I talked last night to a chum within Children’s BBC, and it’s worse than it seems. The total losses are about 20% of jobs, but the cuts are falling disproportionately on middle-senior posts. Which makes sense, since you need support staff to make programmes, but producers and directors you can bring in as freelancers from the external talent pool.
There’s a flaw in the logic, however. They’re reducing producer, director, and associate producer posts by what is looking like 40-50%. What’s left will be a skeleton crew, which would leave basically every series relying on freelance labour for crewing up.
Only, there isn’t going to be a freelance talent pool on which to draw. Not of specialist children’s producers. Remember, the independent sector was effectively shut down three years ago, when Children’s ITV stopped commissioning. There’s nobody left to bring in, because there’s not enough work left to sustain that community.
Thus, the days of children’s TV as a specialism — of senior staff really knowing what they’re doing, and crafting the best programmes they can manage — are numbered. And the numbers are: about 550.
Give it two years, and ‘I make children’s TV’ will not be a phrase anyone utters.
Perversely, this is actually good news for SciCast and the science communication industry, because in that specific field we’re going to be left as the de facto experts. But in general, this is at best the passing of an era. At worst, it’s the abandonment of mass-audience informal learning by the one remaining organisation that could make it work.
I hate to be a doom-monger, but my argument to the science and engineering world that they need to take matters into their own hands is surely bolstered by this. There’s not even a hope of anyone else doing it, now.