in funding when advertising revenues increase
again. We need a strong CITV. Not only to ensure that the audience has
choice but that the competition remains balanced and healthy. But I
also counsel Janie and her team to look creatively at the problem and
find solutions. CITVs budget is still quite a healthy one and
they have many good shows. Perhaps rethinking CITVs stripped schedule
and working in partnership with rights holders and producers might offer
So what does CBBC offer
for the digital audience. Two channels coupled with interactive platforms
that will fully exploit the latest technologies. Free of advertising
and sponsorship, this is public service broadcasting in its purest form.
The two channels mean
that CBBC will increase its output by an extra one thousand hours a
year and annually spend an additional forty million pounds on programming,
bringing our total expenditure to around one hundred million pounds.
The channels will offer
the highest proportion of indigenous European-made programming - ninety
percent on the pre-school channel and seventy-five per cent on the older
channel. This might seem almost too proscriptive but these targets were
not set by the DCMS, but by the BBC. They were part of our initial proposal.
All the shows commissioned
for the new channels will invest significantly in the interactive platforms.
For pre-school children, the new shows will help them embark on their
first televisual journey and exploit the interactive opportunities to
assist parents in the important task of developing their core pre-school
For older children, there
will be everything from message boards to interactive games - a continuous
two-way dialogue between the audience and CBBC. A platform for their
CBBC will reinvent itself
for launch. As both channels will be entering highly competitive environments,
completely new branding is being developed for both the analogue and
digital channels which will be revealed at launch. And we will also
rename the channels, giving them their own distinct brand personalities
to make them easily identifiable not only from each other but from other
childrens services. Furthermore, this will also book mark the
channels for parents, signposting services that are not only safe and
advertising free, but that offer the best originally-produced programming
in the UK.
The pre-school channel
will be called CBEEBIES. This was well received by parents with small
children and evokes the ideas of play, fun and comfort. The older channel
will be called The CBBC Channel. This name is already established amongst
six to thirteen year olds but now we will give the audience the chance
to own the name completely, knowing that all the programmes on the channel
are made for them and not for their younger brothers and sisters.
Cbeebies will be a companion
for younger children and a safe haven for parents. While the channel
will draw on our already extensive portfolio of shows, I will also commission
new series from both in-house and independent programme makers. CBBC
will continue to be the undisputed leaders in the pre-school arena.
The Cbeebies schedule
will be built around a four hour block of programming. This is how the
young audience consumes television, reflecting their need for familiarity.
Every hour, on the hour there will be a landmark title such as Teletubbies
or Tweenies, and the day will end with a special bed time
story hour. Although the blocks will repeat, the presentation surrounding
the shows will not, reflecting the time of day - morning, lunchtime
From BBC Scotland I
have commissioned the first pre-school drama - Applecross. At one hundred
and twenty six episodes this is a significant pre-school commission
for the new channel. It is a living story book set in a
fictional Scottish village with a cast of adult and child actors.
Applecross joins seven
other pre-school commissions that will premiere on Cbeebies. Offering
a mixture of presenter-led live action, puppets and animation, Cbeebies
will launch with a strong schedule of new and popular, established series.
The CBBC Channel for
6-13 year old digital viewers will offer a real alternative. Using the
interactive and online platforms, it will serve as a launch pad into
a childrens community of viewers from around the UK.
Xchange will have a broader
and more extensive remit. One thousand and forty episodes have been
commissioned over two years - the largest single commission in CBBC
history. It will bookend the channel every week day, setting the agenda
in the morning and resolving it at the close of play. It will encourage
the audience to actively participate - sending in their ideas, their
points of view and determining the shows direction.
In the long term The
CBBC Channel will offer up to fifty hours of originally produced drama.
and a dedicated drama hour every week day will be a major part of the
The first drama commission
is Cave Girl - A twenty six part drama from Two Hats Production. This
is 'Clueless meets the Stone Age. We are also currently developing
a long form comedy drama and other dramas will soon be announced.
The channels entertainment
offering is also well underway and there will be an appointment to view
comedy block as well. Stitch Up comes from CBBC Entertainment. Three
fifteen year olds and one ten year old with a hidden camera playing
tricks on unsuspecting members of the public and celebrities.
Call the Shots will give
viewers an in depth, behind-the-scenes look at the world of showbiz,
with children getting involved in everything from directing to stunts.
CBBC Scotland is making
two entertainment shows for the channel. First Rule The School. In a
specially created CBBC Academy where breakdancing might replace PE and
text messaging might be part of the timetable, children will teach the
The second series is
The Raven. A twenty-part reality game show shot entirely on location,
the only aim is to be the last one standing.
There are also imminent
plans for a Sunday morning show that will make full use of the channels
interactive potential. This will be a three hours show and commissioned
for a whole year.
The world of observational
documentary leads the factual slate with Making It. Working with BBC
Talent, CBBC will be search for a new presenter. Extreme Challenge sends
eight volunteers to Borneo on a special conservation mission. Following
training, the volunteers will be taken into the rainforest to live in
a camp to help reintroduce young orang-utans into the wild. The volunteers
will report back live to the UK using the latest videophone technology.
To celebrate the Commonwealth
Games next year, we have embarked on the ambitious project. The Commonwealth
Project will feature children from all the Commonwealth nations, celebrating
their diversity as well as the common bonds they share.
Newsround will form an
integral part of the new service with a dedicated team of presenters
and up to three bulletins every week day. And Blue Peter has developed
two twenty-six part series - Blue Peter Unleashed and Blue Peter Flies
When children are at
school - thirty two weeks a year - the CBBC channel will offer a schools
schedule drawn from our extensive and award-winning library. So for
the first time ever there will be a single childrens broadcaster
in the UK reaching children in schools as well as at home.
Across Cbeebies and The
CBBC Channel we have commissioned over seven hundred hours of new programming
so far. Add to this the analogue Winter schedule on BBC ONE and BBC
TWO and we are making over eight hundred and fifty hours of programming
for the first half of 2002.
In view of recent news
from CITV, the impact this will have on the UK production base cannot
be underestimated. The new channels will herald a golden age
in childrens programming. They will become the new powerhouses
for production, offering more opportunities as well as more funding
available for the best creative and innovative ideas.
And it is also good news
for talent - in front of and behind the camera. For actors, production
and new and established writers, CBBCs new channels will provide
one of the best environments to foster new faces and skills.
When the Secretary of
State gave her approval for the two channels, she recognised that public
service broadcasting for children was a fundamental necessity in the
digital age. She looked to CBBC to create services that would be a legacy
from us to future generations of children and that is what we are going
The digital future is
now. We collectively stand at the threshold of an exciting new era.
There is room for everyone but what CBBC offers is unique. The audience
is hungry. Hungry for new ideas, greater choice and new ways to interact.
Above all they want be treated as equals in a two way relationship.
CBBC will deliver all of this. Innovative programming that marries production
with interactivity to give them a complete experience that will challenge
and stimulate as well as entertain, satisfying their hunger for the
new and the extraordinary.