Commercial networks fail to invest in children's programs

By Lucy Carroll | 29 October 2015

Commercial broadcasters need greater incentives to invest in quality children’s programming as the influx of streaming services means networks are unable to compete, the boss of the children's TV policy body said.

The CEO of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation, Jenny Buckland, explained that tough restrictions on advertising and times that programs can be aired means fewer major networks are commissioning local children's content.

“Most people don't realise how hard it is for broadcasters to make the money from these shows. Audiences are becoming more fragmented as Netflix and Stan enter the market and it's become less attractive for them to invest in local drama for kids," she said.

“We need a diversity of different voices, rather than just the ABC.”

Buckland said quotas could be increased and children’s shows could have bigger tax offsets so there would be an advantage to the high costs of production.

“Commercial broadcasters are currently arguing for licence fee reductions so perhaps there could be a reduction if there is a return obligation to create content for children,” she said.

Buckland argued that freeing up the regulations around kids programs – particularly advertising that is on children’s programs on free-to-air TV needs to be classified as C – would encourage more investment.

“There's a real balancing act in getting enough content for kids," she said. "A lot of people are really concerned about advertising for children but we like to see content for children. We see it as a right that they have entertainment.

“If we expect the ABC to create all children's content then the ABC needs to be properly funded to do that.”

Buckland is one of a handful of speakers who will be at the Rights of the Child Consumer conference in November to address how children can be informed and empowered as consumers and how the business sector can develop best practice approaches for protecting the rights of children.

Australia’s Children’s Commissioner, Megan Mitchell, is calling for a national conversation on the rights of children as consumers as young people have become a major consumer group with their own purchasing power and significant influence over family spending.

“There are major ethical issues involved as kids become consumers with access to multiple platforms,” Mitchell said.

Key issues facing the industry, she said, are the extent to which marketing is embedded in games and apps, and how privacy issues can be addressed, as more children are giving away data about themselves without much thought.

“We need to work with businesses and the industry to make sure we've got regulations right and equip kids and parents to filter out promotions that are harmful to kids,” Mitchell said.

More information about the conference is available here.


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