>> overview research project
Children's and youth television between public discussion, market and everyday life
study, press coverage of the topic 'children's and youth television'
is analysed. Articles published within the last five years
on the topics of "children and television" and "young
people and television" are evaluated by means of content
analysis. The quantitative content analysis focuses on: perspectives
and lines of argument that journalists employ to discuss children's/youth
television; on the roles they attribute to children, parents
and producers; and on characteristic slogans. In a second
analysis, reviews of some children's and youth programme styles
in the year 2001 are surveyed and compared to "viewing
rates". The press coverage of single programme titles
is in the centre of this content analysis.
Children's and youth television:
Public discourse in the press
A quantitative content analysis of
press coverage in the years 1997-2001
Conducted by Sylvia Nagl
In co-operation with Beate Kleiber and Ole Hofmann
Press coverage of children's and
youth television in the years 1997-2002
From 1997 to 2001, 1.115 articles about children's and youth
television in general were published in the media analysed.
They came mostly from national daily newspapers as well as
from specialist journals on media, pedagogy and marketing.
84% of the contributions analysed refer explicitly to children's
television; about one tenth of articles deals with television
made especially for 14- to 19-year-olds. There are more articles
about children's television than about youth television. However,
in 2001 there is an exceptionally high percentage of articles
dealing with youth television (more than one fifth of all
articles). In this year the new youth format "Eins-live",
which received a lot of attention, was, respectively, launched
and discontinued six months later.
It is remarkable that year after year
fewer articles about children's and youth television have
been published. While journalists wrote 262 contributions
during the first year of the evaluation, there are only 132
articles four years later - this is a decrease of 130 articles.
However, published articles are longer and fewer of them are
written in a plain, reporting style: the percentage of matter-of-fact
and neutral news and reports diminishes for about 15% from
1997 to 2001. During the period evaluated, journalists more
frequently emphasised service such as programme tips and guides
Occasions for reports: Launches and
When do journalists write about children's and youth television?
Most of the articles published, in the period evaluated, report
on the launch or the re-launch of programmes and about new
broadcasters. A closer look at the articles in each year shows
that the number of texts dealing with such events varies greatly
and depends on current events. In 1997, for example, nearly
half of the articles centre on the launch of children's programmes.
Three years later, with the launch of FoxKids on Premiere
World and the new format Pokémon, the number of published
articles on this topic increases again.
However, increasingly, journalists
take scientific studies and expert's reports as starting points
for their reports about children's and youth television. In
1997 nearly 5% of the articles contained references to such
reports and studies; up to 2001 the figure rose steadily to
26%. Increasingly, scientific topics appear to attract the
attention of journalists and to initiate public discourse
- this can be interpreted as a sciencification of the discourse.
The percentage of articles that are
not based on any specific occasion increases until 2001. Whereas
in 1997 nearly 95% of articles about children's and youth
television refer to a specific occasion, five years later,
there are only 85%. This suggests the conclusion that journalists
report less on specific occasions but that children's and
youth television in general becomes a recurring topic of public
Topic focus: Programme offer and
Which topics attract journalists' attention? After a first
examination of about 100 articles a topic-tree was generated
that divides into the main branches "programme"
and "use". The "programme" branch is further
split into topics concerning the factual program offer, containing
market development, broadcasters, the programme (excluding
content) as well as advertising, merchandising and specific
programme content. The "use" branch includes purely
quantitative figures of use and aspects of effects and appropriation.
A maximum of five topics could be coded for each report.
With regard to the subject of the articles,
journalists paid more attention to the purely factual programme
offer than to the presentation of content. Three quarters
of the articles evaluated refer to economic issues concerning
the programme offer - which means market developments, broadcasters,
the different titles on offer and merchandising/advertising.
In about 40% of the articles, programme content is discussed
such that reporters write more affirmative than critical articles
about television content. Specific demands regarding content
are defined in 11% of all articles.
Apart from the programme section journalists
are interested in television use. Purely quantitative figures
are thereby the centre of attention, whereas the location
of television consumption in a wider context and the description
of effects and motives are rather marginalised. Rather than
taking a critical look at the deeper layers of television
use, journalists more frequently write about handy figures.
When discussing 'consequences', they speak rather of the 'appropriation'
of television content by children as 'active recipients' than
of 'the effects' of television on viewers. Appropriation serves
as a subject-matter in a rather affirmative context. In contrast
to that, the impact of television on children and young people
is almost exclusively associated with negative effects.
Conclusion: when journalists write
about programme content and the effects of television consumption
they attribute quite positive aspects to them; a general demonisation
of the medium in the children's section is not to be found.
