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Histories of Children’s Television Around the World

by Yuval Gozansky (Volume editor)
©2023 Textbook X, 290 Pages
Series: Mediated Youth, Volume 35

Summary

The book puts together for the first time valuable updated information that looks at children’s television from its early days up to the current digital age, with its vast digital media offerings and availability. It offers new insights about a central children’s media culture and focuses on non-Anglo-American television histories. Thus, readers interested in understanding past to present, local and global processes in children’s television, would be able to find it in one book. Scholars, students, and professionals working in the field of children, as well as everyone concerned with children’s culture will find a great diversity of knowledge about the cultural, social, political, and economic contexts of programs with which they and their children have grown up.
This edited book is based on a collective effort of researchers and professionals dedicated to compiling the stories of children’s television around the world. With 12 national chapters, the book includes historical accounts of children’s television from the following countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Kenia, Netherlands, and the United States. It provides an exploration of each individual country, revealing striking similarities and differences which are discussed in depth in the final chapter.
Looking at the global field through local eyes––its main texts and active players (broadcasters, producers, and creators, as well as regulators and policy makers), their ideologies, financial prospects, and perceptions of childhood––offers a macro-level evaluation of an entire cultural field. This is a valuable picture, as it also provides a contextualized perspective for reflection in any micro-analysis of specific programs.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgments
  • 1. Introduction: Thinking About Local Histories of Children’s Television (Yuval Gozansky)
  • 2. What’s up Skip? Australian Children’s Drama as Part of a Children’s Television Production Ecology (Anna Potter)
  • 3. The Struggle for Quality in Children’s Television in Brazil (Beth Carmona)
  • 4. Canada’s Secret Sauce: Children’s Programming, Funding, and Animation (Adrianna Ruggiero, Kim Wilson, and Josanne Buchanan)
  • 5. Entertaining “Buds of the Motherland”: The Evolution and Commercialization of Children’s Television in China (Xiaoying Han)
  • 6. Toward a History of Children’s Television in Ecuador: This Is Not a Child’s Game (Mónica Maruri Castillo and Marcelo Del Pozo)
  • 7. From the Center of Public Discussion to Niche Programing: Children’s Television in the Two Germanies Made One (Maya Götz)
  • 8. The Untold Story of Children’s Television in India (Ruchi Kher Jaggi)
  • 9. From Instructional to Digital: Israeli Children’s Television (Yuval Gozansky)
  • 10. Balancing Cultural and Economic Value: The Italian Way to Children’s Television (1954–2021) (Piermarco Aroldi)
  • 11. The Kenyan Story: From Children’s Talent Performance to Edutainment (Wangeci Kanyeki and Agnes Lucy Lando)
  • 12. Education, Entertainment, and Connection: Seventy Years of Dutch Children’s Television (Huub Wijfjes)
  • 13. Disruption Tales: Animated Children’s Television in the United States (Linda Simensky)
  • 14. Similar but Different: Changes in Children’s Television from a Global Perspective (Yuval Gozansky)
  • List of Contributors
  • Index

←viii | ix→

Acknowledgments

This book is the product of a collaborative effort by 16 contributors from 12 countries across all five continents. First, I wish to thank my colleagues for joining me on this wonderful journey to better understand the histories of children’s television around the world. This project could not have happened without their passion for children’s television and hard work in studying its histories.

I also wish to thank the PRIX JEUNESSE Foundation for its promotion of excellence in children’s television, and for serving as a solid base for researchers and professionals to meet and share ideas. Many thanks to Prof. Jeanette Steemers and Prof. Naomi Sakr for their support and assistance, and to my home institution, Sapir Academic College, for their support in the production of the book and for allowing me to take the time to work on it.

Many thanks to the series editor, Prof. Sharon R. Mazzarella, for her support, endorsement, valuable advice and for her optimism and belief in the importance of this project.

Special thanks to Prof. Dafna Lemish, my academic mentor during the last 15 years. Dafna helped this book to grow from its initial idea to completion by providing wise advice along the way. This book would not have been the same without her vast experience and generosity.

Last, but not least, I am deeply grateful to my beloved family for their endless support and encouragement.

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←x | 1→

1. Introduction: Thinking About Local Histories of Children’s Television

Yuval Gozansky

The journey of this book began about 15 years ago, when I was a PhD candidate, curious to understand the history of children’s television in Israel. Looking to base my local research on previous academic texts about the histories of other small nations around the globe, I could only find sporadic writing in English. What I could find were mainly books and articles about the major children’s television industries of the United States and United Kingdom (e.g., Buckingham et al., 1999; Mitroff & Herr Stephenson, 2007; Pecora et al., 2007). After finishing my dissertation and publishing a book in Hebrew about the cultural history of Israeli children’s television (Gozansky, 2019), I returned to that unsuccessful search, wishing to collect and put together a historical analysis of children’s television from big and small countries around the world.

