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7AAICC52 Children, Media Industries and Culture

Module convenor: Professor Jeanette Steemers
Teaching pattern: Ten two-hour sessions

Module description

Teaching syllabus

Module aims

Learning outcomes

Core reading


Module description:

This module aims to introduce students to contemporary debates and the complexities of the children's media industries, industries that cater for a section of the population who are perceived as vulnerable because of their age and immaturity. It provides the basis for critical and practical analysis of the business of children's media, and the factors that differentiate it from media for adults. The module starts by introducing students to definitions of the child and childhood, demonstrating how conceptualisations of childhood are based on historical 'invention' and cultural construction that have changed over time, and also differ across the world. To illustrate and promote understanding of key concepts such as consumption and effects, children's entertainment, regulation, internationalisation and globalisation, this module will investigate the historical, political and cultural factors that have driven policy interventions, that both protect children from harm (advertising, inappropriate content) and endeavour to promote positive outcomes that contribute to children's development as citizens. Regulation and policy intervention allow children's content and media industries to be analysed through public service interventions (for example. the BBC or the US PBS service) and non-profit initiatives ( for example Sesame Workshop) as well as commercial, transnational undertakings (for example Disney, Nickelodeon, Netflix and even toy companies such as Hasbro and Mattel). Alongside case studies of local production for children, the module will also look at the activities of some of the largest transnational operators in the children's media industries.

Indicative teaching syllabus

Week 1:  Introduction to Children, Media and Culture

This introductory session gets students to think about what we mean by the terms ‘child’ and ‘childhood’. How have these terms been defined both historically and in more contemporary times, and what implications do these conceptualisations have for children’s relationship with media? In what sense is childhood a historical ‘invention’ or a ‘cultural construction’ (Philippe Aries)?

Week 2: ‘Toxic Childhood’: Are the media good or bad for children?

Building on conceptualisations of children and childhood, this session concentrates on two paradigms of children and the media, which divide society, but which shape policy responses in distinctive ways. On the one hand there are arguments about whether the media are harmful children.  On the other there are positions that regard certain types of content as potentially beneficial to children. Others concentrate on children’s agency over the ways they choose to access, use and make media on a variety of platforms. In what ways do these responses to perceived harm and benefit shape what is available for children?

Week 3: Children’s Rights and Policy Interventions

The 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, not only defines a child as anyone under eighteen, but also sets out children’s media rights and what states should do to safeguard those rights. This session concentrates on children’s media policy. What is the rationale for policy interventions in children’s media, and what are the implications for children in terms of protecting from harm, but also encouraging content that is assumed to be beneficial. What type of policy interventions do governments make and why?

Week 4: Children’s Media Industry Structures

Having investigated the different conceptualisations of childhood and laid the basis of understanding for media children’s policy, this session uses case study profiles of major media players in the children’s media market to demonstrate how the market is shaped by the dynamics and priorities of global media corporations.  How does the transnationalisation of children’s media across both traditional media entities and within new digital intermediaries (YouTube, Netflix) affect what is made for children?

Week 5: Does children’s television still matter?

Evidence suggests that children’s interest in television is waning because of multiplatform media and the Internet. This session explores whether this is the case. It investigates the changing nature of audience research among children as well as branding to explore the extent to which children’s engagement with media is changing. Looking at contemporary evidence, does children’s TV still matter, and are children actually still watching it?

Week 6: Global Animation

Animation is the most readily available form of children’s content across multiple platforms. Why is animation so successful internationally? Through the use of international case studies, this session investigates why animation is so popular, and the creative decision-making and funding mechanisms that underpin its international appeal. Who are the key players in animation, and how is the market structured across a variety of small, medium and large companies?

Week 7:  Education, Public Service Television and Non-Profit Media for Children

This session focuses on those forms of children’s content that are non-commercial in their orientation. The first part of the lecture focuses on the role of public service broadcasting in promoting content that is locally produced, universally available and distinctive from commercial offerings.  The second part of the lecture looks at alternatives to public service broadcasting including non-profit educational production, and alternative content funds that support children’s content.

Week 8:  Pitching a children’s media product

As preparation for the module assessment this session allows students to work in groups to pitch a children’s media content project (fiction or non-fiction for any platform e.g. broadcast, YouTube), which takes account of target age group, gender, distribution, and whether the content is aimed at a local, national, regional or global market.

