The production ecology of pre-school television in Britain

Lead Research Organisation: University of Westminster
Department Name: Faculty of Media Arts and Design

Abstract

This project investigated the changing production ecology of British preschool television in the light of global and national developments since the mid-1990s when a small number of British pre-school programmes (Teletubbies, Bob the Builder) achieved a high international profile.
The principle aim has been to provide systematic analysis of the state of British preschool television by identifying the factors that inform and shape its development and production. The second aim has been to disseminate the findings to enhance understanding of the sector both within industry and academia.
One of the main achievements of the research has been the degree of access to industry contacts and different production contexts, which has provided rich evidence to meet the project's aims and objectives.
Drawing on 88 interviews with producers, distributors, broadcasters, writers, directors, regulators, mari researchers, and overseas buyers, combined with observations in a range of production environments, the research has articulated and established the complex internal and external factors that determine preschool production.
It focused on how different players in this production ecology manage and creatively negotiate wider commercial, regulatory, cultural and technological forces and the implications for the nature of what is produced. The research proved particularity timely as it coincided with a perceived crisis in UK children's TV following a ban on advertising for HFSS (high fat sugar salt) foods around programming targeted at children, and the reduced commitment of ITV to commissioning content and transmitting children's shows on its terrestrial service ITV 1.
This contrast between international success and domestic crisis provided a compelling rationale for further investigation. A further achievement of the project, has been levels of dissemination beyond what was originally envisaged (2 articles, 1 book chapter, 2 conferences, an industry report, 13 papers).
In terms of outcomes and results the project provides a comprehensive examination of British pre-school television with reference to its history, structure, institutional relationships and working operations. In particular it charts how preschool television has been shaped by a range of external forces and internal practices, and how it functions as a production ecology comprising a range of large and small players (broadcasters, producers, licensors, co-founders) who at different times co-exist, co-operate and compete in a highly competitive and increasingly global production environment.
The examination of these different players and their variable and often unequal relationships provides an improved understanding of the different levels of interactivity, interdependence, cooperation and competition, and how actors position themselves in relation to changing national and international circumstances and to each other. Focusing on the precise roles of different players, the team gained insight into the strategies employed to get programmes commissioned and funded. In term of findings the project established:
The highly differentiated yet interconnected nature of the production sector ranging from large and commercially ^ orientated producer-distributors with major interests in international markets and licensed merchandise to smaller creatively-led production entities.
The disconnect between the small amounts of commissions and funding provided by broadcasters (primarily C Beebies, Five and Nick Junior UK) and their power In determining what gets made, based on their hold over broadcast distribution.
The large degree to which international and licensed merchandise considerations inform what gets made.
The growing importance given to the incorporation of educational content in pre-school programming to meet increasing concerns about the impact of programming on children, and also to satisfy the US market, which is more educationally focused.

Publications

10 25 50
publication icon
J.Steemers (2013) Children's TV and the Rise and Fall of Preschool Producers' in Critical Studies in Television

publication icon
J.Steemers (2006) he BBC's Role in the Changing Production Ecology of Pre-School Television in Britain in RIPE (Re-visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise) conference entitled 'Public Service Broadcasting in a Multichannel Environment: Programmes and Platforms' in Amsterdam (16-18 November 2006)

publication icon
Jeanette Steemers (2008) Children's Television- 'The Soft Underbelly of Public Service Broadcasting' in RIPE 2008 - Public Service Media in the 21st Century: Participation, Partnership and Media Development

publication icon
Alexandra Cochrane (2008) 'Making Television for Young Children' in Scope

