Content the key to kids' TV | ACMA

Content the key to kids' TV

The Australian Communications and Media Authority has released important research into the television viewing patterns of children tracking back to 2001 (when the ACMA conducted its first research in this series).

The Children’s Television Viewing research shows that children, especially young children, are keen watchers of programs specifically made for them.

The research also shows that, typically, parents choosing a television channel or program for their child primarily consider the appropriateness of the content. Parents also take into account whether their child ‘likes’ a channel or program, as well as the time at which a program is shown.

Other key findings from the research, comprising community surveys and ratings analysis, include:

  • Preschool children, under five, spend more time watching free-to-air television than older children.
  • Programs made for children are most commonly watched by children four and under.
  • Nine in 10 children under 15 watch children’s programming on television.
  • Most children aged 5-12 watch programs on commercial television, comprising a mix of reality, light entertainment, movies and children’s programs.

Of the overall top-rating programs watched by children under five on free-to-air television, excluding sport, most were watched on dedicated ABC children’s channels.

For more information, please see the backgrounder below or to arrange an interview, please contact: Emma Rossi, Media Manager, (02) 9334 7719 and 0434 652 063 or

Media release 14/2015 - 27 March


This research comprises two studies into children’s viewing of broadcast television:

  • a community survey of parents and carers
  • an analysis of children’s television audiences and program ratings between 2001 and 2013.

The first study, Attachment A: Children’s television viewing—Community research 2014, is a survey of 954 parents and carers of children under 15, commissioned by the ACMA from Newspoll. This study offers a contemporary view of parental attitudes to children’s viewing patterns and behaviours.

The second study, Attachment B: Children’s television viewing—Analysis of audience data 2001–13, draws on audience data provided by the industry ratings agency, OzTAM. This study focuses on free-to-air and subscription television viewing by children in five metropolitan cities of Australia (Adelaide, Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney). The data includes live and time-shifted viewing for broadcast television, but does not include online viewing of catch-up television services.

By comparing audience data over 13 years, this study identifies the longer term changes that have occurred in children’s viewing patterns.

The ACMA has also released an Overview Paper, which draws out key findings on the two studies on children’s television viewing.

This 13-year period has coincided with significant changes in Australia’s television viewing, with the introduction of digital television, catch-up viewing and, more recently, the availability of online and over-the-top viewing experiences.

The ACMA is monitoring changes in the industry and content delivery more broadly to see how they will affect audience viewing over time.

The ACMA’s role in children’s television viewing

The ACMA’s role in children’s television viewing derives from the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which requires the ACMA to determine standards for commercial television broadcasters that relate to programs for children. Under the Children’s Television Standards 2009 (CTS), (which apply only to commercial television broadcasters), programs may be classified as either C (for children) or P (for preschool children).

Children’s television classification

C and P programs are different from material produced for a family audience. They are designed specifically to meet children’s needs and interests. They deal with stories, concepts and ideas that are of interest to children and present them in a manner appropriate for the child audience (for example, from the child’s perspective or through the use of age-appropriate themes).

The CTS specifies that a children’s program:

  • is made specifically for children or groups of children’s entertainment
  • is well produced using sufficient resources to ensure a high standard of script, cast, direction, editing, shooting, sound and other production elements
  • enhances a child's understanding and experience
  • is appropriate for Australian children.

C and P programs can be identified by the following consumer advice symbols:

classification jpg

C and P programs can be viewed at specific broadcast times.

Current C bands are:

  • 7am-8:30am Monday to Friday
  • 4pm-8:30pm Monday to Friday
  • 7am-8:30pm Saturday, Sunday and school holidays

Current P band is:

  • 7am to 4:30pm Monday to Friday

How the CTS protect children during C and P programs

The CTS also contain protections for children against possible harmful effects of television. These protections apply during and around when C- and P-classified programs are shown.

Child protections in the CTS include that:

  • TV broadcasters cannot show advertisements during P-classified programs
  • alcohol cannot be advertised
  • children cannot be encouraged to do dangerous things.

Last updated: 26 March 2015