Canadian kids TV faces finance challenge

Study prepared for Banff World Television Festival

TORONTO -- Veteran producer Peter Moss likes to equate kids TV shows with gateway drugs, where repetitive viewing of quality TV by young Canadians can lead to an appetite for more serious homegrown dramas in adulthood.

So Moss, a former creative head at the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. and Cinar, has grown frustrated that Canadian kids TV is securing fewer dollars and broadcast slots just as Ottawa backs local dramas to compete in primetime with Hollywood fare.

"Most TV viewers like to watch entertainment programming about what they know," Moss said Wednesday.

So support for Canadian kids TV shows sustains the entire local TV sector because the images and stories that young Canadians view today on screen will shape their future TV viewing, he argued.

The challenge, however, is to finance recognizably Canadian kids TV shows when local producers must increasingly co-produce with U.S. or other international partners to fill out budgets.

"As long as Canadian TV has been airing, we've had a neighbor that is powerful in terms of TV and has a lot of resources to make all kinds of programming, including kids programming," adds Caroline Fortier, executive director of the Alliance for Children and Television (ACT).

To revive support for Canadian kids fare, ACT will release a study at next week's Banff World Television Festival that details falling volume and budgets for Canadian children's and youth programming.

Canadian kids TV production peaked at CAN$389 million ($356 million) in total budgets in 2000, at the height of a then global animation boom, and has since been in decline. And that means less homegrown programming shown to young Canadian TV viewers, and sold overseas.

Moss said the Canadian government, the main financier for local film and TV shows, wrongly assumes the local kids TV production sector can rest on its laurels.

"The sense that kids programming is okay is very disturbing," he adds.

ACT will also announce at Banff plans for an additional two-phase study to weigh Canadian kids TV programming for context, characters and actions, and for its growing importance for new delivery platforms.
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