Stories to Tell: Protecting Australian Children’s Screen Content

June 4, 2017


For more than 30 years, Australia has led the world in the production of high-quality children’s screen content. Australian children’s series are broadcast in more than 100 countries, and have won numerous international children’s television awards.

In Australia, the value of locally made, original screen stories for Australian children has long been recognised in public policy.

Children’s content is, however, expensive to produce and difficult to monetise. Restrictions on advertising during children’s programs mean that the rate of return to commercial broadcasters on an original Australian children’s series is unfeasibly low. Networks can buy international children’s programs for a fraction of the cost of production of local content, and often obtain kids’ TV series from international distributors without cost, either as part of a larger distribution deal or in order for large global producers to drive the market for associated merchandise.

There is, therefore, no commercial incentive for Australian broadcasters to produce original children’s screen content.

Australian children’s screen content is facing an existential threat as a result of several distinct, but interrelated factors, including:

  • an outdated regulatory framework and a related significant reduction in investment by commercial broadcasters;
  • the ABC’s inconsistent and discretionary commitment to children’s television; and
  • changing viewing habits among Australian children.

This paper outlines these challenges and proposes a way forward for the ongoing support of original Australian children’s screen content in the digital age.