 
Description This project investigated the changing production ecology of British preschool television in the light of global and national developments since the mid-1990s when a small number of British pre-school programmes (Teletubbies, Bob the Builder) achieved a high international profile. The principle aim has been to provide systematic analysis of the state of British pre- school television by identifying the factors that inform and shape its development and production. The second aim has been to disseminate the findings to enhance understanding of the sector both within industry and academia.
One of the main achievements of the research has been the degree of access to industry contacts and different production contexts, which has provided rich evidence to meet the project's aims and objectives. Drawing on 88 interviews with producers, distributors, broadcasters, writers, directors, regulators, market researchers, and overseas buyers, combined with observations in a range of production environments, the research has articulated and established the complex internal and external factors that determine preschool production. It focused on how different players in this production ecology manage and creatively negotiate wider commercial, regulatory, cultural and technological forces and the implications for the nature of what is produced. The research proved particularly timely as it coincided with a perceived crisis in UK children's TV following a ban on advertising for HFSS (high fat sugar salt) foods around programming targeted at children, and the reduced commitment of ITV to commissioning content and transmitting children's shows on its terrestrial service ITV 1. This contrast between international success and domestic crisis provided a compelling rationale for further investigation. A further achievement of the project,has been levels of dissemination beyond what was originally envisaged (2 articles, 1 book chapter, 2 conferences, an industry report, 13 papers).
In terms of outcomes and results the project provides a comprehensive examination of British pre-school television with reference to its history, structure, institutional relationships and working operations. In particular it charts how preschool television has been shaped by a range of external forces and internal practices, and how it functions as a production ecology comprising a range of large and small players (broadcasters, producers, licensors, co-funders) who at different times co-exist, co-operate and compete in a highly competitive and increasingly global production environment. The examination of these different players and their variable and often unequal relationships provides an improved understanding of the different levels of interactivity, interdependence, cooperation and competition, and how actors position themselves in relation to changing national and international circumstances and to each other. Focusing on the precise roles of different players, the team gained insight into the strategies employed to get programmes commissioned and funded. In term of findings the project established:
* The highly differentiated yet interconnected nature of the production sector ranging from large and commercially orientated producer-distributors with major interests in international markets and licensed merchandise to smaller creatively-led production entities.
* The disconnect between the small amounts of commissions and funding provided by broadcasters (primarily CBeebies, Five and Nick Junior UK) and their power in determining what gets made, based on their hold over broadcast distribution.
* The large degree to which international and licensed merchandise considerations inform what gets made.
* The growing importance given to the incorporation of educational content in pre-school programming to meet increasing concerns about the impact of programming on children, and also to satisfy the US market, which is more educationally focused.

The original report for this project was submitted in 2008. The AHRC graded the project as 'Good" on 22 April 2010.
Exploitation Route There are a range of available outputs that are publicly available and these can be used by others.
The funding for this grant ended in 2008 after two years (before pathways to impact were asked for by the funding councils). The full report was submitted to the AHRC immediately afterwards and graded Good on 22 April 2010. On the basis of this grade, I applied successfully for AHRC Research Leave in 2008-2009. The findings of both grants which are related have already been taken forward and the international and production dimensions have fed into a new AHRC research project 'Orientations in the Development of Pan-Arab Television for Children AH/1000674/1 which runs from 2013-2016. Jeanette Steemers is the Co-Investigator on this project with colleagues who are Middle East Media specialists.
Sectors Creative Economy

Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software)