Week 9:  Toy Cultures and Children’s Media

Merchandise licensing is one funding mechanism associated with children’s media content. This session looks at how licensing works, and in particular, how children’s content has become deeply enmeshed with the priorities of toy-makers (Lego, Hasbro, Mattel).

Week 10: Critical Reflections on Children, Media and Culture

Consolidating issues covered in previous weeks, this session investigates the tensions between commercial and public interest priorities connected with children’s media and cultural content. It considers the views of various stakeholder interests including children’s advocacy interests, broadcasters and content producers. What can the interventions of these stakeholders tell us about how children’s media needs and wants are addressed?

Module aims

The module aims to:

  • investigate the complex relationship between media and childhood, including different definitions of childhood and their significance.
  • examine the historical, political and cultural rationale for policy interventions in the children's media marketplace.
  • explore the dynamics and trends that shape the industries that serve children with media content.
  • provide an explanatory account of how children's media industries an markets are structured both for different ages and for local and transnational markets.
  • critically analyse the different actors within the production ecology of children's media to explain different levels of cultural and economic power.
  • enable students to acquire and apply the research skills necessary for undertaking independent analysis of developments in the children's media industries.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students will be able to demonstrate their ability to:

  • identify and understand the ways in which different interpretations of childhood have impacted media for children.
  • apply specialised conceptual terms relevant to the study of childhood and the media, that are grounded in historical, political, cultural and economics contexts.
  • understand the complex organisation of children's media industries and markets across different national and global contexts.
  • comprehend the impact of the different levels of the production and distribution ecology through case study examples.
  • access, analyse and synthesise a range of different types of primary and secondary data
  • produce an analysis of developments in the children's industry based on primary and secondary sources.

Core reading

Indicative Text Books

  • Lemish, Dafna (2013) The Routledge International Handbook of Children, Adolescents and Media Routledge.
  • Lemish (2015) Children and Media: A Global Perspective Oxford: Blackwell
  • Drotner, K. and Livingstone S (2008) The International Handbook of Children, Media and Culture London: Sage
  • Messenger Davies, Maire, Children, Media and Culture (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2010).
  • Steemers, Jeanette, Creating Preschool Television: A Story of Commerce, Creativity and Curriculum (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010)

Indicative Bibliography

  • Alexander, A. and J. Owers (2007), ‘The Economics of Children’s Television’, in A. Bryant (ed.) The Children’s Television Community, Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum, pp. 57-74.
  • Ariès, Philippe, Centuries of Childhood (trans. Robert Baldick) (New York: VintageBooks, 1962).
  • Banet-Weiser, S. (2007) Kids Rule! Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship,  Durham, Duke University Press.
  • Barker, M. & Petley, J. (2001) Ill Effects: The Media/Violence debate. London Routledge
  • BBC Trust (2013), ‘BBC Trust Service Review: The BBC’s Children’s Services’, September, Accessed 16 December 2015.
  • Biltereyst, D. (1997), ‘European Public Service Television and the Cultural-educational Logic: A Comparative Analysis of Children's and Youth Programming, Asian Journal of Communication, 7:2, pp. 86-104.
  • Bryant, J. Alison, ‘Understanding the children’s television community from an organizational network perspective’ in J. Alison Bryant (ed) The Children’s Television Community (Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2006), pp. 35–55.
  • Buckingham, David, ‘The commercialisation of childhood? The place of the market in children’s media Culture’, Changing English, 2/2 (1995), pp. 17–40.
  • Buckingham, D (2000) After the Death of Childhood Cambridge: Polity
  • Buckingham, David New media, new childhoods? Children’s changing cultural environment in the age of digital technology” in M. J. Kehily (ed) An Introduction to Childhood Studies, 2nd ed. (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2009), pp. 124–139.
  • Buckingham, David, Hannah Davies, Ken Jones and Peter Kelley, Children’s Television in Britain (London: BFI Publishing, 1999).
  • Buckingham, David et al., The Impact of the Commercial World on Children’s Wellbeing: Report of an Independent Assessment (London: Department for
  • Buckingham, David (2011) The Material Child: Growing up in Consumer Culture Cambridge Polity
  • Cabrera Blázquez, F.J., M. Cappello, S. Valais (2015), The Protection of Minors in a Converged Media Environment, Strasbourg: EAO, +a+converged+media+environment.pdf/7b590454-a03f-40e8-b460-e2b5e6b0bc28. Accessed 16 December 2015.
  • Cole, Alexander, ‘Distant neighbours: the new geography of animated film production in Europe,’ Regional Studies, 42 (2008), pp. 891–904.
  • Communication and Media Research Institute, Orientations in the Developmentof Screen Content for Arabic-speaking Children: Findings Report, (London:University of Westminster, September 2015).
  • Cunningham, Hugh, Children of the Poor: Representations of Childhood since the Seventeenth Century (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991).

