Longtime champion of Children’s television, and presenter of SBS series Every Family Has a Secret, Noni Hazlehurst this week made some pointed comments about Kids’ TV to The Australian.
In the past four years there has been an 88 per cent drop in funding for original Australian kids’ shows on commercial networks. As a beloved figure of children’s television, what do you think about that?
NH: Having done Play School for 24 years, I know how important in particular that preschool age is, and it’s so often ignored. Children don’t always have control over what they watch. We now have generations of seven, eight, nine and 10-year-olds growing up who believe that the behaviour showcased on shows like Real Housewives is how real housewives should behave. For children to have access to stuff that is specifically made for them, and specifically made for a certain age group, is so important. I think the tendency among those who deal in numbers rather than people is to group children together as an amorphous group.
Why do you think it’s important for Australian kids to see their own stories on TV?
NH: Unless a child has an adult around who can help them understand or put what they’re seeing into context, who’s to say they won’t perceive it as reality? This situation is distressing on many levels. It’s indicative of the fact that most of our media is driven by the dollar and not by any kind of care or concern for fellow human beings. And that, I think, is the tragedy.
This is something you’ve been – for lack of a better term – banging on about for a while…
NH: I have been banging on! The other day, I found a speech I gave in the ’80s and I talked about how difficult the world was for young children to navigate unless they had someone to provide non-judgmental acceptance and unconditional love. This was before the internet, before screens. I have been advocating for this for 50 years, and I will never stop.
What do you believe is the effect on young people who are devouring content that perhaps they are too young to understand?
NH: Why do we see anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicide among young people? There are awful things kids go through as a result of inappropriate content they are devouring. It’s very distressing that people don’t care enough to join the dots and do something about it.