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Save Kids’ TV UK-Style (Please)

The US, Australia and Europe make some great TV, no one can deny it. And growing up in the eighties and nineties, I certainly watched plenty of imported television: the likes of Sharky and George, Around The Twist, The Fresh Prince, Keenan and Kel and Even Stevens definitely eclipsed the Grange Hills and Byker Groves as far as I was concerned. Whilst my knowledge of American TV (and thus American mores and values) heightened my appreciation of the global village, this wasn’t 100% good.

I’m not a USA/other country-basher by the way: there’s plenty we can learn from other countries, including how to produce hit shows that sell literally EVERYWHERE. These imports deserve their success, because it shows how good they are at reading the market. This does not form any part of my point, just so we’re clear.

My point is, as another season of Dr. Who starts, whether you like this show or not, we need MORE UK-made kids’ TV like this! Big event stuff that gets the family together to watch, reflecting the ideas and values of our own society, not someone else’s. Philosophically, I believe this is very important.

When I was a kid, I might have preferred the writing and characters in The Fresh Prince to Byker Grove, but I actually watched both. And growing up in the 80s and 90s, we had access to both UK-made and imports. Maybe not as much as we should have had, but I’m betting it was a hell of a lot more than my kids have got now. Just 1% of kids’ TV is UK-made now. 1%!!!!

This is terrible.


We are not American, Australian, French or any other nationality. We live in the UK, we are British. Our kids’ programmes then should reflect the society they live in, it’s as simple as that. If it doesn’t, then is it any wonder our country lacks a sense of national identity?

This is not an overreaction by the way. Media Imperialism (ie. showing the media products of other countries too much to one that does not have its own) has been shown to make a massive impact on culture: this is why media products can be considered propaganda materials in times of war!

So support the campaign for saving UK Kids’ TV. Our kids need their own voice and they need to see their own society. Just because we speak English like the Americans and Australians does NOT mean we live the same lives or experience the same things as them; we are all different to one another.

And thank f*** for that, variety is the spice of life, but I think the British need to realise this. When I was still teaching, my students used so many Americanisms it broke through into their spelling, as standard. In creative writing lessons, stories would come back set in San Francisco, New York and Texas; when I suggested they might want to try London, Manchester or another UK connurbation, they’d shrug and say “I dunno what it looks like.” A similar thing has bled into the specs I read – if I have to read one more “sidewalk” when the piece is set in Hackney, I’ll go mad I swear.

So next time you’re telling your kids to stop bickering as they tell each other to “talk to the hand” or you ask them what they want in their sandwiches and they say “peanut butter and jello”, this is why:

Media Imperialism.

It makes a difference: support the campaign by signing an official online petition to save kids’ TV here – AND you can tell your local MP too by the mere press of a button. I have! Will you?

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8 thoughts on “Save Kids’ TV UK-Style (Please)”

  1. Sigh.

    Dr Who isn’t kids’ TV, it never was kids’ TV.

    However it was the BBC thinking it was that brought it crumbling to its knees all those years ago.

    Life? Don’t talk to me about life.

  2. So that will be why Dr. Who is NOW on at prime family viewing time (6pmish on a saturday), whereas in the 80s it was on at
    8pm on a wednesday, same time as The Bill???

    Seems to me it was because the BBC thought less kids would watch it “back in the day” that it folded – most of my friends were in bed by then. I was watching The Bill because I didn’t like Sylvester McCoy.

  3. Mid-week in 80’s was the BBC’s method of killing it. Make sure it gets bad viewing figures.

    “Family entertainment” is not equal to “kids show”.

    (I’m desperate to do a quote from Short Circuit at this point … but nobody’d get it.)

  4. Yeah but to me “family entertainment” equals “what kids want first, what adults want second” since if you’re going to watch the telly with small children in the room they MUST be entertained first and foremost else you won’t get to watch a damn thing. That’s why we end up with stuff like Pixar that has the cutesy pictures and stuff that appeals to kids, with the “in” jokes for adults on the side that we notice but they don’t get. I think this was illustrated perfectly by James’ ep last night of Dr. Who: “I am Spartacus/She’s from Barcelona”: even a mega bright kid’s not going to get those refs, any more than they’ll get “Hey look I’m Picasso!” (Toy Story) or many lines in The Simpsons.

    But anyway, when I call Dr. Who a kids’ show, it’s not meant in a derogatory fashion. I think kids should be stimulated with the fantastic like that – as James says on the Dr. Who website, Dr. Who has been in his life for as long as he can remember. Watching Dr. Who as a child has inspired many a writer working today. That’s obviously a good thing and the fact that is now going back into the very show that inspired James and others is even greater.

    So if you like something that children also like, why not? What’s wrong with that? But why insist it’s not primarily a kids’ show when it’s meant as family viewing (with the main aim being to get kids interested and give the parents enough peace to watch a story too)? In my eyes, it’s like me insisting Labyrinth or Fraggle Rock (two things that made BIG impressions when I was a child) are not for children. They are. Doesn’t mean I can’t still enjoy them now though.

  5. What’s happened to kids’ TV is perhaps the biggest scandal in broadcasting.

    The standards on the BBC have gone down the plughole (have they found Mark Speight’s body yet?). But the way ITV dumped children’s programming the minute they could no longer use it as vehicle to sell Happy Meals and toxic cereals is a disgrace.

    I didn’t realise that such a small proportion of what’s left is locally produced.

  6. I didn’t either – 1% is way too low. I think the reason they’ve got away with it is because we redo the voiceovers on so many cartoons from other countries which is better than nothing (at least the kids hear Brit voices), but end of the day we need more quality British kids’ drama, made by Brits for Brit kids, reflecting our society and values. It’s nothing to do with xenophobia, but our kids’ view of the world – if they can relate better to a foreign land they’ve never been to than the place they actually live in, something is v wrong.

  7. I suspect that 1% is calculated using all the output from, say, Nickleodeon. In our house the level of British-produced kids TV must be closer to 40% — because we don’t have Sky. (And never will.)

    But 90% is repeats — see, I can make up stats too.

    It’s a very serious situation.

    (Incidentally, my kids got the Spartacus joke, they’re aged 10 and 16, but then I wouldn’t presume to suggest that they’ve had a “normal” upbringing.)

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