  • Cunningham, Hugh, Children and Childhood in Western Society since 1500 (Harlow: Pearson Education, 1995).
  • D’Arma, Alessandro, Gunn Enli and Jeanette Steemers, ‘Serving children in public service media’ in G. Ferrell Lowe (ed) The Public in Public Service Media (Göteborg: Nordicom, 2010), pp. 227–242.
  • D’Arma, A and Steemers, J., ‘Public service media and children: Serving the digital citizens of the future’, in P. Iosifidis (ed) Reinventing Public Service Communication (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 114–127.
  • D’Arma, A. and Steemers, J. (2012), ‘Localisation Strategies of US-owned Children's Television Networks in Five European Markets’, Journal of Children and Media,6:2, pp. 147-163.

  • D’Arma, A. and J. Steemers (2013), ‘Children’s Television: Markets and Regulation’,in K. Donders, C. Pauwels and J. Loisen (eds) Private Television in Europe: Evolutions of Policies, Markets and Content, Palgrave McMillan, pp. 123-135.
  • Enli, G. (2013), ‘Defending Nordic Children against Disney: PBS Children’s Channels in the Age of Globalization’, Nordicom Review 34:1, pp. 77-90.
  • Fisch, S & Truglio R (eds) (2001) “G” is for Growing: Thirty Years of Research on  Children and Sesame Street Mahwah, N. Jesery Lawrence Erlbaum.
  • Giroux H. (2010 extented)  The Mouse that Roared: Disney and the End of Innocence. Lanham: Rowan Littlefield
  • Gittins, Diana, ‘The historical construction of childhood’ in M. J. Kehily (ed) An Introduction to Childhood Studies, 2nd ed. (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2009), pp. 35–49.
  • Havens , T. (2007) Universal Childhood: the Global trade in Children’s Television and changing ideals of Childhood’ Global Media Journal (6) 10)
  • Hanson, Karl, ‘Schools of thought in children’s rights’ in M. Liebel (ed) Children’s Rights from Below: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 63–79.
  • Hendershot, H. (ed) Nickelodeon Nation (New York: New York University Press, 2004),
  • Hendrick, Harry, ‘Constructions and reconstructions of British childhood: An interpretive Survey, 1800 to the present’ in A. James and A. Prout (eds) Constructing and Reconstructing Childhood: Contemporary Issues in the Sociological Study of Childhood (London: Falmer Press, 1997), pp. 34–62.
  • Heywood, Colin, A History of Childhood: Children and Childhood in the West from Medieval to Modern Times (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2001).
  • James, Allison, Chris Jenks and Alan Prout, Theorizing Childhood (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998).
  • Jenks, Chris, Childhood, 2nd ed. (Abingdon: Routledge, 2005).
  • Jordan, Amy B., ‘Children’s media policy’, The Future of Children, 18/1 (Spring 2008), pp. 235–253.
  • Kehily, M. J  (ed) An Introduction to Childhood Studies (Maidenhead: Open University Press, 2009),
  • Kinder, Marsha, Playing with Power in Movies, Television, and Video Games: From Muppet Babies to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (Berkeley/Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1991).
  • Kline, Steven, Out of the Garden: Toys, TV and Children’s Culture in the Age of Marketing (London: Verso, 1993).
  • Lemish, Dafna, ‘The future of childhood in the global television market’ in G. Dines and J. M. Humez (eds) Gender, Race and Class in Media: A Critical Reader (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage, 2011), pp. 355–364.
  • Lesser, Gerald, Children and Television: Lessons from Sesame Street (New York: Random House, 1974).
  • Livingstone, S. (2007) Do Media Harm children. Journal of Children and Media 1 (1) 5-14)
  • Livingstone, Sonia, ‘From family television to bedroom culture: Young people’s media at home’ in E. Devereux (ed) Media Studies: Key Issues and Debates (London: Sage, 2007), pp. 302–321.
  • Livingstone, S. (2008), ‘On the Future of Children’s Television: A Matter of Crisis?’, in T. Gardam and D. Levy (eds.) The Price of Plurality, Oxford: Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, pp.175-182.