In the years between my initial idea and working on the current book much has changed (besides children’s television itself…). Some more academic research has been published in English about the histories of children’s television from small and big nations (e.g., Lustyik, 2019; Sakr & Steemers, 2017). I have met colleagues, academics, and professionals, interested in the past and present developments in their local children’s television, who were happy to join this project. And I found a genuine need for a fresh and updated research that would put together the diverse histories of children’s television from their initiation to current digital days, focusing on non-Anglo-American countries, helping to build this missing analytical corpus on a global scale.

So, I am pleased and honored to present this edited book based on a collective effort of researchers and professionals dedicated to compile the stories of children’s television around the world. With 12 national chapters, the book includes historical accounts of children’s television from the following ←1 | 2→countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Ecuador, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Kenia, Netherlands, and United States. Of course, this book does not encompass all nations. (I did wish to have some more major regions represented, but sadly a few chapters have not come through.) Nevertheless, I feel that this is a very good starting point for a local and global discussion. Among the limitations of the book, it is important to acknowledge that grouped together, the separate accounts about children’s television histories may seem be a single, isolated story from each country. Conversely, however, that is also the strength of this book, which offers diverse histories of local children’s television by of local contributors, put together for the first time in one edited book. It provides an exploration of each individual country, revealing striking similarities and differences.

Why Study the Histories of Children’s Television?

Several common frameworks rise from those seemingly different local developments discussed in each chapter. These local histories present global frameworks in operation, various balances and synthesis between public and private broadcasters, political environments and economies, local and global cultures; delineating tensions between different languages and between animations and live-action genres; tracing the effects of technological changes, as well as changes in the perception of childhood, questions of quality in children’s television, and diversity of representation. Grouped together, these chapters reveal a unique manifestation of global cultural phenomena.

Why is children’s television important? As part of global and local media landscapes, children’s television is a unique cultural form (Williams, 1974). It combines the technology of television with social meanings, attributed to it by different social actors, adults and children alike. Adults find children’s television to be a place where they can fantasize about childhood, but also as a place to try and control the presentation of childhood (Buckingham, 2002). It is also a commercial arena for the selling of goods, both within the cultural field––in the shape of stories, characters, images, music, as well as values, norms, and practices, and outside of it, in the world of material goods, like toys, food and drink, fashion, etc. For the children of the world, children’s television is, in many cases, one of the most important cultural sites for encountering the world and learning about it––from factual knowledge through evaluation of social interactions to behavioral orientation (Neuss, 2005).

But why focus on the histories of children’s television? A historical account of cultural shifts along several decades usually considers major developments, ←2 | 3→looks at key actors and texts and suggests divisions into distinct stages. Unlike content analysis of a specific program or the study of children’s reception of a single television content, looking at the field––its main texts and active players (broadcasters, producers, and creators, as well as regulators and policy makers), their ideologies, financial prospects and perceptions of childhood––offers a macro-level evaluation of an entire cultural field. This is a valuable picture, as it provides a contextualized perspective that could be reflected upon in every micro analysis, and thus important for the understanding of a specific program created in a specific time and place. Furthermore, the history of one country sometimes influences developments in other countries, with trends shifting from one country to another, but also as cultural impacts and the economics of media have become increasingly global. For example, an American animation produced and aired in the United States is considered local content, but it becomes foreign in other parts of the world, especially when it overwhelms local productions. The same applies to public subsidies and funding for the production of local content in a certain era, as in Australia, China, or Canada, which also help those programs to sell in the international market, and thus impact other local industries and cultural representation.

The Contributors’ Diverse Points of View

The book gathers 12 national chapters from different big and small countries from all five continents. Each chapter was written from a local perspective by women and men interested in the developments of their national children’s television. As evident from their short bios, some contributors are traditional scholars (both established and emerging); others have extensive experience in the production field, where they have been involved in the actual production of programs; some writers have had the combined experience of actual production and scholarly research. Their exciting collaboration provides a unique and multifaceted perspective, integrating a rich and fresh global knowledge base about children’s television.

The chapters may differ in their analysis approaches, but they are similar in their macro-dimensional historical viewpoint, looking at the technologically synthetic response to a set of newly emergent, radical, and ever-changing social, political, and economic needs. The historical evolutions described in the chapters focus on the broad conditions of the domestic fields of children’s television and its main texts, but viewed from a diverse range of perspectives. For instance, the Australian chapter concentrates on the ecology of children’s production, with an in-depth look into the domestic children’s live-action ←3 | 4→drama and its regulatory ecosystem, whereas the U.S. chapter focuses on animation programs, and the Dutch chapter records the development of children’s television in the framework of ideas about children’s nurture and education.

In writing their respective histories, contributors had to take in consideration the specific conditions in their countries in terms of political periods, as well as broadcasting circumstances. Authors from huge countries like Brazil and India had to examine local broadcasters as significant players in the field. The German author had to compare the histories of the two opposing Germanys working simultaneously, with several public broadcasters that operated within the Federal Republic of Germany becoming the dominant system after 1989. In other countries, like Italy or Canada, authors needed to address the inherent tension between local public broadcasters and private local and global ones.

