Realizing that young viewers make good consumers, Italian broadcasters have recently begun to expand their children’s programming. With Italy in the midst of a recession, the devalued lira has brought price ups on adult programming, while kidvid has remained relatively inexpensive.

Together, pubcaster RAI and Fininvest, reach a local audience share exceeding 90% for children’s programming.

According to broadcasters, imported programming is necessary, because “there aren’t enough good products made in Italy,” explains Fininvest’s Alessandra Valeri Manera, who’s responsible for kids broadcasting.

Most local producers lack the resources to produce a series of 26 half-hour segments, the standard required by broadcasters, she says.

Producers think that if broadcasters do not start investing in Italian industry, foreign competitors will always dominate entertainment programming. Some producers even believe that Italy, where TV stations air 11,000 hours of cartoons a year, should force stations to air a quota of locally-produced shows.

While children’s broadcasting is substantially deregulated in Italy, there is a limit on ad spots, which cannot be aired during a children’s program

Italy also relegates films considered unsuitable to minors under 14 to timeslots after 10:30 p.m., while banning from the airwaves any films considered unsuitable to minors under 18.

But media expert Francesco Siliato notes that “content is totally deregulated, violence is everywhere. Italian children watch hundreds of killings and fights every day. Being a Catholic country, the only concern seems to be sex,” says Siliato.

But Italian kids do like violence, and the proof is in the numbers: In the first five weeks of 1995, the most popular children’s daytime program was “Mighty Morphin Power Rangers,” aired by Canale 5, with 1.12 million viewers.

Children also like “interactive” gameshows aired by most channels, in which “interactive” means that kids can phone from home.

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