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Children's and youth television between public discussion, market and everyday life (2002)

Considering circumstances in which an overwhelming number of television programmes are on offer, the media economy has increasingly to obey an 'economy of attention' (see Franck, Winter etc.). However, one question arising is if this economy of attention can be related to children's and youth television as well. Numerous articles have been written about children's and youth television, focusing on certain programmes and particular lines of argument. Yet what still needs to be researched are the ways in which this is affecting the commercial success of a programme, children's interest in the programmes as well as parents' consent and their readiness to buy.

Although youth programmes are not much publicly discussed, they enjoy a commercial success which cannot be underestimated. Not only at "Big Brother" the 'economy of attention' seemed to be a far-reaching concept (Böhme-Dürr). Whether or not this is also true of the few offers aiming at youth is a topic that needs to be researched; in addition, a topic for research are the ways in which public discussion, marketing and the significance of formats are related to each other.

A. Analysis of press coverage addressing children's and youth television

Press coverage on the topics children's and youth television is researched. Articles from the last 5 years about 'children and television' and 'youth and television' are evaluated content-analytically. The focal points of such quantitative content analyses, amongst others, are an analysis of points of view and ways of argumentation with which journalists approach the topic of children's/youth television, which roles they assign to children, parents, producers and which slogans they are typically using. In a second step, comments on individual children's and youth programme formats during the year 2001 are considered and compared to viewing rates. Press coverage about individual programme titles forms the centre of the content analysis.

B. Evaluating the current children's television market

In order to avoid arguing in isolation from the real circumstances of the market, a market analysis has been carried out in Germany. Unlike most such analyses hitherto, it does not give significance to company identification figures such as turnover, market segments or fusions. Rather, it attempts to assess the manner in which a chain is formed between overall values in order to enable a prognosis about the basic way the market functions, its dynamic and tensions.

C. Example: "Teenstars" (RTL2). The significance of a format for market – press – participants – audience

With the help of an example, correlation between marketing - press coverage and individual appropriations by youth are investigated. For this, a youth programme addressing 10- to 19-year-olds is observed: the third part of "Popstars" (RTL2).

Accompanied by an analysis of marketing activity and participant observation, press coverage is analysed. This will conclude with a study of the significance of this format for children and young people. On the one hand, participants of the casting are interrogated both before and after casting takes place, on the other hand the same is done with members of the audience. Which fantasies, desires, evaluations and problems do children and young people experience when they are casting participants or members of an audience? In what ways are the market, the significance of television in everyday life and the public discussion interrelated?

Results of the project.