Teachers and screen producers barracking for Aussie kids content

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Saving Aussie kids’ content

Australian children of every age benefit from access to new, high-quality Australian children’s content broadcast across a wide range of platforms. Local content is also vital for learning in classrooms across the country — a valuable asset for teachers.

“Australian children need access to content which reflects and respects their community, culture, language and values. They should be programs that children can relate to, and there should be programs for children of all ages,” says Jason Borton on behalf of the ACT Education Directorate in their submission to the Government’s Australian and Children’s Television Content Review (announced May 2017).

In addition to this review, a parliamentary inquiry into the sustainability of the film and TV industry was launched in July 2017. Appearing before the inquiry, the commercial free-to-air networks were loud and clear requesting that the requirement to produce at least 130 hours of first-release children’s content, including an average of 32 hours drama, per year, per network, be abolished.

Teachers out in force

Teachers have been equally loud sharing their support for Australian children’s content on social media and making review submissions about the importance of children’s TV.

“The feedback we are receiving is that teachers really care about Australian children’s content. They use it in the classroom for all sorts of reasons. Many of the programs that the Australian Children’s Television Foundation is responsible for distributing to schools — like Lockie Leonard, Round the Twist, Double Trouble and Mortified — were originally commissioned by commercial broadcasters to fulfil their children’s drama quota obligations,” says ACTF’s CEO, Jenny Buckland.

Protecting classroom resources

Teachers currently have access to over 40,000 classroom-ready programs and clips from Australian television, including news, films and documentaries through not-for-profit video streaming service EnhanceTV.

If there’s a significant drop in the production of high-quality Australian children’s content libraries like this could end up housing mainly legacy content, lacking the currency needed for educational resources.

“We have a significant amount of content suitable for both secondary and primary school and we are adding to the library each week. We support teachers and the Australian curriculum by helping teachers introduce new topics to a class, introducing different perspectives on a topic and by increasing student engagement in the class,” says Stefan Savva, Head of EnhanceTV.

Campaigning for our culture

In response to the government review and the parliamentary inquiry, Screen Producers Australia (SPA) launched #SaveKidsTV and the ACTF launched #OzKidsTV. Both campaigns support the future of Australian children’s content.

“Australian children deserve to have the world around them explained to them on screens. We want kids to identify with children like them. Growing up hearing their own voices on TV and seeing people like them on TV will help normalise Australian culture for children. Our kids could potentially feel ashamed of their own culture if they grow up only seeing imported TV content,” says James Cheatley, SPA’s Director, Policy & Government Relations.

“In 2003, the UK Government abolished their children’s content quotas and experienced a 93% drop in expenditure on children’s content. They have since restored their quotas and admitted it was a mistake.”

The ACTF’s mission is to provide Australian children with entertaining media which is made especially for them. CEO Jenny Buckland says, “We think that children’s content should be available on a wide range of platforms. If we abandon support for Australian children’s content in a commercial environment, then we can expect to see no Australian content amongst the extensive imported offerings on commercial platforms. That would be an unacceptable outcome.

“It would also remove any competition or benchmark against which to measure the ABC’s performance in the provision of local content, and we note that there are no protections for children’s content on the ABC, either.”

So what’s the answer?

The ACTF is recommending that:

  1. The public broadcasters should be mandated and funded to deliver a comprehensive multiplatform service for all Australian children.
  2. Measures should be introduced to ensure that the commercial sector contributes to and transmits quality and culturally relevant Australian children’s content. This would include retaining and updating the C Drama quota.
  3. Putting funding mechanisms in place to support the production and distribution of culturally relevant Australian children’s content, including an enhanced role for the ACTF.

SPA’s James Cheatley suggests, “kids’ content ratings could be increased by putting children’s obligations back on to commercial broadcasters’ primary channels. Or create an App that all commercial broadcasters have to put money into because kids love destination viewing.”

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