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Children’s television and public service in contemporary Britain

Bignell, J. (2017) Children’s television and public service in contemporary Britain. In: Dinter, S. and Schneider, R. (eds.) Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Childhood in Contemporary Britain. Studies in Childhood, 1700 to the Present. Routledge, London, UK, pp. 87-102. ISBN 9781138232105

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Abstract/Summary

This chapter argues that ‘the child’ is a discursive construct deployed by broadcasters, regulators, and viewers that tells us a lot about how television is understood in culture. Centralised broadcast and dispersed individual reception of television since the 1930s enable versions of public service broadcasting that attempt to raise cultural, educational and social standards, and television’s address to children promotes inclusion but also individuation, shared cultural references but also taste discrimination, and forms of distinction and inequality through which British social life is reproduced. Some British children’s programmes also sell overseas, because of a shared ideology about what childhood is. In the Western world, childhood is seen in two contrasting ways. On one hand, children have been regarded as irrational, immoral and in need of adult guidance. But on the other hand, children are also regarded as innocent, and naturally predisposed to be good. Regulation has therefore aimed to protect ‘vulnerable’ children, yet ironically, in Britain greater regulation has decimated children’s television production. Regulation on behalf of children is a special case of more general attempts to control audiences, and inasmuch as ‘the child’ is necessarily an ‘other’, he or she is always elsewhere. The chapter shows how the figure of the child problematizes the concepts of communcation and broadcasting.

Item Type:Book or Report Section
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:74682
Uncontrolled Keywords:Television Children Childhood Media BBC Interactivity Broadcasting
Additional Information:An ebook version is also available, ISBN 9781315313375
Publisher:Routledge

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