Whose space is it anyway?

Thursday morning kicked off with ‘Whose Space is it anyway?’ hosted by Jake Humphries. On team one there was Adrian Mills, Michael Carrington and Catherine Marshall (aged 16). On Team two, Nigel Pickard, Alison Warner and Faizah Sabir (aged 16). Armed with old skool hooters and bells, the teams went head to head, as Jake gave them a series of headlines and quick fire questions, covering a range of topical themes.

Opening with ‘Who killed Teletubby Television’ and ‘Give us your cash or the kid gets it’ and the panel discussing the impact of cuts in broadcasting; the effects of online and a move to digital media and how top slicing is really just Channel 4’s ‘cry for help’. Nigel Pickard pointed out that whilst the effects might be felt now more than ever, this is not new and changes have taken place over a ten year period.

The quiz was interspersed with video, the first asked children what TV programmes they like to watch: Doctor Who, Blue Peter, Xfactor and Britain’s got talent – cos you can vote, Raven and Tracy Beaker, which had several mentions. On UK vs US programmes, the comment that US telly is better because ‘they have better equipment’ had us all laughing.

This was followed by a question, based on the video, are children affected by the problems face by the industry? The panel suggested that it’s case of not realising the problem until it’s too late, by looking at the TV listings and seeing hours and hours of TV it’s hard to see the problem; it is only once this vanishes that people will see what they have lost. Adrian pointed out that from a political perspective Children’s media is not high on the agenda – it’s not going to be an election campaign topic, and in a world where knife crime, education, health and a failing economy are the problems faced, it’s never going to be.

Nigel said that even with the Tax credit suggestion, tax solutions are too obvious and the idea doesn’t tackle the issue that broadcasting platforms are disappearing.

Children’s suggestions of what they would like to see on TV: life of a school child; comedy, stand up comedy; documentaries; cartoons; more programmes like Doctor who; realisti/relaity shows; famous people’s lives – what they do when they are not working; singing, dancing and performing arts.

The panel then went on to discuss the Tanya Byron report, which led to looking at ratings and ‘safety’ of children playing video games and using the internet, particularly social networking sites. Sites that children said they use included: Wikipedia, Cartoon Network, Neopets, Sky Sports, Disney Channel, CBBC and iplayer. When talking about the dangers online they used phrases like ‘ they might come and hunt you down’ ‘dodgy chatrooms’ ‘paedophiles’ and ‘I can be trusted to know what’s right and what’s wrong’. It was clear that the children interviewed were aware of the dangers.

On video games, the children overall felt that their should be ratings for video games, particularly for violent games such as ‘Grand theft Auto’ , however the idea of self-regulation was also an underlying theme, with some of the children suggesting that the ratings were there for ‘little kids’ but that they themselves (10 & 11 yrs olds) were capable of deciding what was safe or appropriate. One child said ‘What’s the big deal, it’s just a computer game?’.

Catherine felt that there should be regulation and ratings on violent games, because ‘you are not just watching, it’s actually you doing it’ . Nigel agreed and said that the immersive nature of game playing is not a passive experience, however having ratings can result in those games becoming aspirational. Faizah felt that video games do have a direct impact on children’s behaviour siting her younger brothers playing games and then fighting with each other. Alison suggested that with the introduction of the Wii, we will see the development of more family based games.

In the clip from Tanya Bryron, she talked about a ‘new culture of responsibility’, about less blame and more collaboration and suggested that as adults, we need to ‘get beyond our own anxiety’ about the media available to children.

On social networking, some children mentioned msn, MySpace and Bebo and for the girls one of the main attractions is being able to see each others photos and comment on them, however some of the boys were simply not interested saying they prefer to see their friends and family face to face to talk to them and would ask them questions when they see them, rather than online. One child said he didn’t have a profile as he wouldn’t know what to do with it. Other were not allowed, saying ‘it can be dangerous’ and ‘there are men, which isn’t good’. Jake told us that 25% of 8-11 year olds now have a social network profile.

Final thoughts from the panel: Nigel suggested that we need to find new ways to finance content and different forms of distribution, and to realise that things will never be the same again and we should stop thinking that we are somehow going to get back things back to how they were in the 80’s. Adrian sugested that TV and education have drifted apart and that while Children’s media may be low on the poltical agenda, Children themselves are high. TV can be a very powerful tool for education and that we should look to move away from the 1950’s idea of school television. Michael talked about ‘mashing’ content.

Catherine and Faizah’s last thoughts were that programmes that reflect the real lives of children and relate to them should be a priority, with both girls mentioning Grange Hill, as well as Byker Grove and The Queen’s Nose – as having strong storylines about teenagers’ lives.

The final suggestions from the children in the video, were more video games for girls; funny videos; more war and fighting; good news; mysterious games, with levels and funny televison – clowns.

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