The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

A Nostalgic BBC Education

Laura Jones has been conducting research in Media and Cultural Studies as an undergraduate and postgraduate student for the last five years. She completed her Masters-by-Research in Media, Culture and Communication this year at the University of South Wales. She will be starting a PhD at Cardiff University from October in children's television and gender.

This article is a part of my Masters-by-Research into children’s re-make television - revivals of previously popular brands and programmes -  and intergenerational nostalgia. A mixed method approach of content stimulated audience research and an online survey was used to better understand the role that children’s re-make television has within the family home.

Through this research it was apparent that children’s revived and re-made brands or programmes have become a touchstone to family history, childhood memory and an heirloom tool to pass down to future generations. They encourage family interaction and are important in re-creating past family memories, and importantly, they are a key part of a child’s learning and development. This is what I have termed ‘nostalgic education’.

A nostalgic education is facilitated by older generations who educate younger family members by sharing memories, values and morals through television. Viewing re-make television is one way for younger generations to embrace an era gone by with family members. Children’s re-make television consumption has not often been thought of as a central tool of memory output with such strong links to family, memory, childhood and the home.

Children’s television transcends just putting your child in front of the television but moves towards a display of ‘good’ parenthood depending on the choice of channel you show to younger generations. Parents encouraged learning through television but this was often related to passing down generations of what was ‘acceptable’.

The historical, trustworthy BBC brand image was the most popular channel on which to watch children’s television re-makes. Families were sticking to what their parents had advised and what used to be good for them. It was about what your parents had shown you, rather than watching digital channels, as they didn’t have as good an educational or family value attached to them.

One mother who took part in this research was particularly keen to use classic children’s television as an educational tool, in particular the remake of "The Clangers", as she had watched this with her own mother. She believed that her daughter watching similar programmes that echoed her traditional family values was important.

Interestingly, this mother also mentions the debate over commercial programming versus public service broadcasting in relation to a better standard of learning for her child. Learning and development is of importance to any child, clearly, and the CBeebies remit seemed to suit this family and their needs. The mother speaks of her distaste and difference in the children who consume PSB television to commercial channels.

MUM: Like my nephews have got full Sky and they watch Disney Junior, but its ridiculous the stuff that’s on there


MUM: It’s just like… kids’ programmes are not kids programmes

GRANDMOTHER: Yeah. I reckon it makes a difference being on the BBC.

MUM: Yeah I think so, because it’s American isn’t it, it’s a lot more…forward…too grown up!

The clear disdain for commercial children’s television is shared amongst the family. They deem the programmes too grown up, services expensive and not particularly educational. The mother has adopted the grandmother’s opinion as ‘BBC being the main one’, and it is a common understanding by many parents in this research.

CBeebies remit is to ‘…offer high quality, mostly UK-produced programmes to educate and entertain the BBC’s youngest audiences’ (2013:2). In addition, according to research conducted by an independent body for the BBC in 2013, Freeview viewers are more inclined to watch CBeebies as ‘There is a strong affinity from both the children and parents that CBeebies… is sets apart from the competition’ (2013:4).

For the parents who participated in this research, there is a level of trust in the BBC brand for learning and development, and the perception that there simply is no better quality than that of a public service broadcaster. CBeebies is popular with both children and parents due to its trustworthy BBC brand image developed over the years and passed down as the ‘norm’ to generations. The nostalgic branding of the BBC with other remakes and adaptations from British culture, such as "Peter Rabbit", "Teletubbies" and "Postman Pat", only further represents the understanding of different generations’ needs for themselves and their children as an audience. Families want to re-enter this ‘child world’ as a consumer to share memories and traditions as a worthy educational tool.


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