ITC Notes

Children’s Television

Broadcasting Act 1990

Section 7 requires the ITC to draw up, and from time to time review, a code giving guidance on rules to be observed specifically on the showing of violence (and on other unspecified matters) when large numbers of children and young people may be watching programmes.

Section 16(2)(e) requires regional Channel 3 licensees and Channel 5 to give a “sufficient amount of time” to children’s programmes. This was the first time that children’s programmes were required by legislation.

ITC Codes

The ITC programme code incorporates details of Family Viewing Policy (Section 1.2) which states that no programme shown during family viewing time should be unsuitable for children. A progressive decline throughout the evening of the children present in the audience is assumed. Within this progression, 9pm is normally fixed as the point up to which licensees are responsible for ensuring that nothing is shown that is unsuitable for children.

The ITC’s latest annual survey Television: the public’s view 2002 establishes that 97% of those surveyed are aware of Family Viewing Policy and 83% of all viewers can correctly identify the 9pm watershed for terrestrial television channels. Most (65%) thought parents should be responsible for children’s viewing; 27% saw it as a shared responsibility by parents and broadcasters and 8% thought broadcasters were solely responsible.

The code’s section on violence (section 1.7) highlights the special care needed for the young and vulnerable. Section 1.2(i) refers to behaviour easily imitated by children, particularly the use of knives in programmes, and also to the inclusion of scenes of smoking and drinking in programmes.
The ITC advertising standards code contains a section on advertising and children (Section 7) which includes, among several matters, guidance on toy advertising and road safety.

Certain categories of advertising cannot be shown in or around programmes directed at a child or youth audience; these are detailed in Section 4.2 of the ITC rules on the amount and scheduling of advertising.

ITC Licences

Channel 3. Licensees must include at least 10 hours a week of programmes intended for children of different ages, with a range of entertainment, drama and information programmes. These must include a provision for children of pre-school age. Children’s material in regional programmes is excluded from the requirement. In 2001, the ITC agreed targets with ITV to secure the provision of original productions and commissions for most programme genres. For children’s programmes, this was 75 hours of drama, 52 hours of information and 70 hours of pre-schools annually.

The statutory requirement for children’s programmes does not apply to the national breakfast-time service, but pre-school, information and entertainment programmes are required as part of a range of programmes aimed a children in the ITC licence for GMTV, which must be provided to fulfil the diversity requirement.

Channel 4. Although there is no statutory requirement for children’s programmes or specific reference in the Channel 4 licence, the channel broadcasts programmes aimed largely at older children.

Channel 5. Applicants for Channel 5 had to include, as part of their proposals, at least 3hrs 30 min a week averaged over the year of programmes made specially for children, including a range of entertainment, drama and information programmes.

C5 Broadcasting, which was awarded the licence, proposed 14 hours 40 minutes of children’s programmes per week from the start of the service and the ITC incorporated this proposal as a licence condition. More recently, a new target for children’s programmes (and other genres) was agreed in 2001: 608 hours per annum of children’s programmes, including 26 hours of drama and 478 hours of information and pre-schools programmes.

Performance Review

The Broadcasting Act 1990 requires the ITC to publish in its annual report where Channel 3, 4 and 5 licensees have failed to comply with licence conditions relating to certain statutory requirements. This information is included in the ITC’s performance reviews.

In its performance review for 2002, the ITC noted that despite suffering significant budget cuts, CiTV sustained an impressive schedule. It gave factual material a fresh look and continued to produce good dramas like Sir Gadabout. There was a shortfall (of one hour) in ITV’s pre-school programmes despite two new series but steps had been taken to rectify the problems in 2003.

Channel 5. Channel 5 rationalised its schedule to focus more on younger children, increasing the hours of Milkshake and having great success with Make Way for Noddy.


In 2002 Channel 3 transmitted 610 hours of networked children’s programmes. The equivalent figure for Channel 4 was 177 hours and for Channel 5, 1294 hours. Children’s ITV(CiTV) is broadcast regularly on weekdays from 3.15pm to 5.00pm and on Saturday and Sunday mornings. Channel 4 broadcasts programmes for pre-school children, including the educational series The Hoobs on weekday mornings from 6 am and other children’s programmes can be found mainly on Saturday and Sunday mornings including the T4 strand for teenagers. GMTV shows the majority of its children’s programming at the weekends and during school holidays. Channel 5 broadcasts programmes for pre-school children on weekdays from 6.30 am and programmes for older children and teenagers can be found on Saturdays and on Sundays.


A number of ITC satellite licensees provide dedicated channels for children, including Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and the more family-orientated Disney Channel. Around 15 such channels are currently available on digital television, some of which are aimed at pre-school children or are time-shifted channels. All these channels are subject to the same requirements of the ITC programme code as terrestrial channels, but unlike terrestrial licensees, they are not required to provide a diverse range of programmes for children (although some do) and their performance is not assessed annually. Parents with children at home were more prevalent among multi-channel households (61%) than adults without children (36%) (BARB)

Further References

* ITC Library bibliographies: Children and television; Children and advertising
Children’s TV special report. in Spectrum. 1995: Spring, 4-13
Quality in children’s television programmes: What do viewers think? ITC Research. 1994.
Children’s perceptions of toy advertising. ITC Research. 1996.
Cartoon crazy? ITC Research. 1998.
Influence of TV advertising on children. ITC Research. 1998.
The future of schools television. ITC Research. 1998.
Copycat Kids? The influence of television advertising on children and teenagers. ITC Research . 2000
Internet Regulation: the way forward? ITC Research 2000
Public Service Broadcasting: what viewers want. ITC Research 2001
Wrestling – how do audiences perceive TV and video wrestling? ITC Research 2001
Boxed In: offence from negative stereotyping in TV advertising. ITC Research 2001
Striking a balance: the control of children’s media consumption. ITC Research 2002

ITC news releases 23/98, 25/98, 26/98, 27/98, 32/99, 39/99 58/99, 05/00, 75/00, 15/01, 20/01, 30/01
ITC Annual Report and Accounts. 2002

June 2003