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Photo: Round the Twist

New kids’ TV quotas could mean no more Lockie Leonards

Each generation has their Aussie, kids’ TV icons. In the early 90s, the Round the Twist gang dominated. In the noughties, Lockie Leonard and H2O: Just Add Water established themselves. Now, Dance Academy enthralls young teens.

According to the Australian Children’s TV Foundation (ACTF), which bills itself as a “national children’s media production and policy hub”, the next generation’s icons are under threat. The government’s ongoing inquiry into the Australian film and television industry will reassess, then possibly decrease, commercial, free-to-air kids’ TV quotas.

Though the ACTF thinks the current quotas somewhat anachronistic, they are concerned that if commercial stations have their way, the ABC will totally dominate. This would mean no more Lockie Leonards. In their submission to the inquiry, they argue that Australian kids’ TV plays an important role in shaping our kids’ identities. Its depletion, therefore, will be tragic.

“Australian live action drama is important because it reflects a child’s own world, stage of life, fears, hopes and aspirations and includes an Australian child’s point of view,” they wrote.

Jenny Buckland, ACTF chief executive, would like to see there be an obligation on commercial, free-to-air channels to invest in quality, Australian kids content. “I hear of kids putting on American accents in the playground,” she said. “That’s a real shame.”

The ACTF further claims that with successive budget cuts that frequently target kids’ programming, the ABC can no longer be relied upon as a kids’ content producer. So, the commercial networks must step up, not down.

Major broadcasters like The Seven Network, however, deem the current quotas “highly interventionist” and “outdated”, given the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Stan. The quotas dictate that 260 hours of children’s material and 130 hours of preschool material are screened each year.

Yet Buckland claims it could be a chicken-and-egg scenario: perhaps their viewerships are down because they haven’t invested in high-calibre shows.

An example of one such show is NITV’s Little J and Big Cuz. “It’s got a really ambitious goal – aimed at Indigenous children in remote areas – it demystifies going to school,” Buckland explained. “It’s an example of why its really important to have our own programs.”

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