US kids nets ‘facing up to responsibilities’

Posted on: Wednesday 07 July 2010 9:38am

US commercial kids’ networks are stepping up their game when it comes to responsible television but remain behind UK pubcasters, Josh Selig of New York-based Little Airplane Productions has said.

“For public broadcasters, there’s always a responsibility to make sure you’re doing more than just making commercial content and the BBC’s done an extraordinary job across every demographic,” the Little Airplane president told C21.

At The Children’s Media Conference in the UK city of Sheffield last week, he applauded media regulator Ofcom for its strict rules on issues like product placement in children’s TV and the promotion of healthy and responsible lifestyles in kids’ programming.

“The UK is far ahead of the US in that respect; Ofcom’s position on junk food is one example. There’s a sense here that media has a responsibility and that’s very positive, because without conscience it can be a very dangerous force for families.

“But in terms of commercial broadcasters, there’s also a sense that the world at large – the US in particular – is becoming more conscious of things like the environment, the amount of TV kids watch and childhood obesity.”

He added that US media outlets may contribute to some of the nation’s social issues, but was convinced “broadcasters want to air programmes that do more than just sell products.”

Selig, a former Sesame Street writer and producer, was in the UK showcasing The Olive Branch (26×1’), a series that promotes conflict resolution. It is being offered to broadcasters for one unit of their currency per episode through Little Airplane’s new not-for-profit organisation, the Little Light Foundation.

US cablenet Nick Jr has confirmed an initial exclusive three-month run, as previously reported by C21, and KidsCo has also signed up. Selig said he would reveal a raft of other broadcasters in coming months.

So far, three episodes have been produced and Selig has been looking for contributions from larger broadcasters, which can opt to make donations to help cover production costs.

“The largest we’ve received is US$10,000 and smallest is one dinar from a broadcaster in Macedonia,” Selig said. “We’re very happy with any level of contribution.”

A condition of the deal, which Selig described as “the simplest in the TV business,” is that it is territory non-exclusive, meaning Disney could buy episodes for its US networks despite it airing on Nickelodeon, for example.

“Most of this industry is based on having what others don’t have, but this model is based on, ‘Why can’t we all have it?’” Selig explained. “We want to get the message of conflict resolution out, so let’s share it – without a licensing programme or anything that separates us from our colleagues. So far it’s working out pretty well.”

Jesse Whittock
7 Jul 2010
© C21 Media 2010

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