TV FOR CHILDREN : How the Swedish Public Service Television Imagines a Child Audience
Abstract: The study explores how the Swedish public service TV institution imagines a child audience in a societal context where the broadcasting landscape hastransformed greatly over the past thirty years and where TV is seen to constitute both risks and benefits for children. The concept of TV for children is established to broaden the scope for studying what has been broadcast for a child audience on public service TV. The empirical material consists of both broadcasting policy documents and an extensive selection of public service TV programmes targeting children, selected from 1980, 1992 and 2007, which marked before, during and after the abolishment of the Swedish public service broadcasting monopoly. The policy texts, as well as TV content, TV talk and TV visuality, have been studied to investigate how the imagined child audience is configured. The study shows that when the category ‘children’ is mentioned in the broadcasting legislation, they are seen foremost as being at risk of being harmed by commercial messages and only gradually as explicitly entitled to TV programme content meant for them. The broadcasting companies, however, have broadcast programming for the child audience during the whole research period. Adult notions form how children are represented. In the TV programmes, these notions have remained largely unchanged over the studied years, even if technology, legislative demands and approaches to narration also provide opportunities for change. The imagined child TV audience configured in TV for children is knowledgeable, but wanting and in need of more knowledge. This audience is also imagined as being close to nature, eager to interact with the programmes and activate on basically all occasions, which opposes the discursive view according to which children are passivized by television. This study of public service TV for children points to and questions discursive ideas about what it means to be a child in a mediated society.
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