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Seeing Things


I’ve recently picked up a copy of Oliver Postgate’s autobiography "Seeing Things" on ebay.   Seeing  Things is currently out of print, but has plenty to say about the current state of Children’s Educational Television, an area I’m currently writing about in support of a piece on wider Educational Technology. 

Postgate was instrumental in creating some of the most memorably children’s television of the 1970 and 80s.  I say so because I remember it, having been a small child at the time.  On the subject of the state of current children’s programming Postgates own website has a short essay – "Does Children’s Television Matter?".  This cites commercial styles of programming and American research as fundamental catalysts for the decline of the genre.

Then, in 1987 the BBC let us know that in future all
"programming" was to be judged by what they called its "audience ratings".
Furthermore, we were told, some U.S. researchers had established that in order
to retain its audience (and its share of the burgeoning merchandising market)
every children’s programme had to have a ‘hook’, ie, a startling incident to
hold the attention, every few seconds. As our films did not fit this category
they were deemed not fit to be shown by the BBC any more. End of story – not
only for Peter and me – we had had a very good innings – but also for many of
the shoe-string companies that had been providing scrumptious programmes for
what is now seen as ‘the golden age of children’s television’.

Those days
are long gone. Today making films for children’s television has become very big
business requiring huge capital investment, far beyond the reach of small
companies, and that has inevitably brought with it a particular poverty from
which we never suffered.

Until the next edition of "Seeing Things" this essay is a touchstone in view of current debates on Children’s Television programming.

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