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Kids' TV more American than US

Hunter Lander-Smith
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
STRONG US INFLUENCE: Nine-year-old Hunter Lander-Smith has little choice but to watch American-made content.

Kiwi kids bombarded with overseas television programmes watch more United States-made content than their American counterparts.

And rather than moving away from such programmes, exposure to American children's shows is increasing, says a visiting academic.

The statistics have led to a call for a publicly funded, free-to-air children's channel, as well as warnings of "far reaching consequences for our children and our society" if the trend is not reversed.

German academic Maya Goetz, who specialises in children and media, said a 2007 study showed more than 84 per cent of fictional children's shows in New Zealand came from the United States.

That had almost certainly grown in the years since, she said.

It compared to 83 per cent in the US, 15 per cent in England, and 19 per cent in Australia.

"In New Zealand, it seems, they have no choice."

Locally made content, such as Kaitangata Twitch or What Now, was high-quality but scarce, Dr Goetz said.

Instead children were being inundated with "typical US values", such as the "highly-sexualised" Winx Club through to SpongeBob SquarePants, who works in a "kind of McDonald's".

There were virtually no children's science, culture, or news programmes made in New Zealand.

A free-to-air, publicly funded children's television channel which included news was needed, Dr Goetz said.

New Zealand Children's Screen Trust trustee Ian Hassall, a former children's commissioner, said Kiwi kids were at risk of growing up not knowing what made them unique.

Last year, almost $15 million of NZ on Air's $64.5m contestable funding went towards children's television - its second largest funding area.

NZ on Air spokeswoman Gina Rogers said any new funding for children's television would be at the expense of other areas.

The figures from the 2007 study included pay television. Looking at just free-to-air, the percentage would be lower, she said.

NZ on Air was keen to work with the new trust to investigate other funding options, including international co-productions.

Lyall Bay's Hunter Lander-Smith, 9, watches an hour of television a day, largely on US channels such as Cartoon Network and Disney.

But his mother, Michelle Lander, said time spent in front of the screen, not the origin of the content, was the greater issue.

"I have noticed some Americanisms slipping into his language. But it comes from the music too. We are so immersed in American culture here - it's a bit grotesque."

She made sure Hunter, a keen sportsman, got outside regularly.

Evans Bay Intermediate principal Wendy Esera said while the figures were "seriously scary," their impact was not noticeable in her pupils.

Other principals talked to by The Dominion Post had similar responses.

Gibson Group chief executive Victoria Spackman said there was a desire to make more children's television but a lack of funding and places to screen it.

Lower-budget formats such as magazine-type shows typically got the funding, she said.

Broadcasting Minister Craig Foss said government support for New Zealand children's television, was reflected in NZ on Air funding: "872 hours of New Zealand children's programming showed on free-to-view television last year, over half of which was funded by NZ On Air.

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"It's important to note that nearly 70 per cent of overall viewing was across these free-to-view channels rather than channels behind a pay wall."

TVNZ produces Kidzone24, a channel targeted at preschoolers.

However, spokeswoman Cindy Carleton said it was contracted to Sky and not available on Freeview.

The state broadcaster strove for New Zealand-made shows but bought some from overseas, she said.

YOU COULD BE CENTRE STAGE IN YOUR OWN 3-D SPECTACLE

Forget the glamorous screen idols of Hollywood - technology experts are predicting you could be the new star of your state-of-the-art 3-D TV.

Technology experts say that while films such as James Cameron's Avatar may have started the trend, user-generated content will determine if 3-D tech is a lasting revolution or a passing fad.

3-D photos taken with your digital camera, sent via your 3-D cellphone and viewed on a 3-D TV - all of this is possible with technology available on the market today, though you may have to stop by Japan for the smartphone.

A fall in box office revenues showed blockbuster 3-D movies have lost their shine but 3-D-capable TVs were taking off worldwide, particularly in Europe and China, technology expert Paul Brabin said.

On the market for a number of years, the sets were now not much more expensive than their 2-D equivalents, and some - such as the Toshiba ZL2 - no longer require viewers to wear glasses.

Mr Brabin is a partner and tech specialist at PricewaterhouseCoopers, which this week issued an international report on 3-D entertainment.

He said New Zealand was "at the forefront" of 3-D film-making.

"New Zealand is no longer seen as an outpost but is front and centre in the minds of global film-makers. We may be known as Middle-earth, but in terms of film and production we're firmly on top."

He believed that as consumers were exposed to the technology in their homes, their interest in how else the technology could be applied would be spiked.

"As people become more familiar with the 3-D format, it's natural they'll want to produce their own 3-D content." This would see a lift in worldwide sales of personal devices like cameras, game consoles, tablets and laptops with 3-D capabilities.

Noel Leeming Group merchandise manager Jason Bell said New Zealand was following overseas trends, with growing interest in 3-D TVs - about a quarter of all TV sales.

"People are buying them basically because they wanted to future-proof themselves."

Mr Bell thinks the lack of 3-D television content outside of film titles might be limiting people's interest. New Zealand has no 3-D TV channels, though the United States, England and Australia do.

And he is yet to see much demand for the technology in other electronic products, such as digital cameras and game consoles.

Sales for Nintendo's 3-DS had fallen, and while the recently announced Playstation 4 would allow 3-D games to be played, Mr Bell saw this as simply one feature in a raft of others. "Eventually, it'll just become a standard feature. But as more and more [3-D] content comes out, potentially it will become more and more popular."

- The Dominion Post

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