Grown-Ups In a Grown-Up Business: Children's Television Industry Development Australia

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Moran, Albert

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Browne, Dina

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This dissertation profiles the children's television industry in Australia; examines the relationship between government cultural policy objectives and television industry production practices; and explores the complexities of regulating and producing cultural content for child audiences. The research conducted between 1997 and 2002 confirms that children's television is a highly competitive business dependent on government regulatory mechanisms and support for its existence. For example, the Australian Broadcasting Authority's retaining of mandatory program standards for children's programs to date, is evidence of the government's continued recognition of the conflict between broadcasters' commercial imperatives and the public-interest. As a consequence, the industry is on the one hand insistent on the government continuing to play a role in ensuring and sustaining CTV - however, on the other hand, CTV producers resent the restrictions on creativity and innovation they believe result from the use of regulatory instruments such as the Children's Television Standards (CTS). In fact, as this dissertation details, the ABA's intended policy outcomes are inevitably coupled with unintended outcomes and little new or innovative policy development has occurred. The dissertation begins with an investigation into the social, cultural and ideological construction of childhood within an historical and institutional context. I do this in order to explore how children have been defined, constructed and managed as a cultural group and television audience. From this investigation, I then map the development of children television policy and provide examples of how 'the child' is a consistent and controversial site of tension within policy debate. I then introduce and analyse a selection of established, establishing and aspiring CTV production companies and producers. Drawing on interviews conducted, production companies profiled and policy documents analysed, I conclude by identit~'ing ten key issues that have impacted, and continue to impact, on the production of children's television programming in Australia. In addressing issues of industry development, the question this dissertation confronts is not whether to continue to regulate or not, but rather, how best to regulate. That is, it explores the complexities of supporting, sustaining and developing the CTV industry in ways which also allows innovative and creative programming. This exploration is done within the context of a broadcasting industry currently in transition from analogue to digital. As communications and broadcasting technologies converge, instruments of regulation - such as quotas designed around the characteristics of analogue systems of broadcasting - are being compromised. The ways in which children use television, and the ways in which the CTV producers create content, are being transformed. The ten key issues identified in this dissertation, I propose, are crucial to industry development and policy debate about the future of children's television in Australia. In integrating the study of policy with the study of production, I have given prominence to the opinions and experiences of those working in the industry. In doing so, this dissertation contributes to the growing body of work in Australia which incorporates industry with cultural analysis, and which includes the voices of the content providers.

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Thesis (PhD Doctorate)

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Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Arts, Media and Culture

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Children's television industry

government cultural policy

Australian Broadcasting Authority


Children's Television Standards

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