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Music, Children’s Content for Television

Image Credit: Youtube
Rhonda Davidson-Irwin
| November 22, 2018

A close observation of the world media landscape presents a number of opportunities and themes around children’s television shows. Globalization of media also presents a number of opportunities to broaden children’s access to information, education and how they respond to the world around them. Technological advances through television and internet provide a platform for a variety of media to enrich the lives of children with content specifically written to that genre. Children’s television is a wonderful medium and a marvellous tool for kids to be entertained and educated.  I am sure many of us can recall our favourite characters and narratives from children’s television shows that have made an impact on our lives.

Television is the dominant medium for most children; however Youtube and other online media platforms are rapidly having an impact on children’s television production. Most households own a television in their home. Satellite television reaches all continents offering large numbers of channels targeting specifically children’s content.  The prevalence of television, iPad and other devices viewed among young people has also increased substantially and, at times, has raised serious concerns about national and global trends in the television industry.

Traditionally children’s music is composed and sometimes performed by children. However, a number of composers, usually adults, write specifically developmental repertoire for children’s television.  It is often vocal based but children’s music can be anything from solo arrangements to full orchestral scored arrangements. Children’s music has historically held both entertainment and educational purpose and it provides a medium to assist teaching and learning about a child’s culture, behaviour, skills and facts.  I am sure many of us are able to sing our favourite theme song from a children’s television show which is synonymous with the impact it has had on their childhood.

Internationally, children’s television quotas are being challenged.  This is currently under investigation in Australia through a Senate Hearing Committee into Australian Broadcasting content. Historically, a quota for free to air networks has offered a variety of children’s content to be delivered as part of the network’s licensing agreement. This quota has ensured Australian production of children’s television delivering high quality content for Australian children telling Australian stories and singing Australian songs.  This quota has produced some of the most outstanding children’s content which is seen internationally including The Wiggles, Hi-5, Scope etc. to name a few. Networks are looking into the possibility of categorizing some Reality Television as children’s television which enables them to possibly reduce the number of content hours for children’s television. This will have a great impact on a large number of composers, musicians and production personnel who will find themselves possibly out of work.

Australian Networks appearing recently at a Senate Hearing Committee into Australian Broadcasting Content, Free TV was asked specifically if they feel they have any obligation to contribute to children’s television in some way?

Representative of the networks and free television said their members were producing hundreds of hours of children’s programming every year that wasn’t being watched. However, these statistics don’t take into consideration alternative platforms that children watch shows on, for example, Tenplay. The challenge for networks is to find a variety of platforms, including Youtube, to present quality Australian content for children not to completely discard the quota system.  This will ensure quality content for Australian kids and not lever networks to purchase overseas products for Australian kids to view as opposed to making children’s content in Australia. Networks also reject the idea of contributing to an industry production fund for children’s TV.

Some of the networks are recommending that shows such as Ninja Warrior and Master Chef would be a replacement for shows such as Dance Academy, Mako Mermaids and Mortified. The Australian Children’s TV Foundation states that “there is no replacement for quality children’s television made in Australia because these shows are rediscovered by new audiences every four years.”

“If we remove all quotas from the market in the current environment, ABC will be the sole commissioner of children’s content without any consistent obligation of the number of hours of new content for kids being developed.”

It is important to have a variety of children’s content for Australian kids to enjoy and interact with. Composers and musicians, actors and producers often learn their craft by developing children’s television content to produce outstanding contributions to the film and television industry. Some of these producers have made it a lifelong career path.  I have been composing for children’s television for the last twenty years. It is possible if children’s content is not regulated in some way that it will disappear altogether and I personally wouldn’t have had the wonderful opportunity to write songs for children to sing and share”.

Surely the expectation of families and children is that drama and kid’s television should be designed and produced in our own country. If adults can watch drama especially produced for them why don’t Australian children have the same opportunity? Australian children’s television gives the opportunity for dramas to be produced on screens that are relevant to their own lives and internationally also showcases Australia’s television.  In fact, internationally, Australian television is renowned throughout the world.

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