Message from Dr Patricia Edgar AM, Chair WSMCF
The World Summit on Media for Children Foundation has an abiding commitment to children and a conviction that the media have a central role to play in their development, education and wellbeing. This Summit is taking place at a turbulent time in history brought about by the forces of globalization, economic challenges and the technological revolution in media services and consumption around the world. The production and distribution of media content for children as we have known them must adapt, if we are to remain relevant to today's children. In Australia the long standing standards and regulations governing commercial children's programming are being questioned. Public broadcasting generally no longer dominates and lacks the resources to fund the gatekeepers to decide the programming they think is best for children. The child audience has demonstrated a mind and technological dexterity of its own, and is moving away from traditional programming, as they embrace the digital space and all it has to offer. The power balance has shifted and few in the industry are confident about the way forward.
But these challenges present new opportunities for broadcasters, for creative producers from traditional and new media and educators, to innovate and develop in collaboration with young people, a new vision to educate, engage and empower the world's children. This Summit is the beginning of a conversation which is designed to up-end conventional thinking about children's programming and its role in their lives. The future requires us to think and act outside the square.
Interview with Dr. Patricia Edgar Chair World Summit on Media for Children Foundation
1 What is the background to the World Summit on Media for Children?
The Summit Movement has a 16 year history starting with the first World Summit on Television and Children held in Melbourne, Australia, in March 1995 which I hosted as Director of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation. 670 people from 72 countries came together to discuss the changing environment for children's television programming. Subsequently Summits have been held every three years. The 2nd World Summit was held in London, England, in 1998; the 3rd World Summit in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 2001, the Fourth World Summit on Media for Children in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during 2004 (with more than 3000 in attendance). Johannesburg hosted a Summit in 2007 and we have recently held Summit 2010 in Karlstad.
The Summits act as a catalyst for action. Both officially and informally, the Summits provide an intense, exciting and fertile environment for collaboration and the exchange of ideas and information. Thousands of people have gathered in inspirational meetings to share experiences.
In addition to the many accomplishments of individual Summits, collectively they result in:
- Advocacy for and the establishment of national policies which prioritise and promote the development and provision of high-quality educational digital media for children;
- Greater understanding of the challenges and opportunities presented by an increasingly competitive media world – from both supply and demand perspectives;
- The development of world class training programmes for the producers and creators of educational media for children;
- The creation of digital media initiatives which present indigenous stories to a global audience;
- The development of research networks across the globe which examine the role of media in children’s development; and
- Greater collaboration and cooperation between local and global governments, organisations and individuals committed to the provision of digital media which meet the educational needs of children and young people.
2. Who are the target groups for the Summits?
Summits cast the net widely, bringing together key local and global players in the development, creation, distribution and regulation of media on all platforms for children and young people. They are also attended by government representatives, NGOs, educators , researchers and business people.
3. Why have you invited Asia and the ABU to host this 2014 Summit ?
You will see from the range of countries where Summits have already been held that we have not yet held a World Summit in Asia, although there was a regional meeting in Manila in 1996 which attracted considerable support. Board Members are very enthusiastic about this potential collaboration with ABU and RTM Malaysia. Over the years I have had an association, in various roles, with ABU and I am aware of the wealth of experience, the wide networks and diverse viewpoints you bring collectively.
2014 marks the 50th anniversary of the ABU. That significant occasion will bring added value to the WSMC. With more than 215 members the ABU is one of the most important Regional Broadcasting Unions in the world. By 2014 I understand your membership may reach more than 300 members. That means potentially you can reach an audience of 4 billion. You have more children living in your region than anywhere else in the world. That is why this Summit will be a timely and very important international event.
4. What do you wish the WSMC to achieve?
When the Summit movement began 15 years ago our aim was to protect and promote quality children’s television programs. Technologically we have travelled well beyond our first objectives. This is a time when broadcasters are facing the challenge of convergence with diverse digital technologies. The resulting highly competitive marketplace is changing the assumptions which have long underpinned broadcasting systems and their content development. Globalization has led to a focus on the international marketplace rather than local child audiences. Media are a potent educational force in children’s lives, but the industry can be slow to respond to the educational challenges and opportunities media offer.
Given access, most children and young people embrace media technology. This is a gift to the children’s entertainment industry, but the content we are producing struggles to innovate, is heavily commercialized and often irrelevant to the needs and interests of many 21st century children.
The Summit needs to ask some fundamental questions: ‘How did we get where we are today? How did we change our focus from one of commitment to children’s development? How did we shift from a healthy, vibrant creative industry, to an industry struggling to survive and overwhelmed by global economics? Why are some critics calling our work damaging and harmful to children?’ It is time to revisit our values and perhaps create entirely new ones, given what we know now.
The 2014 World Summit will be a great place for industry and policy leaders to gather and have that discussion; to help revitalise the industry, find new creative and economic models so we can be as beneficial to all children around the world as we aspire to be. We need to learn from the past and build on the best. And where better to have that discussion than Asia?
Innovation in education and in media production is fundamental to progress, to economic stability and global peace – and media’s role is central. The World Summit Foundation is ambitious in wanting to be effective in leading the policy, research and production debate to encourage the development of a new 21st Century global vision for children’s media and education.