However, it is alarming that only a few articles discuss issues
not connected with a description of programme offer and content
or with the rates of use. Most of the reports on children's
and youth television in the years 1997 to 2001 focus on economic
Political and economic dimensions
of evaluation prevail
Which evaluative dimensions do journalists mention in their
arguments? In answering this research question it is more
important to pay attention to the perspective of the given
arguments than to the factual topics under consideration.
In order to clarify this perspective several articles about
the discussion of children's and youth television were sighted
and different methods of argument were summarised into groups.
Nine evaluative dimensions:
The (marketing-/media-) economic dimension includes arguments
that are situated in the context of market shares, quotas
and merchandising. The (programme-/media-) political perspective
summarises the importance for the variety of broadcasters
and programmes, internal and personal decisions of broadcasting
stations and political discussion. The artistic/creative dimension
of evaluation refers to artistic performance. Legal aspects
and judicial elements like the constitution, the protection
of minors, advertising breaks and EU competition regulations
are grouped in the media-ethical and media-legal dimension.
The media-educational perspective deals with educating children
for a reflected media use. Contents and functions of the media,
their forms of use as well as the users` abilities (keyword:
media literacy) are at the centre of media-pedagogical arguments.
The medical perspective (healthcare) includes physical threats
and effects to health. The personal-psychological point of
view is focused on individual viewers and summarises mental
threats or benefits, individual motives and motivations. The
social perspective refers to the entire society and looks
in general at cultural and sociological aspects.
The quantitative survey shows that
the number of perspectives taken in each article increases:
in 1997 the topic of children's and youth television is, on
average, seen from two different angles; in 2001 there are
about three different perspectives. The coverage of children's
and youth television diminishes from 1997 to 2001 but simultaneously
the articles become longer and more differentiated.
The most frequently used evaluative
dimensions that journalists mention, when building their arguments,
are media-political and media-economic perspectives. Consequently,
market shares, quotas and merchandising as well as programme
concepts or discussions about media laws are dimensions that
are used most frequently in order to illuminate/discuss children's
and youth television. Thereby, a media-economic point of view
is taken more often in articles about youth television than
in the field of children's television. One reason for this
might be that the spending capacity of young people, which
is also relevant for promotion and marketing strategies, plays
a decisive role in the fight for market shares in this segment.
Concerning the development in the time
evaluated it is striking that the personal-psychological perspective,
which focuses on the individual level, is emphasised more
and more. In general, the social dimension varies and is rather
neglected. Journalists arrange their lines of argument, e.g.
concerning psychical threats or benefits, with a view to the
individual viewer. The percentage of articles with this focus
rises from 10% of articles in 1997 to 43% four years later.
An increased orientation towards the reader/viewer can be
With regard to the media-pedagogical
and educational perspective it is possible to state that these
two perspectives are used independently of the respective
age-group. Media-pedagogical arguments are given in about
twice as many articles as educational arguments and can be
found in about one third of the reports. It is not surprising
that journalists embed pedagogical arguments in their discourse
about children's and youth television as parents especially
discuss television with a view to pedagogical arguments. What
is remarkable, however, is that economic and political dimensions
characterise the arguments more frequently.
It is also astonishing that the health/medical
perspective is not given much attention at all in the articles
evaluated. Thereby reporters use this evaluative dimension
first of all in articles which refer to children's television.
In the field of youth television, arguments with regard to
health or likely physical threats appear only in a minor number
Actors/Protagonists: Focus on the
media industry, especially on broadcasting stations under
In the coverage of children's and youth television, the media
industry is at the centre of attention. Within this group,
journalists refer primarily to groups of persons from broadcasting
stations under public law. In a comparison between broadcasters
under public law and commercial providers, it is striking
that representatives of public programmes - above all the
Kinderkanal (Children's Channel) - are quoted more often.
With regard to the attribution of decisive roles public service
broadcasters are rather depicted as responsibles; however
they are attributed the role of the affected respectively
the bereaved one more seldom than private broadcasters. Therefore,
journalists address their demands more often to broadcasters
under public law. Journalists ascribe a more active and responsible
role to public rather than private broadcasters.
Journalists also attach great importance
to children's actions and their statements as they are the
group immediately affected and involved in television use.
Especially young people and children respectively are in the
centre as consumers. However, they do not often get an opportunity
to express criticism or to make demands. In contrast to this,
parents are frequently seen to make demands.
However, from the data collected, it
is not possible to detect an explicit tendency or stereotypical
attribution of roles. Role distribution changes from year
to year depending on current events. In the year of the Pokémon
discussion for example, children are increasingly seen as
consumers and their parents are strikingly often attributed
the role of guardians.
