Q&A with Anna Potter from Creativity, Culture and Commerce

Intellect caught up with the author of Creativity, Culture and Commerce to see what inspired her to write the book

How would you describe the book in a few words?

The book explores the production of contemporary children’s television in Australia and globally, and particularly the impact on producers’ creative practices of cultural values, media regulation, technological change and commercial considerations. 

Where do your own personal and academic research interests lie?

I’m really interested in television, both as a viewer and researcher, particularly the ways in which television is produced and distributed in digital regimes, where multi-platform delivery, niche channels and self-scheduling are the new norms.  Digital has created tremendous opportunities for both viewers and producers, with new players like Netflix investing in high quality drama such as Orange Is the New Blackand House of Cards. But digital has also fragmented audiences and program budgets, which makes the production of local drama even more difficult to accomplish in a medium sized television market like Australia’s. 

Where did you find the inspiration for your book?

Australia has, quite rightly, a global reputation for excellence in the production of kids TV, which began in the late 1960s, with Skippy. Children’s television is an industry in flux though, with a proliferation of dedicated children’s channels including heavyweights like Disney and Nickelodeon competing for the child audience.  I was really interested in finding out how the producers of kids TV were adapting to the challenges and opportunities created by digital and multi-channelling and how their shows were being influenced by what are increasingly globalised media markets. My book demonstrates that while Australian children’s live action drama still has an outstanding international reputation, it is now one of TV’s most vulnerable genres.  

What did you enjoy the most when writing this book?

I was very fortunate in that many leading producers were generous enough to speak to me at length about their work and, particularly, their creative practices. I really enjoyed hearing about what inspired and challenged them creatively and the many different facets of their work. 

How do you think children’s television has evolved over the years and what do you think were the contributing factors towards it?

Children’s television, particularly live action drama, has always been about story telling and that has not changed. Children, like adults, enjoy watching high quality drama with compelling narratives, written and produced especially for them. Globalisation has, however, become a key feature of the digital era, meaning the internationalisation of both children’s television, and many of the companies involved in its production and distribution.  Program makers have become dependent on international finance, which has meant their programs have to be made to attract a global audience.  And many free to air broadcasters have been paying less for content.  The overall result being that very often, animation is cheaper for broadcasters to commission than live action children’s drama. While children love animation and it is a terrific genre, live action drama has become extremely vulnerable in contemporary television production. 

In what ways would you say that the Australian children’s television scene differs from other various international ones?

Australia has a well-established children’s television production scene, which benefits from Australia being a safe, sunny and naturally beautiful environment in which to film. Australian producers are passionate and highly accomplished storytellers while Australia is unusual in having content quotas for children’s television on its commercial networks. Funding subsidies and tax incentive schemes provide further support for locally made kids TV. Nonetheless as a medium size market, with a population of 22m, raising finance for the production of kids TV in Australia remains an on-going challenge.

Do you have any future research projects or plans? 

I’m currently putting together a large, international project examining new and emerging production zones for children’s television. 

To buy the book please click here


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