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What now?: a New Zealand children’s television production case study

This case study provides a snapshot of cultural agency within the production of a publicly funded magazine programme strand for children in New Zealand. What Now? considered by cohorts of children since 1981 to be a New Zealand children’s television institution, was scheduled in a commercial zone after school, and on non-commercial Sunday mornings, during the last years of the twentieth century. The thesis is framed by discussion of the complex global forces that shaped children’s audio-visual flows in the late 1990s. This discussion moves between analysis of parental concerns about diminishing public media spaces for local children and commercial and post structuralist celebration of children’s pleasures in consumption, and how this tension has seen children’s media rights become highly politicised during the 1990s. It takes a critical stance, analysing the unequal command over material resources and power for different agents, and the consequences of such inequality for the nature of the symbolic environment for children. It follows this frame with analysis of stakeholder struggles over shaping the text of What Now? The discussion concentrates on one year of production - from annual public funding round in 1997 to reformating of the strand in 1999. The author is interested in competing cultural, economic and political discourses in production talk. She analyses the interplay and negotiations between programme stakeholders, as revealed within the discursive battles of production talk, and their consequences for content and style of a television text. Micro-production moments illustrate how producers and other adult stakeholders imagine their child audiences, and how reified and reductive constructs of the child audience become instrumental in decisions made over commissioning, scheduling, creating and judging children’s programmes. The thesis sets itself a sequence of tasks: to articulate between global and local conditions of production, to complete a fine-grained study of children’s television producers as they imagine the role of their programme in children’s lives, to explore how those creative visions for children are delimited by other powerful stakeholders’ contrary constructs of children’s audiences, and to speculate about how the eventual text serves as a symbolic resource for New Zealand children. It draws on cross-disciplinary theorizing of culture, power and media agency to enable analysis of who has the power to delimit symbolic resources available to children in their ‘serious play’ of learning and identity formation. Certain conclusions can be drawn from the data, but the data also suggests many more questions for subsequent research.
Type of thesis
Zanker, R. (2001). What now?: a New Zealand children’s television production case study (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/14480
The University of Waikato
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