Aussie activists fight for children

Feeble kid TV on government's plate

SYDNEY — Aussie kids are ignoring educational TV, so activists say the solution is to set up a separate channel for them.

Lobby group the Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) has called on the government to provide a dedicated free-to-air kids’ channel, arguing that government funding for their skeins is being wasted.

ACTF is fuming that webs don’t promote kids’ shows and then sked them at 4 p.m., when many kids are still at school. The number of 5- to 12-year-olds watching TV from 7 to 8 p.m. is almost twice that watching from 4 to 5 p.m.

“The commercial broadcasters are either unable or unwilling to schedule and promote the programs such that they connect with the child audience,” says ACTF topper Jenny Buckland. “Children’s shows created under the Children’s Television Standards are predominantly screened at times when children aren’t watching television. Promotion is almost nonexistent.”

Ratings body OzTam shows that the 0-14 free-to-air aud decreased by 24.6% from 2001 to June, while the overall aud for free-to-air slid only slightly from 2 million in 2001 to 1.9 mil in 2006.

But whether younger auds are simply more Web and homevid savvy will be for the government review into the Children’s Television Standards, set in place in 1990, to thrash out.

Bridget Fair, head of policy and regulation at the Seven Network, says the blame does not lie with commercial webs.

She agrees that the review of standards is timely given that, in 1990, free to air was the only delivery system — rather than today’s web, DVDs and pay TV.

“The fact is that children will find what they want to watch,” Fair says. “The bigger issue is that the CTS is mandating programming, and that’s like another old-fashioned notion: giving kids cod liver oil — it’s probably good for them but they won’t take it unless you make them.”

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