Media

American TV is brainwashing your kids – but we’re fighting back

By Oliver Smith 20 July 2017
Image: Getty/KatarzynaBialasiewicz.
Summary

British children are streaming towards US shows.

Brits probably already know that their kid’s TV is dominated by US shows, for better or worse.

America shapes children’s fashion and games. Even like, their language, is dictated by the hit shows we import.

And while a large minority of what our kids have always watched has been American, the world of online streaming is now dramatically accelerating this trend.

Streaming towards the US

In Britain children’s TV-watching time has actually plummeted by nearly a third since 2010, down to just 101 minutes a day on average.

Before you rejoice, that’s only because they’re increasingly turning to streaming services like YouTube, Netflix and Amazon Prime Video.

This trend is double trouble, because as children switch off from traditional UK broadcasters due to a lack of exciting shows, streaming services like Netflix are almost entirely dominated by US series.

It’s not just The Crown and House of Cards that Netflix has been pouring cash into.

Switch over to Netflix Kids and you’ll find dozens of original series based on hit movies like Dreamwork’s Puss in Boots and How to train your dragon.

Netflix is even crafting its own unique choose-your-own-adventure TV series just for kids – just like those books you might’ve had at school, but for the digital age.

Follow the money

Things have gotten so bad that last month an episode of Blue Peter on the BBC, watched by almost a million kids every week in 2007, attracted… zero viewers.

Of course, this is all partly our fault.

In 2005 £140m was spent by broadcasters on British-made children’s TV programming, by 2015 this had fallen to just £77m.

Between 1998 and 2015 ITV’s original kid’s programming plummeted from 424 hours a year to just 42, Channel 5’s fell from 353 hours to 30, and Channel 4’s literally vanished from 49 hours to zero.

Today the BBC is the only UK broadcaster still producing kids’ TV at any scale, and now it’s fighting back.

Fightback

The BBC has pledged to boost its funding of original children’s content by £34m over the next three years, seeing the annual budget rise from £110m to £124.4m by 2019-20.

The aim is to keep pace with the rapidly changing market, so £31.4m of that annual budget will be dedicated to online content.

We’ll just have to see if that’ll be enough to win back a generation of children.