chapter  46
Media regulation: the protection and promotion of home-grown children’s television
ByKatalin Lustyik
Pages 8

Children growing up in the twenty-first century in most parts of the world are targeted by a “steadily swelling flow of material” (Carlsson, 2006, p. 9). The audiovisual content that they are exposed to today comes from all over the world, but predominantly from the United States, Japan and the United Kingdom and a handful of other countries with a strong investment in children’s television, while domestically produced children’s shows, if they exist at all, are often marginalized. The programs children consume on a daily basis have a considerable impact on their cultural, social and educational development, which might be especially true of domestic programs that specifically aim to relate to their own world, identities, concerns and futures. In many countries, where resources limit domestic productions, the general concern is that a

great deal of imported media contains characters and messages that, at best, are not relevant to local cultures, and at worst, convey violent or sexual images and mass marketed messages. Nyamnjoh (2002) draws attention to the fact that in many parts of the world, including Africa, children mainly watch programming “conceived and produced without their particular interest in mind” that “seldom reflects their immediate cultural contexts” (p. 43). He further argues that these children become “victims of second-hand consumption” who “must attune their palates to the diktats of undomesticated foreign media dishes” (p. 43). Among the media dishes offered on an increasing variety of platforms in some parts of the

world – that can include print media, radio, television and film screens, internet, mobile technologies, and console-based video games – television still remains the most important mass medium for children worldwide. Transnational media companies targeting children race to offer multiplatform services but they still consider television as the driving force behind their key brands. The globally popular SpongeBob SquarePants, for instance, started out as a television series on the US-based Nickelodeon children’s channel, soon followed by dedicated websites, video games, theatrical films and a plethora of merchandizing (Hendershot, 2004). Additionally, in the realm of media regulation, traditional broadcast content such as television content remains the most heavily regulated form of media in most countries, although new legislative frameworks aim to cover all audiovisual media services regardless of the delivery platform (ACMA, 2011). When people think of television regulation and children, what immediately comes to mind is

media violence, pornography, the television rating systems and a ban on the advertising of

cigarettes, alcohol and, more recently in Europe, “junk food,” food with high sugar, fat or salt content. While some chapters of this book examine those areas specifically, this chapter focuses on the regulation of domestic or home-grown children’s television content in an international context. Such terms as “home-grown,” “domestic” or “locally” produced programs are highly ambiguous and the exact definitions vary worldwide, especially given the complexity of the procedure that involves financing, (co)production and post-production, which are often tied to several nations. Generally however, these terms refer to a program produced within a specific nation – or nations in case of coproduction – or a specific region, and perceived as “an invaluable vehicle for conveying societal history, lore and values” that “affirms the right to control over the portrayal of one’s own history, cultures and stories” (Kleeman, 2008). While this chapter aims to describe various types of government initiatives and legally binding

international agreements that have been implemented in different parts of the world to promote home-grown children’s television content, it does not pretend to draw any general conclusions valid for the world’s some 200 countries. The first section of the chapter provides a brief overview of children’s television content regulation, and the second section describes key types of government provision for the protection, promotion and distribution of home-grown children’s television content. Concrete examples are selected from Australia, Canada, the European Union Member States, China and Qatar. The third section describes some legally binding regional and international efforts that have been implemented to achieve more cultural diversity in the global television program flow.