The Age of Innocence? Taste, Decency and Self-Censorship

Posted on: Thursday 07 July 2011 7:31pm


Delyth Thomas blogs from the Age of Innocence……

Sex and swearing – none of that on kids tv please!


Chair:Julian Scott, Julian Scott Associates Ltd & BAFTA Kids CommitteeSpeakersDavid Kleeman, President, American Center for Children and MediaMáire Messenger Davies, Emerita Professor of Media Studies, University of UlsterSue Nott, Executive Producer Independents, CBBC DramaPeter Robinson, DubitElaine Sperber, Head of Family and Children’s Drama, Zodiak Media / The FoundationProduced by:Alex Cook, Regional Programmer, BAFTA

The appeal of the forbidden is age old…..and it’s no different for this generation of young people seeking out inappropriate material. What is different of course, is the change in media consumption. Research by Dubit for the CMC highlighted the fact that younger children are relatively well protected from inappropriate content and that parents still consider TV a trusted source. However by the age of 13, this age group is exposed to equal amounts of inappropriate material both on the internet and TV, favourite viewing being much older skewed material – Waterloo Road, The Only Way is Essex and of course Skins.

The British producers on the panel seem very heartened by the current CBBC’s undertaking to ensure that there is more gritty drama on the Channel –  a new Tony Marchant drama starts shooting on Monday, Tracy Beaker continues to perform strongly,  but with so much less original content for kids being made overall, the lack of long running drama series such as Grange Hill and Byker Grove which also dealt with story lines for older children from a child’s perspective are much mourned. Not that it would stop kids watching EastEnders of course but there’d be a better balance.

With the ban on advertising of junk food causing funding for children’s tv to shrink so radically, there is an argument that policy makers believe that children will copy what they see, despite research showing that kids do have fairly acute moral sensibilities so won’t always want to do what they see in TV. So we’re a bit stuffed there then – and not on hamburgers..

 In contrast it seems that in America public broadcasting does not consider itself funded for risk taking, and as there’s a much easier relationship with violence than sexuality or language, there are a whole different set of issues. Extremely vocal self-appointed morality groups are very vocal in the US where they’ll lobby the programme makers at source and ensure any ’inappropriate’ programming is pulled. David Kleeman encouraged UK programmes to keep pushing to earn the right to take those risks – ‘once you lose ground it’s very hard to get it back’.