The children’s entertainment industry is constantly evolving, and BAFTA celebrating these positive changes with a new award category: Content for Change. This award recognises content that goes beyond entertainment to infuse children’s programming with learning and/or social issues.
KidScreen’s Jane Hobson spoke to Helen Blakeman, BAFTA’s Chair of the Children's Committee, about this exciting new addition to the British Academy Children’s Awards:
Why was the Content for Change category introduced?
The industry is changing and it’s important for BAFTA to recognise these changes. We felt it was important to include this category to celebrate this new type of content that infuses learning and/or social issues at its core.
Why was 2018 chosen to launch this new category?
Children’s content has always reflected social issues across a range of content. It’s never shied away from tackling issues that are affecting young people, and it provides an environment for young people to recognise and explore these issues and hopefully enable them to speak up on issues that are affecting them.
BAFTA is at the forefront in rewarding and recognising excellence in children’s content; as the landscape is changing, so too must our categories to reflect this. Never has it been more timely to showcase content that is putting learning and social issues at its core.
What’s the criteria to qualify for the category?
This is open to any eligible content published on any platform with the exception of the International programmes. This award is designed to recognise content that goes beyond entertainment and infuses learning and/or social issues at its core.
Entries will be judged solely on the content submitted in terms of both intention and successful execution. Entrants submit a supporting statement (max. 3000 characters) alongside their entry, making clear the agenda behind the content and the impact on the audience.
Who makes the final decision on the changes to categories?
The changes are instigated and agreed upon by the Children’s committee.
How are the BAFTA Children’s Awards voted for?
Nominations and winner for the awards are decided on by Children’s voting members and or juries.
How many submissions were entered for the category?
We saw over 25 entries in this category.
Were you pleased with the level of response?
The level of interest for this category was great, which just highlights the content that is being produced for children and young people. At its core these shows are there not only to entertain but also to educate and provide an environment to either start the debate or enable its audience to come together.
What’s special about each nominee and the ‘change’ they represent?
They cover a range from mental health issues, coping with bullying, illness and self-perception – all issues that are affecting children and young people today. This content explores these issues in a safe environment and hopefully encourages young people to speak up about issues that are affecting them and to gain more insight.
Here are the Content For Change nominees:
HIKE TO HAPPINESS (My Life) - An increasing number of teenagers are experiencing anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues. The Wilderness Foundation offers unique support to help young people build emotional resilience and, in this insightful documentary, we meet 15-year-old Ellie, determined to learn to control her own anxiety and depression.
NEWSROUND INSPIRATIONAL STORIES - The films are a direct and uncompromising view of what it is like to grow up confronted by a challenging situation, from autism to treatment for a brain tumour to racist bullying. These films challenge stereotypes and also remind our young audience that other children have tremendous resilience and strength.
REPLY WITH A FULL STOP IF YOU GET THIS - Emily is a poet and a teacher, and has bipolar disorder. It's a mental health illness that means she can feel very down or very up for no reason whatsoever. With eloquence and humour she describes how it feels, how she manages it and how she'd like society to be more understanding and accepting of mental health disorders.
WHAT DO YOU MEAN I CAN’T CHANGE THE WORLD? - Jemmar tells the story of how she went from hating the way she looked to a realisation of the injustices that made her feel that way and finally to proud acceptance of herself as a beautiful, working class, black young woman. She is now an activist, working for social justice and inspiring other young people to campaign for change on the issues that affect their lives.
Do you see BAFTA adding categories that recognise ‘content for change’ in its other award ceremonies?
The Games Awards introduced a games beyond entertainment category at its awards in 2017. Games are socially impactful art form which can drive real-world change. The introduction of this new category capitalised on the power of games to go beyond the realms of pure entertainment to empower and inspire game makers of the future to create games that push the boundaries of the medium and engage with the world around us.
Do you think it’s important that children’s programming has an educational purpose?
BAFTA’s mission is to bring the very best work in film, games and television to public attention and support the growth of creative talent in the UK and internationally. We do this by identifying and celebrating excellence; discovering, inspiring and nurturing new talent and enabling learning and creative collaboration.
It is important that the content being produced is reflective of its audiences, and that it not only entertains but also encourages its audience to question. We can see from the topics explored in the nominations that these are all issues that affect children and young people today; the more we can encourage this range of content can ultimately only be a good thing for its audiences.