  • Livingstone, Sonia, Leslie Haddon, Jane Vincent, Giovanna Mascheroni and Kjartan Ólafsson, Net Children Go Mobile: The UK Report (London: London School of Economics and Political Science, 2014).
  • Lustyik, K. (2010), ‘Transnational Children’s Television: The Case of Nickelodeon in the South Pacific’, International Communication Gazette, 72:2, pp. 171-191.
  • Messenger Davies, Máire, ‘Academic literature review: The future of children’s television programming’ (2007). Available at: condocs/kidstv/litreview.pdf (accessed 14 February 2014).
  • Mjøs, O.J. (2010), ‘The Symbiosis of Children’s Television and Merchandising: Comparative Perspectives on the Norwegian Children’s Television Channel NRK Super and the Global Disney Channel’, Media, Culture & Society, 32:6, pp. 1031- 1042.
  • Ofcom (2007), The Future of Children’s Television Programming, Accessed 16 December 2015.
  • Ofcom (2014), Children’s Analysis: PSB Annual Report, review/psb3/Annex_6.ii_Childrens_Analysis.pdf. Accessed 16 December 2015.
  • Ofcom (2015) Children and Parents: Media Use and Attitudes Report (London, 2013).
  • Oswell, D (2013) The Agency of Children: From Family to Global Human Rights Cambridge: Cambridge University Press)
  • Palmer, Sue, Toxic Childhood (London: Orion, 2006).
  • Postman, Neil, The Disappearance of Childhood (New York: Delacorte Press, 1982).
  • Prout, A. (2005) The Future of Childhood London Routledge
  • Rutherford, L. and A. Brown (2013), ‘The Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Multiplatform Projects: Industrial Logics of Children’s Content Provision in the Digital Television Era’, Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies 19:2, pp. 201-221.
  • Sakr, Naomi and Jeanette Steemers, ‘Co-producing content for pan-Arab children’s TV: State, business and the workplace’ in M. Banks, B. Conor and V. Mayer (eds) Production Studies: The Sequel! (Abingdon: Routledge 2016), pp. 238–250.
  • Schor, Juliet, Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture(New York: Scribner, 2004).
  • Seiter, Ellen, Sold Separately: Parents and Children in Consumer Culture (NewBrunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1993). 
  • Shivonen, M. (2015), ‘“We Are More Serious”: Children's Television in Finland and Paradigmatic Shifts in Yleisradio's Children's Programming’, Journal of Children and Media, 9:2, pp. 177-193.
  • Sigismondi, P. (2015), ‘The Winx Club Phenomenon in the Global Animation Landscape’, Journal of Italian Cinema & Media Studies, 3:3, pp. 271-285.
  • Steemers, Jeanette, ‘Production studies, transformations in children’s television and the global turn’, Journal of Children and Media, 10/1 (2016), pp. 123–131.
  • Steemers, J. and A. D’Arma (2012), ‘Evaluating and Regulating the Role of Public Broadcasters in the Children’s Media Ecology: The Case of Home-grown Television Content’, International Journal of Media and Cultural Politics, 8:1, pp. 67–85.
  • Steemers, J. (2010), ‘The BBC’s Role in the Changing Production Ecology of Preschool Television in Britain’, Television and New Media, 11:1, pp. 37–61.
  • Wasko, Janet, Mark Phillips and Eileen R. Meehan (eds) Dazzled by Disney: The Global Disney Audiences Project (London: Leicester University Press, 2001).
  • Wasko, Janet (2001) Understanding Disney Polity
  • Wells, P. and S. Moore (2016) The Fundamentals of Animation Fairchild
  • White, Cindy L. and Elizabeth Hall Preston, ‘The spaces of children’s program-ming’, Critical Studies in Media Communication, 22/3 (2005), pp. 239–255.
  • Winder, Catherine and Zahra Dowlatabadi, Producing Animation (Boston: FocalPress, 2001).
  • Zelizer, Viviana, Pricing the Priceless Child: The Changing Social Value of Children (New York: Basic Books, 1985).

Other Resources


1 x 3000-word essay (80%)

1 x 1000-word report and group presentation (20%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee every module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

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