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Children’s television still an important part of growing up

Oct 3, 2023

Programmes for children continue to have a special place in British culture, says public

Results from an Ipsos MORI Omnibus survey conducted on behalf of ScreenSkills’ Children’s TV Skills Fund shows overwhelming support for the provision of children’s programming for the UK audience.

The Children’s TV Skills Fund was created in 2015 by ScreenSkills to invest in UK-wide skills development for crew in children’s TV. Industry-led, the Fund focuses on reducing skills shortages and closing skills gaps to create a sustainable, inclusive workforce.

“At a time when budgets for children’s television are being squeezed and content is either disappearing from our screens or being sidelined, it’s clear that the British public overwhelmingly still believe that programmes made for children are very important,”commented Sarah Joyce, head of unscripted and children’s television at ScreenSkills. “We also know that people want to pursue careers specifically in children’s television and there is a real risk that they might not be able to realise their dreams and ambitions in the future.”

The research found that the vast majority of respondents perceived children’s television as important, with 81% saying that children’s TV was a central part of growing up for a child and only 16% saying that the quality of children’s television was not important.

83% of the those questioned also had fond memories of watching children’s TV when they were younger and over three quarters (77%) agreed that children’s television had a ‘special place’ in British culture.

In terms of accessibility of content specifically made for young people, there was overwhelming agreement (87%) that children’s programmes should be available to watch on free-to-view broadcast television, and 60% of the respondents considered this to be ‘very important’.  Additionally, 8 in 10 of the participants also thought that it was important that children’s television is available to watch via free catch-up and on-demand services. In terms of the provision of children’s programme on paid-for streaming services, 50% of people said that it was important.

Viewing Habits

Parents or guardians of children aged 15 years old or under, were also asked about the viewing habits of their children.

On a typical weekday, children (those aged 15 or under) were most likely to watch children’s television programmes (82%) and social media video content (82%). This compares to 76% who watch films and 67% who watch television programmes not made specifically for children.

Specifically, 98% of parents with children up to 5 years old said that they watched children’s television during the term time week and 95% at the weekend. 41% of parents added that their children watched more than an hour of children’s TV during the week; and this rose to 44% at weekends.

In comparison, among 6 to ten year olds, 86% watch children’s TV during the week, and 84% over the weekend during term time. 19% of respondents said that this age group watch more than 2 hours over a typical term-time weekend with a similar percentage being true of weekday viewing also.

“This ScreenSkills research comes at a crucial point for the future of children’s content in the UK. It’s not surprising that so many adults remember with affection and treasure the experiences they gained from watching children’s television. Or that they feel it remains important in children’s lives. The report highlights the amount of viewing by young people on unregulated social media platforms,” added Greg Childs, director of the Children’s Media Foundation. “The Foundation is working with the children’s content industry to bring to the attention of the regulator and government that this trend threatens the future of public service media in the UK as loyalty to traditional children’s television decreases and commercial funding diminishes.”

For children aged between 11 and 15 years of age, children are more likely to watch children’s television during the week. There was an 18 percentage point drop in viewing of children’s programmes at the weekend (66%) compared with weekday viewing (84%) with less than one in three (18%) watching over two hours of content. In comparison, 39% of respondents said that children in this group were watching over two hours of video content on social media.

Overall, all children – those aged 15 or under – were most likely to watch children’s television programmes (81%) and social media video content (80%). This compares to 79% who watch films and 68% who watch television programmes not made specifically for children.

“The Children’s TV Fund was created to support makers of children’s content for their entirety of their careers and we create training programmes specifically designed for the very nuanced nature of this genre,” concluded Sarah Joyce. “There is clearly an appetite for quality, original programming and we are keen to work with the children’s TV industry to see what can be done to ensure that children in the UK continue to have programmes made specifically for them.”

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