children’s television

children’s television
Children’s television should properly be the fastest growing sector of the television market in China. There are over 350 million people under the age of sixteen in China today, many of whom have access to a television. Children’s broadcasting is reportedly a key issue for CCTV (Chinese Central Television), which needs to woo and retain an audience as the macro-competition steps up from regional conglomerates—in particular Shanghai Oriental Pearl and Star (Phoenix). However, whilst there are timeslots and quotas (two to eight hours per day plus ten minutes of ‘new’ domestic animation) in operation for kids’ shows, CCTV 7 broadcasts dedicated children’s programming on the same channel as military extravaganzas and sport. This miscellany develops a confused sense of targeted programming, and certainly does not speak to middle school aspirations, nor to the possibilities of using children’s TV in imaginative forays into rural issues, urban education stresses and exciting dramas. Rather, there is an assortment of game shows, short documentaries, storytelling features and cartoons, which serve a junior school very adequately, but which leave the middle school years without much to go on. Recent research describes the channel as ‘a Pure Land full of knowledge, wisdom, lofty character, and sentiments’. It does not explain, however, where the over-tens will go to continue their spiritual education once they tire of Big Pinwheel (a magazine format rather like Saturday Disney). In this, Chinese children’s TV is similar to other TV regimes the world over. There are real difficulties facing Chinese broadcasters, however. Children’s programming is expensive, especially as the standard of (a) animated content and (b) interactive content relies on strong recent experience in the relative creative fields and also a dynamic response to American and Japanese products that are susceptible to localization and are highly popular with young audiences.
Shanghai and Jiangsu TV have taken the lead here with co-productions, but CCTV also has created transborder shows (again for younger viewers) such as the Australian/Chinese co-production Magic Mountain. Meanwhile, advertising is not highly regulated so there can supposedly be any number of ads inserted into children’s programmes to make them more profitable (CCTV carries ads despite being the main public broadcaster and free-to-air service in China). In practice, though, and probably because of the emphasis on younger children, there is little will to sponsor or buy space in these slots. On the positive side, children’s TV does produce success stories. There are well-known presenters who now work to promote films for children through their popularity; there are also merchandizing ventures capitalizing on TV shows, and therefore deepening the local industry (Blue Cat/Lanmao and Journey to the West/Xiyouji are examples from 2000–2). These consumerist ventures complement the more worthy impulses of the medium and reach out to the urban child elites (but not to the poorer rural children, for whom merchandizing is not an option). Children’s TV in China is at a point of transition. It needs to take on the interactive, high production values that are informing shows worldwide, but avoid the junk food broadcasting that comes along as quota fodder in many media systems.
Research Team of the Centre for Documentation and Information (CASS) (2000). ‘An Assessment of Children’s TV Programmes in the People’s Republic of China’. In A.Goonasekera, C.Z.Huang, L.Eashwer, B.Guntarto, S.Bairaj-Ambigapathy, J.Dhungana, A.Lin, A.Chung and V.T.M.Hanh (eds), Growing up with TV: Asian Children’s Experience. AMIC: Singapore, 12–47.
Huang, Yufu, Liu, Ni and Shi, Ying (2001). ‘Portrayal of Children in the News: A Case Study of China’. In A.Goonasekera (ed.), Children in the News: Reporting of Children’s Issues in Television and the Press in Asia. AMIC: Singapore.

Encyclopedia of contemporary Chinese culture. . 2011.

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