Culture

Heritage

Museums and Collections

 
Description As a production study the project has involved high levels of interaction and dialogue with industry practitioners, not only through interviews and observations, but also through attendance and active participation in industry events (Showcomotion, Voice of the Listner and Viewer, Save Kids TV, PACT, OFCOM). These interactions raised substantial interest in the project from industry practitioners and regulators in the project's findings and outcomes. This interest was reinforced by the perception of a crisis in children's television following the virtual withdrawal of ITV from children's television production and the implementation of advertising restrictions. As an integral part of the project, high priority was placed on disseminating findings to non-academic audiences, in particular, the children's television community, in the following ways: * The hosting of two industry events - one at the beginning to outline the project (The Production Ecology of Pre-school Television 19 January 2007) and one at the end to present outcomes (Making Television for Young Children 12 September 2008). For further details see Outputs and Outcomes. * The dissemination of a 72-page 'Industry Report' to attendees of the 'Making Television for Young Children' Conference with findings relating to the impact of international sales, merchandise licensing considerations, legal and regulatory changes, aspects of programme development and audience research, and the identification of key players and their strategies. For smaller producers in particular this type of industry data and insight is valuable, because commercially produced reports are often prohibitively expensive. For further details see Outputs and Outcomes. * The presentation of findings at industry events including the 2008 Showcomotion conference and the Westminster Forum in December 2006. * The production of a literature review on the potential benefits of children's television, circulated by Save Kids TV to its membership. For further details see Outputs and Outcomes. * The completion of a book 'Making Television for Young Children' for Palgrave Macmillan in 2009, which will be of interest to both an academic and non-academic audience. The research project findings advance knowledge and understanding beyond academia by providing: * A comprehensive study of pre-school television in Britain and its place within a global marketplace. * An insight and overview of the international opportunities for pre-school programming in overseas markets - including the US, Germany, France and the Netherlands. * An overview of all the key players in production, distribution and broadcasting and their strategies * Analysis of recent regulatory and policy developments and how these are likely to impact the pre-school television industry * An overview of the British market for overseas practitioners. During the course of the research, contacts were made with overseas broadcasters and producers in Germany and the US who were keen to access the project's research findings and also attended and in some cases gave presentations at our final industry event. * Insight into the possibilities and realities of multimedia platforms in the pre-school market. This area is always a keenly anticipated part of findings, because change is happening quickly and producers need to understand the implications for their businesses. It was always intended that the main outcome of the research funded by this Research Grant would be a book, entitled 'Making Television for Young Children'. This book was published by Palgrave Macmillan, in 2010. However the AHRC Research Grant, held between September 2006 and September 2008, while allowing for the compilation of research outcomes and an industry report, did not cover the delivery of the final manuscript to the publisher. For this reason the PI, Jeanette Steemers, successfully applied to the AHRC Research Leave Scheme (AH/G003572/1). The university funded proportion of the research leave began in September 2008, after the Research Grant came to an end. The AHRC funded proportion of the research leave will begin in January 2009. Empirical research opened up several other contacts and opportunities. The team has been following one production, 'Grandpa' by the producers Adastra Creative since its inception in 2007. It will be broadcast in 2009, '. Contacts made with fellow academics (Dr Karen Lury and Lynn Whitaker at the University of Glasgow and Professor Maire Messenger Davies at the University of Ulster) during field research and at the seminars/conferences held as part of the research project generated discussions about how we might work together in future - particularly on research relating to children's media policy and production studies. These discussions are still at an early stage but options under consideration include an edited volume or a special edition in a journal. Our motivation is driven by the dearth of research material on children's media production and policy. Finally, the University of Westminster has committed to host the fourth RIPE conference (Re-Visionary Interpretations of the Public Enterprise) in 2010, a joint industry-academic conference which considers issues relating to public service media. The last conference in October 2008 was jointly hosted by the University of Mainz and German public broadcaster, ZDF. It is the intention to dedicate one of the six workshops to media issues relating to children and young 119149 Page 8 of 27 Date printed: 28/11/2008 10:46:30 Date saved: 28/11/2008 10:32:28 Final Report original proforma document ? ?people, and to stage a plenary panel that considers these issues a
First Year Of Impact 2008
Sector Digital/Communication/Information Technologies (including Software),Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Description Citation in Ofcom Report on Future of Children's Television
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/kidstv/summary/kidstvresearch.pdf
 
Description Submission to Ofcom Report on The Future of Children's Television
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Contribution to a national consultation/review
URL http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/kidstv/responses/MessengerDaviesM.pdf
 
Description Witness at House of Lords Select Committee on Communications Inquiry on "BBC Charter Renewal: Public Purposes and License Fee' 27 October 2015. Speaking about Children's television.
Geographic Reach National 
Policy Influence Type Citation in other policy documents
URL http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld201516/ldselect/ldcomuni/96/96.pdf
 
