Dear BBC: Children, Television Storytelling, and the Public Sphere

Dear BBC: Children, Television Storytelling, and the Public Sphere

Dear BBC: Children, Television Storytelling, and the Public Sphere

Dear BBC: Children, Television Storytelling, and the Public Sphere


Drawing on the diverse views of over 1,300 children in the UK between the ages of 6-12, "Dear BBC" discusses key controversies in the public sphere about children's relationship with the media, especially television drama. M¿ire Messenger Davies draws on material gathered from an audience research project commissioned by the BBC, based on surveys, structured discussions with children and interviews with program makers and policy makers.


Isn't it amazing how hard people work to raise their children? … For every grownup you see, there must have been at least one person to lug them around, and feed them … for years and years without a break. Teaching them how to fit into civilisation, and how to talk back and forth with other people, taking them to zoos and parades and educational events, telling them all those nursery rhymes and word of mouth fairytales. Isn't that surprising?

Character in The Clock Winder, by Anne Tyler, 1972, pp. 258–9

If you want to know what children like, you have to think like one or base it on your small brother or your cousin, you have to base it on them.

Boy, 10, inner-London primary school

The BBC has, I think, a special responsibility that transcends, while it cannot afford to ignore, ratings and reach. Our responsibility is to supply a distinctive public service offering information, education and entertainment, which extends young people's choices and lifts their horizons. Sir Christopher Bland, Chair of Governors, The BBC and Children,

BBC, August 1996

This book has three main origins, each in some sense based on the spirit of the quotations above. To begin with the last: the practical origins of the book are an empirical study, funded by the BBC and the London Institute, with children aged between 5 and 13 years, in different parts of England and Wales, carried out during 1996 and 1997. The study's primary aim was to assess children's responses to televised storytelling, including programmes made especially for children, as well as drama programmes made for adults, which are watched by children. Its immediate goal was to inform BBC policy, and a report was delivered to the BBC in June 1997 for internal consideration.

The study was seen as necessary at the time because the BBC, as a major public service broadcaster, was, and is, having to adapt to the fact that broadcasting around the world is changing irrevocably from a channel-scarcity system to a system where viewers are promised access to hundreds of channels, via digital technology, and where the subjective . . .

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