Far out, brussels sprout!

27 February, 2018

On 22 January 2018, The Australian published an article from the incoming CEO of Free TV Australia Bridget Fair, who likened Australian children’s content on commercial television to the brussels sprouts of a child’s dinner.

This is yet another example of Australian commercial broadcasters’ self-serving efforts to claw back the already derisory amount of money they spend on children’s TV. The content quota obligations requiring Channels 7, 9 and 10 to program a small amount of Australian television specifically for children are hardly onerous and, according to ACMA, represent less than 2 per cent of broadcasters’ overall content spend. Perhaps less than they spend on lobbying to rid themselves of the obligation . . .

Ms Fair’s claim that Australian children no longer watch Australian children’s TV is a weary argument that’s both reductive and misleading. The viewing statistics reflect a sustained and deliberate strategy by the broadcasters, including poor programming practices. They reluctantly schedule this content, and then barely if at all promote it, thereby manufacturing a self-fulfilling prophecy that Australian children are not watching Australian children’s TV.

Brussels sprouts? A better analogy might be chicken and egg.

Ms Fair seems to suggest that reality shows like My Kitchen Rules and MasterChef are adequate replacements for Australian children’s TV. She speaks of the ‘important social and cultural role’ these ‘inspiring Australian stories’ have. High-rating reality television and quality Australian children’s shows are not an either–or proposition. Ms Fair herself speaks of the high quality of our children’s television, yet rather than acknowledge the significant social and cultural value they have and the attendant responsibilities of her members, she instead equates these shows to brussels sprouts – trivialising and denigrating the vital role they play.

A lot could be achieved if broadcasters would look up from their lobbying briefs and respond responsibly to the commercial and cultural value of their public spectrum access.

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