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  • Helen Lockett

Representation in Young People's TV

Updated: Sep 25, 2020

It’s no secret that young people’s TV viewing increased during lockdown. In April, Ofcom reported a 20% increase in media consumption across all ages, and across both broadcast TV and unmatched viewing. On BBC iPlayer between April and June, requests for CBBC and CBeebies shows increased by 81%, with children’s shows forming a quarter of all requests. TV viewing levels were higher than at Christmas – and with this huge opportunity comes the question: how can broadcasters and content providers capture a share of young people’s viewing time?

The Hub Kids and Youth team has helped companies to understand what drives kids and teens to choose to watch different programmes or choose one platform over another. What we’ve found is that content is crucial – get the content right and young people will flock to it. While there are many facets to what makes good content, we think a really crucial aspect is representation, and have found there are two aspects to this. Firstly, young people want to see themselves represented in their content – people who look like them, sound like them, who they can recognise themselves in. Secondly, they want to see their interests and passions represented.

Currently there is a lack of representation on TV. In 2019, Hopster investigated the top 50 TV preschool shows and found poor representation for disabilities, working class, LGBTQ+ and BAME kids. Ofcom found that only half of 8-15s feel that there are enough programmes with people that look like them. In our own research, The Hub has found that kids and teens feel that traditional linear TV is lacking, and that is part of what drives them to Video On Demand services, particularly YouTube. YouTube’s diverse range of creators (many whom are young people themselves) means that kids can find people who look like them and have similar interests, helping build YouTube’s popularity amongst young people.

However, there is hope. Representation in programming for kids and teens is starting to increase, and we can see the reward in viewing figures. Hey Duggee features characters with disabilities and LGBTQ+ parents, and was the most-watched children’s show on iPlayer during lockdown with more than 67m requests. BFI’s Young Audiences Content Fund has been funding TV programmes that represent young people’s lives, including giving young people themselves the opportunity to submit content. The popularity of this idea can be seen in the responses to these programmes’ open calls for content: S4C received 4,000 video submissions for Youth Eisteddfod, while Channel 4 received hundreds of applications for its recent Letters in Lockdown series.

Ultimately young people want to know that those behind the content they consume understand them and their lives, and can therefore reflect this in the content they watch. The Hub Kids and Youth team are experts in helping a range of brands / organisations uncover valuable insights with young audiences and consumers. If you’re interested in exploring their behaviours, needs and desires further, drop Afra and Helen a line at /


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