Letting the kids down?
Children are let down by what they’re given to watch on TV, a new report has found. The report suggests that youngsters are left in front of imported cartoons and endless repeats, instead of high quality programming – and that this is largely to do with a lack of investment.
In its first ever significant look into the state of children’s television, Ofcom, the independent broadcasting regulator, revealed a sad state of affairs when it comes to what’s on the box for kids. It revealed that over half of programmes available (60 percent) are now cartoons, while 85 percent are made abroad, mostly in America.
There are fewer dramas and factual programmes than in the past – largely because they cost too much to make – and Ofcom chief executive Ed Richards has called for a “national debate” on what can be done.
Many of the parents spoken to for the research expressed their own unhappiness. 81 percent of parents said they felt that television had an important social role to play, but less than half felt that the programmes on offer helped children to learn and develop.
It’s ironic that there are more children’s TV channels than ever – despite ITV recently abandoning children’s programming. However, this report suggests that quantity does not always mean quality. Although there are now 25 dedicated children’s channels (up from six in 1998), spending on original British programming fell from £127m in 1998 to £109m, last year.
As a result, audiences to individual programmes have fallen. Fifty years ago, Pinky & Perky attracted an audience of over ten million. By 1976, Basil Brush, that year’s top-rated children’s TV show, had over eight million viewers. By 2006, the highest rating children’s programme, Newsround, attracted just over two million viewers - one fifth of the 1956 heyday.
Ofcom did praise the BBC for its pre-school programming (CBeebies), but said that older children were badly served. It revealed that tweens and young teenagers often ended up watching adult fare because there were too few programmes aimed specifically at them.
Ofcom is now looking at proposals on how to address the decline in children’s TV. It welcomes views – so read the document and give your opinion up until December 20th 2007.
What do you think? What programmes did you grow up watching and are you happy with what your kids watch now? Let us know on our Forum.