Description World Summit on Media for Children, Kuala Lumpur, 9-10 September 2014 Pre-conference workshop, 8 September Children's Media at the Core of Public Service Media in a Multiplatform Era
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
URL http://www.wsmc2014.org/index.php/programme
 
Description AHRC Digital Transformations REsearch Development Grant
Amount £29,835 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/J01303X/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2012 
End 06/2012
 
Description AHRC Research Grant
Amount £424,927 (GBP)
Funding ID AH/1000674/1 
Organisation Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) 
Sector Public
Country United Kingdom
Start 01/2013 
End 01/2016
 
Description Wallenbergs Foundation
Amount 9,668 kr (SEK)
Organisation Wallenberg Foundations 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country Sweden
Start 01/2013 
End 01/2016
 
Description Academic Community Discussion Ofcom 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? Yes
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact The panel was asked various questions about the Future of Children's Television in the UK and these responses are reflected in Section 6 of the Future of Children's Television Report published by Ofcom in October 2007 - available at http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/kidstv/summary/kidstvresearch.pdf. , pp. 139-151
Topics discussed which found their way into the report included:
1. Key trends and challenges facing the children's industry at the moment
2. Role of the public service broadcasters
3. Role of PSB for children in the digital world
4. The funding of children's programming
5. Role of new media in distribution of content to children
6. The prospects for future delivery.


The main impacts of participation in the academic community discussion was an ability to provide input on the state of children's production in the UK and this fed into the final report by Ofcom, which was published on 3rd October 2007.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007
URL http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/kidstv/summary/kidstvresearch.pdf
 
Description Inspiration v. Insight: the Role of audience research in the Creative Process' Showcomotion Conference, Sheffield 3 July 2008 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact PI Jeanette Steemers presented the paper 'Inspiration vs. Insight: The Role of Audience Research in the Creative Process' at the Inspiration vs Insight Panel, held at the Showcomotion Children's Media Conference, 2-4 July Sheffield. Other speakers included Dr Laura Brown and Josh Selig from Little Airplane Productions and Marie Laver from BBC Worldwide. The panel took place on 3rd July and attracted an audience of about 150. Further details are available at www.showcomotionconference.com.Approximately 150 attended this panel on 'Inspiration vs Insight held at the Showcomotion Children's Conference, where a paper was presented from the project, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards.

Save Kids TV was interested in a follow on project with the AHRC from this project.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2008
URL http://archive.thechildrensmediaconference.com/2008/timetable.php
 
Description Joint Academia and Media Professionals Panel Meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact PI Jeanette Steemers was invited to participate in a joint Academic and Media Professionals panel hosted by the Institute of Education, Knowledge Lab and organised by Cary Bazalgette in London on 9 November 2007. The discussion from this fed into a response to 'The Future of Children's Television Programming' published by Ofcom in October 2007. The jointly Agreed response. : '"The Future of Children's Television Programming: Some Responses from the Academic Community' is available at http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/kidstv/responses/MessengerDaviesM.pdf

Discussions from the meeting found their way into the Ofcom Submission http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/kidstv/responses/MessengerDaviesM.pdf
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2007
URL http://stakeholders.ofcom.org.uk/binaries/consultations/kidstv/responses/MessengerDaviesM.pdf
 
Description Organiser of Industry-Academia Panel Arab Awakenings: New Production Partnerships and Market Opportunities in the Middle East, Children's Media Conference, Sheffield 6-8 July 2011. 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We ran the following panel at the Children's Media Conference in Sheffield to find out more about the situation of Children's media production in the Arab world Arab Awakenings: New Production Partnerships and Market Opportunities in the Middle East .
9:30-10:30am Friday 8th July with

• Dr. Naif A. Al-Mutawa, CEO, Teshkeel Media Group, Creator of THE 99 (Video Clip Contribution)
• Nia Ceidiog, Managing Director of Ceidiog and Producer of Baaas
• Teresa Reed, 3Line Media, Executive Producer, Driver Dan's Story Train
• Firdaus Kharas, Chairman of Chocolate Moose Media, Executive Producer and Director of Nan and Lili
• Cynthia Madanat Sharaiha, Managing Director/Creative Director, Dana Production Company, Jordan, Producer of ALWAN
• Howard Myers, Joint Managing Director, Rival Media, Executive Producer, Power Struggle

