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Ofcom challenges UK PSBs to cater to older kids

In letters to ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5, the UK media regulator is encouraging changes such as the addition of news and factual programs for tweens.
July 25, 2018

In an update to its ongoing children’s content review, UK media regulator Ofcom has called on public service broadcasters ITV, Channel 4 and Channel 5 to “revitalize” their children’s programming strategies in ways that specifically benefit 13- to 15-year-olds.

Taking into account changing audience habits and children’s increasing viewing of on-demand and online videos, Ofcom’s research pinpoints three areas of concern—a lack of original, high-quality programs made specifically for older children across all genres, a limited amount of children’s shows that help kids understand the world around them, and a finite range of original programs that allow UK children to see their lives reflected on screen.

Ofcom is encouraging the PSBs to up news programming for children to help counter fake news and disinformation, and provide shows that can explain current affairs in an engaging and age-sensitive way.

The regulator found that outside of the BBC—which is obliged to provide 675 hours of factual programming for children every year on CBBC—there is a limited amount of factual programming for children. It reports that on those named PSB channels, there were only three hours of factual programming in 2017 (down from 102 hours in 2006), all of which were on ITV.

It addressed how broadcasters are falling behind in kids viewership to SVOD services including Netflix and YouTube, noting that 90% of kids ages 12 to 15 are now watching YouTube and children ages five to 15 estimate that they spend more time per week online (15 hours, 18 minutes) or using their mobile phone (15 hours, six minutes) than they do watching television on a TV set (14 hours). To move forward, the report recommends that broadcasters leverage online opportunities around high-quality content for young audiences.

Ofcom is giving the PSBs until March 2019 to deliver their programming improvement plans. The regulator’s assessments will then be published in its next Media Nations report that summer.

Ofcom’s children’s content review went into effect after the “Digital Economy Act 2017″ gave the regulator power to publish criteria for the provision of children’s programming and, if appropriate, set related conditions or quotas on licensed public service channels (Channel 3 services, Channel 4 and Channel 5). In its update of the review, the regulator stopped short of setting fixed content quotas.

The report follows the BBC’s recent commissions of new original content for 13- to 15-year-olds that will be available as box sets on the UK pubcaster’s iPlayer streaming service.

About The Author
Jeremy is the Features Editor of Kidscreen specializing in the content production, broadcasting and distribution aspects of the global children's entertainment industry. Contact Jeremy at jdickson@brunico.com.

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