Kids' programming jumps 3 fold since 1997 in UK

MUMBAI: The amount of children's TV programming has tripled in the UK since 1997, says research published by the Broadcasting Standards Commission and the Independent Television Commission.


It is terrestrial television in the country appears to be the medium which is providing the most balanced and diverse line-up of programming including factual, drama, light entertainment and pre-school programming. Animation of course continues to rule programming meant for children on the pay channels dedicated to children.

Results from What Children Watch, an analysis of children's programming provision between 1997 - 2001, and children's views on what they watch, shows that the increase in the amount of provision of children's programmes over the last five years is derived from the launch of Channel 5 (FIVE), and from the introduction of new dedicated satellite and cable channels. 

Genres offered differ across broadcasters though. Terrestrial television networks are stable providers of drama, while factual programming and drama were both almost absent from channels dedicated to kids post 2001. Light entertainment has become the staple fare, taking a significant proportion of the share across all platforms. Pre school programming like Teletubbies, Seasame Street and the Hoobs feature well on the dedicated channels. 

The survey also studies the changes in the television landscape over recent times. Households with children contain a wider range of in-home entertainment than child-free households and are more likely to be 'early adopters' of such equipment. 59% of people with children have access to multichannel television, compared with 46% of households without children. 

The report found that children in multichannel homes watch significantly more television than their terrestrial-only counterparts (on average 35 minutes more per day). Animation of all types accounted for over half the time children in multichannel homes spent viewing television. However, the amount of time they spend specifically viewing 'children's programmes' is comparable with those living in terrestrial-only homes. 

Television however continues to be a significant part of children's lives, the study notes, and is a prime source of entertainment if not a preferred activity. Unlike in India, kids in the UK often have a television set in their own rooms as well. 

Many children who live in analogue terrestrial-only homes also said they have been exposed to other channels and services and have some knowledge of them. Children in multi-channel homes are more demanding of their television schedules, expecting a large number of different programmes, constantly changing. Those in analogue terrestrial-only homes are more aware of the scheduling of their favourite programmes and the channel on which they are broadcast.

While kids expressed their preference and enjoyment of US produced programming, parents were more inclined towards UK originated programming, as it was more culturally relevant, and would have more educational value.

Parents also feel that it is important to retain children's programming on analogue terrestrial channels, despite the alternative sources available on cable and satellite channels. Those parents in terrestrial-only homes say they would resent being forced to pay for additional services in order for their children to have something to watch.

Andrea Millwood Hargrave, Director of the Joint Research Programme, BSC and ITC said: "This research, a continuation of work first undertaken by the BSC over six years ago, shows that despite the number and popularity of the newer, specialist channels, the range of programming available is not as diverse as it could be. The terrestrial free-to-air channels continue to provide the greatest balance of diverse content, especially of factual and drama output. Television remains one of the most important sources of leisure entertainment for children and, with 59% penetration of multi-channel television in homes with children, they have become more demanding of the quality of programmes on offer."

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