The Australian Communications and Media Authority notes some public and media commentary regarding its recently published research Children’s Television Viewing and Multi-screen behaviour (the children’s viewing research).
The commentary is available here:
The above commentary may result in a misunderstanding of the ACMA’s role and the rigour of its research. For that reason, it is posting clarifying remarks.
The ACMA’s role
The Australian Communications and Media Authority Act 2005 sets out the ACMA’s broadcasting and content functions. These include:
the development of program standards relating to broadcasting
the conduct of research into community attitudes on issues relating to programs and content
to inform itself and advise the Minister on technological advances and services trends in the broadcasting industry and internet industry.
The Broadcasting Services Act 1992 requires the ACMA to develop and administer the Children’s Television Standards (CTS). The CTS aim to ensure that children have access to quality television programs and are protected from exposure to program material that may be harmful.
Under the CTS, the ACMA can classify programs as either C (for children) or P (for preschool children). Commercial television broadcasters are required to broadcast certain quotas of C and P programming each year.
The children’s viewing research
In late 2016, the ACMA commenced planning for research that would provide insights into contemporary viewing practices of Australian children. Key inputs to the children’s viewing research were commissioned by the ACMA in February and March 2017 in the context of its broadcasting and content functions.
It is important to note, as is clearly presented in the report, that the children’s viewing research comprises two streams of work:
an analysis of OzTAM audience data to provide an understanding of children’s viewing preferences and changes in the popularity of children’s programs on free-to-air (FTA) TV and subscription TV
quantitative research that focused on exploring children’s viewing behaviour from the perspective of parents, carers and guardians.
These pieces of work are complementary but are based on two separate analyses – one uses data sourced from OzTAM (an Australian audience measurement research firm) and the other data was collected through commissioned research (from OmniPoll).
The Government’s Australian and children’s screen content review
In May 2017, the Government announced a comprehensive review of Australian and children’s screen content (the Government review). The objective of the review is to provide policy options to Government on the most effective support mechanisms for the Australian screen production sector: specifically, mechanisms to support Australian drama, documentary and children’s content and the Australian Screen Production Incentive. Additional details about this review are available here: https://www.communications.gov.au/australian-childrens-screen-content-review
The relationship of the children’s viewing research to the Government review
While the children’s viewing research will be one input to the Government’ review, it was not conducted specifically for the review. It was commenced with the aim of better understanding the contemporary viewing preferences and behaviours of Australian children. The analysis of the OzTAM audience data followed on from similar analysis in 2015 that looked at longer term changes that occurred in children’s viewing patterns between 2001 and 2013. This previous related research is available here Children's television viewing research
The relationship of the children’s viewing research to C and P programming
While clearly relevant to the ACMA’s role in administering the CTS, the children’s viewing research was intended to provide a broader understanding of children’s viewing preferences and changes in their viewing behaviour.
Why did the ACMA’s research look at children aged 0-14?
The purpose of the research was to gain a broad understanding about Australian children’s viewing habits. The data is presented for the 0-14 age group as a whole, however, findings are also provided by age categories that are useful in understanding more specific viewing patterns of pre-school children, primary school-age children and older children.
Why is children’s programming defined broadly?
The ACMA relied upon the pre-defined category of program provided by OzTAM and, in the quantitative survey, defined children’s programs by reference to known children’s TV programs, movies, videos and DVDs. Again, noting the purpose of the research, the ACMA adopted a broad definition to better inform an understanding about Australian children’s viewing habits across devices and platforms.
The methodology adopted for the quantitative survey
The design of the quantitative survey of parents, carers and guardians was chosen as it best met the research objectives within budget and available resources, and ensured timely access to findings. Online surveys are widely utilised in real world consumer research but are not without limitations, as clearly stated in the report. To improve the representativeness of the sample and to ensure a balanced distribution, triple inter-locking quotas were applied (age within gender within region). The survey data was also post-weighted to reflect the estimated resident Australian population of parents, carers and guardians aged 18 years and over with at least one child aged 14 years and under based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) population estimates.
The ACMA does not attempt in the report to generalise the findings to the broader population, but the findings are relevant in the context of providing insights into the target population of interest being parents, carers and guardians of children aged 0-14 years.
The purpose of the children’s viewing research, as defined by the ACMA, was to develop a broader understanding about Australian children’s viewing habits in the context of the evolving multi-platform and multi-screen environment, which has been subject to substantial change over the last several years. The research provides valuable insights into contemporary viewing practices of Australian children. The research has been shared more broadly through the publication Children’s Television Viewing and Multi-screen behaviour and the ACMA is encouraged by the broad ranging interest in the research.