25 June 2012
Posted in TV
Jayne Kirkham reports from the Prix Jeunesse International Children’s Television Festival 2012
(The Amazing World of Gumball, created by Ben Bocquelet, winner of the Prix Jeunesse International award for Fiction for 7-11-year-olds)
Despite the rise of the internet and social media, in most parts of the world television is still the leading medium for children. For over 40 years the Prix Jeunesse Foundation, based in Munich, has sought to promote television that enables children to see, hear and express themselves and their culture and that enhances an awareness and appreciation of other cultures. Built on a solid foundation of academic research, Prix Jeunesse takes very seriously the idea that good children’s television is a social responsibility. Its biennial festival, the Prix Jeunesse International, awards the world’s best children’s and youth programmes and engages producers and broadcasters in hands on workshops and other partnerships for excellence.
It is a lot of fun. And rather tiring. There were 85 shows in competition, covering fiction and non-fiction in preschool, 7-12 years and 12-16 years age ranges, plus some 400 other shows also available to view. After each category delegates discussed what they had seen before secret ballots were taken. A Prix Jeunesse is a tremendous accolade, but winning is not all that the festival is about.
Unlike markets like MIPCOM, business takes a backseat here. Instead it is an opportunity to learn more about children in different countries and cultures. It's also offers chance to see different ways of doing things and to be inspired. A selection of the very best programmes from this year’s Prix Jeunesse will be screened at the Children’s Media Conference in Sheffield 4-6 July. If you are going, don’t miss it. If you’re not going, go.
So what or who inspired me? The producer from Bhutan, who is pioneering youth television in his country; The Chalk Boy, a drama from the Philippines that made me leap out of my seat; Mina Moes, a live action story about a courageous little Dutch girl determined to wear her Minnie Mouse ears no matter what everyone else thinks; the astonishingly creative Design Ah! from Japan that uses image so perfectly and had one of the most positive depictions of women. That is probably my big ‘take away’ (if you’ll excuse the kids’ TV technical term): that worldwide, women still have a stupidly long way to go before being portrayed as anything other than mothers, bossy big sisters and love interests. Gender Representation is something that the Prix Jeunesse Foundation has recently investigated. In the largest ever children’s TV analysis they have looked at gender representation in 19,664 programmes from 24 countries. The results are published at childrens-tv-worldwide.com.
One more thing that I learnt and that is that Nordic drama series for kids are just as excellent as adult shows such as The Bridge or The Killing (although with less… killing) but here in the UK we still have some of the best children’s television in the world. Really we do. Consistently. Across all genres. Whether it’s from the BBC or independent companies, our storytelling and our understanding of our audience is second to none. There are few territories where children are served as well as the UK. The danger is that we take it for granted and we could lose it so easily. Look at what happened when ITV shut Granada Kids. The BBC Trust says Children’s is one of its five editorial policies but it has to make cuts somewhere. Dedicating two channels to children’s content looks like content is protected but by taking children’s programmes off of BBC1 and 2, the terrestrial contracts and fee structure, will no longer be appropriate. Writers and other creators are looking at 50% drops in income. Great savings for the Corporation, but at some cost: you know the cliché, pay peanuts and you’ll get monkeys.
With the Guild having recently signed the best Television Writers’ Agreement in the world, we are in a good position to look carefully at the implications for children’s television specialists, both live action and animation.
It’s a negative thought to end on but only if we do nothing. As I said, Prix Jeunesse takes seriously the idea that good children’s television is a social responsibility. Several times during the festival I was reminded of the United Nations’ International Convention on the Rights of the Child that the UK signed up to some twenty years ago. It is a right, not a privilege, for children to enjoy and participate in cultural and artistic activities, be given news and information appropriately and educated so that their personality, talents and abilities are developed to the full. I think that gives the Writers’ Guild a good base on which to go forward when discussing children’s media matters with industry and Government.
View the full list of Prix Jenuness International 2012 winners (pdf)