US imports `spoiling childrens' TV'

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The Independent Online
THE QUALITY and diversity of children's programmes is under threat because cartoons and American imports are squeezing out factual and drama shows according to research by the European Broadcasting Union.

The addiction to American children's TV shows and large numbers of cartoons has spread from commercial and satellite channels to Europe's public service broadcasters, the report says. The research found that while the amount of children's programming had increased by 28 per cent since 1991, this has been matched by a fall in the amount produced in Europe. In 1991 an average 203 hours of children's television was produced by each European broadcaster. That has now fallen to 177 hours and the amount imported from the US exceeds all of that imported from every other European country combined.

Accompanying the shift to American programmes is a narrowing of the range of shows children can watch. On average twice as many hours of cartoons are now aired than either factual or drama programmes, and the more children's programmes a channel shows, the more of it will be animation. The use of animation is even heavier where a channel relies on an above average amount of American imports.

And it is not just American programmes that are being used. European broadcasters are increasingly turning to the heavy-handed scheduling strategies - like stripping shows at the same time every day of the week - that are used by American stations to keep children glued to the set.

The report's author, Professor Jay Blumler of Leeds University, calls on governments and the European Union to set targets for home-made programmes: "The public service tradition of serving children as all-round developing personalities and future citizens is under threat."

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