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Children of the world on British television: national and transnational representations

Bignell, J. ORCID: (2018) Children of the world on British television: national and transnational representations. Strenae, 13. ISSN 2109-9081 (Special issue: Le '68 des enfants / The Children's 68)

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To link to this item DOI: 10.4000/strenae.1966


This article analyses comparative representations of childhood in British television programmes shortly after 1968, focusing on transnational broadcasting and international co-productions. Television played a relatively conservative role, limited to programmes associated with pedagogical, public service aims. However, programmes engaged with adults’ insight into the importance of listening to children and attributing them with greater agency and voice, recognition of diversity in children’s culture, and the need to communicate with both adults and children about social problems, not least of which were problems affecting children themselves. Comparative representations of British childhoods had already been made for British television, the most celebrated being the documentary series 7 Up (1964-). It follows the life stories of the same seven-year old children from different social classes and geographical locations around the UK, for a new programme every seven years. In the 1971 edition the children were asked their views about politics, race and sex, implicitly critiquing British class privilege and opportunity, and expressing a desire for social change linked with experiences of childhood. However, transnational projects representing and comparing British childhoods with those in other nations rarely appeared on British television. The live broadcast Children of the World (1971), hosted by US actor and UNICEF representative Danny Kaye, representing children’s lives in 45 countries, fitted a model for upbeat global simulcasts exemplified by Our World (1967), and was produced by an international consortium including the BBC in Britain, but it was not screened within Britain. Programmes made for children did investigate and compare childhoods in different countries, however. The 1971 BBC television series If You Were Me, an international co-production, showed boys and girls from different countries swapping lives with each other, foregrounding similarity and difference. The British commercial ITV channel used a 1971 French film to launch an educational series for adults, Children to Children (1973), addressing childhood as experienced in various national contexts. Its short documentaries of widely differing styles were part of an outward-looking agenda preceding Britain’s entry into the Common Market. With reference to these examples, the article assesses the significance of the internationalization and universalization associated with 1968, inasmuch as it underlay television representations of childhood.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:Arts, Humanities and Social Science > School of Arts and Communication Design > Film, Theatre & Television
ID Code:77147
Uncontrolled Keywords:childhood, television, Britain, 1968, documentary, international, transnational, education
Publisher:Association Francaise de Recherche sur les Livres et les Objets Culturels de l'Enfance
Publisher Statement:Strenae est mis à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.


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