The chapters also vary in their research methodologies. For instance, the Chinese chapter draws upon previous academic literature, official documents, reports, and yearbooks, whereas other authors have found very little previous scholarly data. Such are the Kenyan, Ecuadorian, Canadian, and Israeli chapters, where authors had to initiate a lot of interviews with producers and executives from early children’s television to current ones, in order to gather basic data for their historical production research. These exciting interviews, sometimes the first-ever conducted with a scholarly aim, turns the chapters into valuable historical documents for further research (I secretly hope it would encourage other researchers and graduate students from all over the world to go out and document their local children’s television producers and creators).

The Organization of This Book

The structure of the book’s chapters follows an alphabetical order. This was done in order to emphasize an un-hierarchical selection of the presentation of histories, providing each country with its unique value and meaning. Hence, all the chapters presented briefly in the following paragraphs stand on their own for readers to approach individually, according to their interests in children’s television of specific countries. Nevertheless, taking the book as a whole, this structure also encourages readers to keep a critical and comparing eye when reading each country’s findings and analysis. The final chapter suggests a possible cross-analysis but it is clearly just a starting point.

Children have been considered as a special television audience in Australia since the introduction of television there, but as the Australian chapter describes, the local market has always been too small for producers to cover ←4 | 5→their production costs domestically. The chapter charts the development of Australian children’s television production ecology from the 1970s, when local content quotas were first imposed on commercial broadcasters, and became crucial for the evolution of Australian children’s drama. It continues with the 1980s production heyday, when public funding supported the production of Australian children’s television live-action drama, to the more recent disruption caused by the 2021 removal of content quotas on children’s drama by the Australian government.

The Brazilian chapter addresses children’s television programming in terms of their potential to inspire, entertain, educate, and inform its young audience. Written by an experienced executive and creative producer of children’s television, it highlights the important mission of public channels such as TVE Rio de Janeiro and TV Cultura São Paulo. In the same vein, it criticizes commercial children’s programming for seeing its young audience as superficial consumers and depriving them from more inventive programs that could meet their developmental needs. The chapter also focuses on edutainment programs and how they have managed to survive in Brazil’s extremely turbulent political, technological, and economic conditions.

Canadian children’s television programming is described in the chapter as being developed through two key components: its funding infrastructure which supports Canadian-made programs, and its innovative and forward-thinking animated content. The chapter covers key moments in Canadian television history, including the emergence of Canadian animation, the growth of broadcasters and programming, the rise of Canada’s global impact, and the future of the Canadian industry. Its writers, a team of researchers with professional experience, claim that taken together, children’s television in Canada has had varying degrees of success in telling Canadian stories.

The Chinese chapter traces the development of children’s television in the vast country, which has been subjected to strict ideological control of the government since its birth. Dividing its history to five main stages, the chapter analyzes how China’s rapid transformation from a planned economy to a market-based economy has changed its children’s television. It also examines the commercialization of children’s television through a case study of the state-owned children’s channel CCTV-14. The chapter illustrates the strategies adopted by the Chinese party-state to maintain its strict ideological control over the media and to impose a particular version of ‘good children’ through the market.

The history of television in Ecuador has been a story of private entrepreneurship since its inception, mostly designed for entertainment through advertising, with little educational motivations. The writers, two experienced ←5 | 6→professionals, argue that nothing can be expected from programming that turns children into a market niche of potential buyers. The chapter describes how Educa, the first national public educational television in Ecuador’s history, had only arrived in 2012, aspiring to think of children as a valuable audience. The changing political interests of successive governments made it impossible for Educa to survive for more than 5 years. Those 5 years represent, according to the writers, an educational, social, and communicational experiment on a national level that should be studied and documented.

Despite the cultural, political, and institutional differences, the German chapter traces several identifiable phases with typical developments of children’s television in the two Germanys becoming one. Thus, the historical analysis of children’s television in Germany shows that the strategies of broadcasters and the content they offered had always been influenced by the spirit of their particular period (zeitgeist), political interests, and since the mid-1980s, by explicitly commercial interests. Even KiKa, the public-service children’s channel, which started broadcasting in 1997, had its content divided in equal shares between the channel’s own productions or acquisitions, and the regional and public broadcasters’ programs. Nevertheless, KiKA succeeded in staying local in the current age of multiple streaming services, with one third of its programs being factual, serving to provide education and advice.

Details

Pages
X, 290
Year
2023
ISBN (PDF)
9781433198939
ISBN (ePUB)
9781433198946
ISBN (Softcover)
9781433199028
ISBN (Hardcover)
9781433196720
DOI
10.3726/b20054
Language
English
Publication date
2023 (February)
Keywords
Animation Children’s media Consumer culture Educational television Entertainment Funding Media history Perception of childhood Production Regulation Technology Television culture Histories of Children’s Television Around the World Yuval Gozansky
Published
New York, Berlin, Bruxelles, Lausanne, Oxford, 2023. X, 290 pp., 29 b/w ill., 3 tables.

Biographical notes

Yuval Gozansky (Volume editor)

Yuval Gozansky (Ph.D.) is a Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Communications Department at Sapir Academic College, Israel. He heads the Research Center of Media for Children and Youth. He is editor of Misgerot Media (Media Frames), the academic journal of the Israel Communication Association (IsCA). Prior to his academic career he was a director of numerus television programs for children.

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