The number of pan-Arab children's TV channels has expanded rapidly since the mid-1990s, serving countries where the proportion of under-18s is almost 50 percent of the total population. With this market growth some broadcasters like Al-Jazeera Children's Channel (JCC) and its preschool outlet Baraem, are actively supporting homegrown production as well as production partnerships with non-Arab programme-makers such as 3Line Media Ceidiog Creations, Chocolate Moose Media, Rival Media and Zodiak. This panel discussed how producers can successfully collaborate with Arab partners to produce quality children's content in the region. It provided insight into the type of content made for the region by Arab, British and non-British programme-makers right now. It explored the cultural and business factors that affect the process of production and content, and examined the type of programming that works for this market including reality, entertainment, information and preschool shows. How do you secure collaboration? What is the best way of working with local programme makers and writers, and how do you go about this? What is to be gained from these initiatives? And what is the best route for building lasting relationships where all parties benefit in a region that is undergoing immense political upheaval and change?



The panel gave us more contacts and insight to submit a successful bid to the AHRC for a research project on Children's Television in the Arab World AH/1000674/1
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2011
 
Description Westminster Media Forum - The future of children's media - multi-platform delivery, public service broadcasting and economics 1st May 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Circa 100 industry practitioners attended this event organised by the Westminster Media Forum, which sparked questions and discussion afterwards

See above. I presented an invited paper on - The Future of Children's Media - multi-platform delivery, public service broadcasting and economics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
 
Description Westminster Media Forum on 'Children's Media' 6 December 2006 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact PI Jeanette Steemers was invited as a panelist at the Westminster Media Forum Keynote Seminar Series on 'Children's Media' held on 6th December 2006 in London. She contributed to the 'Children and Media: Latest Evidence on Consumption Session' alongside Susan Downey, Publisher of First News and David Lynn, Managing Director of Nickelodeon UK. The discussion and individual contributions were published in a book 'Children's Media' (see published outputs).

The debate was published in a report Children's Media Westminster Media Forum Seminar Series, 2006, pp. 10-12
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006
 
Description Working Paper for Save Kids TV/Children's Media Foundation 'Can Television Be Good for Children' 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact As a funding crisis arose around children's television, the PI was asked by the advocacy organisation Save Kids TV whether there was any literature review in the public domain about the potential benefits of some television for children. The PI put SKTV in touch with the University of Westminster researcher Dr Kaoruko Kondo, who undertook the necessary research. Together with Professor Steemers, Dr Kondo compiled a literature review, which SKTV subsequently asked whether it could place on its website. The 8500 word report, which was completed in December 2006, can be accessed at http://www.savekidstv.org.uk/news/can-television-be-good-for-children-by-dr-kaoruko-kondo/

The paper was cited in the Academic Literature Review (Annex A) of Ofcom's 2007 report 'The Future of Children's Television' http://www.ofcom.org.uk/consult/condocs/kidstv/litreview.pdf.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2006
 
Description Workshop on Children's Media at the Core of Public Service Media in a Multiplatform Era at the World Summit on Media for Children, Kuala Lumpur, 9-10 September 2014 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact 80 industry practitioners attended a workshop organised by Professor Naomi Sakr and Professor Jeanette Steemers on Children's Media at the Core of Public Service Media in a Multiplatform Era in Kuala Lumpur as part of the World Summit on Media for Children, 8 September

The Event (Workshop 4) was sponsored by the Commonwealth Broadcasting Alliance / Now Public Media Alliance. We were asked to write a report on the event which has been submitted to the CBA for dissemination among members, and hopefully this will inform CBA/PMA policy on public service media for children
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2014
URL http://www.wsmc2014.org/index.php/programme