In the group of researchers and experts,
journalists increasingly refer to expert knowledge and the
opinion of media experts. In contrast to this, institutes
for media sciences are mentioned in the press coverage nearly
exclusively in the context of conferences and the publication
A synonym for high-quality children's programme: Information
and documentation programmes by broadcasters under public
Public service broadcasters are not only mentioned as actors/protagonists
but their programmes are considered in articles more frequently
than private formats. This tendency is not surprising in itself;
however, the extent of it is indeed a matter of surprise.
Programmes by public broadcasters are predominant in a list
set up by journalists compiling examples of programmes that
are popular and keep high standards. The children's classic
Die Sendung mit der Maus (Programme with the Mouse) is mentioned
in 9% of the articles. Journalists write nearly as much about
private programmes which are not defined as children's programme
but are quite popular with children and young people - e.g.
the soap Gute Zeiten Schlechte Zeiten (Good Times Bad Times)
- as they write about explicitly commercial children's programmes.
Some of the programmes, mostly those
by private broadcasters, serve as negative examples for journalists:
Pokémon, Power Rangers and Teletubbies, as well as
programmes for adults such as Arabella Kiesbauer and Big Brother.
The Teletubbies, a programme for infants, is the only negative
example of a programme by a public broadcaster and gets very
differing evaluations: apart from critical articles, some
reporters even judged the series to be "exemplary"
What journalists believe to be unsuitable
television for children and young people therefore centres
on well-known, commercial programmes. These programmes, especially,
are frequently discussed in public and in depth and are known
to every adult television user. The Teletubbies are the only
exception because they are broadcast by the public service
children's channel. However, the evaluation of the programme
is not merely negative.
A closer look at programmes organized in format groups shows
that commercial broadcasters get more attention for their
cartoons: these are more popular in the journalists´
eyes. However, according to journalists, the quality of public
programmes is more convincing as these show cartoon formats
with better contents.
The label "suitable for children"
seems to be allocated clearly to information and documentation
programmes by public service broadcasters and seems to be
connected with the format Sendung mit der Maus (Programme
with the Mouse) (see Götz 2001).
Comparison between press coverage
and television quota 2001
In addition to the survey on the general discussion of children's
and youth television there was a second survey on successful
programmes watched frequently by children which was evaluated
via content analysis. The focus was thereby set on the correlation
between press interest and viewing rates. Due to the enormous
amount of material the time frame of the study had to be limited
to the year 2001. The most successful children's programmes
were determined by the hitlist of the 5000s in combination
with the number of entries there. 122 qualifying articles
taken from 43 leading publications and publishing outlets
(newspapers, magazines, journals, specialist journals and
news agencies) about the most successful programmes were filtered
out with the help of commercial database like "gbi"
The comparison between the most successful programme titles
in 2001 and the coverage of them confirms tendencies from
the analysis of the general coverage: according to the press
coverage Die Sendung mit der Maus is the icon of German quality
Journalists write less about popular
commercial children's formats
In 2001, nearly all articles about the most important programme
titles deal with the programme offer by public service broadcasters.
One half of these articles refers to public children's programmes
in the section documentaries and information, i.e. the "classics"
like Die Sendung mit der Maus (46 articles), Löwenzahn
(Dandelion) (8 articles) and Logo (6 articles). The frequent
appearance of public programmes in the coverage is surprising
here whereas even successful children's formats by commercial
providers get only little attention. However, it is important
to note that the Maus celebrated her 30th anniversary in 2001.
The coverage of children's and youth television changes during
the time evaluated in this study. As time passes, fewer articles
can be found about this topic. However, those texts which
are published are longer and more varied. The number of objective,
neutral reports diminishes but at the same time journalists
emphasise service aspects such as programme tips and guides
for viewers more strongly. Furthermore, journalists include
different evaluative dimensions more frequently in their argumentation
and illustrate these by naming specific titles. Journalists
also write more articles on the occasion of the publication
of scientific studies and reports. The coverage therefore
becomes more differentiated over the five years and tends
towards serving the readers` interests.
At the centre of the discussion of
children's and youth television are not pedagogical arguments
but economic and political aspects (programme policy). The
topics which journalists mostly write about are market development,
broadcasters and programme offer. Purely quantitative use
rates are also mentioned frequently. A discussion far away
from economic aspects and handy figures takes place in very
few articles. The consequences of and motives for television
consumption, such as appropriation and effects are seldom
at the centre of attention and specific demands regarding
content are not defined.
The discussion of media in the articles
evaluated is frequently centred on public service broadcasters.
They are more often the focus of the coverage than commercial
providers. At the same time they are attributed a more active
and responsible role. Programme titles are mostly penned by
public broadcasters and get more positive and popular response
than commercial formats. With the exception of the Teletubbies,
the list of negative examples is headed by popular private
programmes such as Pokémon and Power Rangers. However,
this specific programme by a public service broadcaster has
positive connotations for some journalists as well.