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Mallard: Research gives valuable information

Hon Trevor Mallard
Minister of Broadcasting

6 May 2008 Speech Notes

Embargoed until:6pm

Seen and heard research gives valuable information

Broadcasting Minister Trevor Mallard's speech to the launch of Broadcasting Standards Authority research Seen and Heard: Children’s Media Use, Exposure and Response. Stamford Plaza Hotel, Auckland.

Good evening. I am pleased to have the opportunity to launch the report of the Broadcasting Standards Authority's (BSA) major new research project: Seen and Heard: Children’s Media Use, Exposure and Response.

Thank you, Joanne, for outlining the key findings, especially the information about children’s use of more recent media, such as cellphones and the internet.

The BSA is to be congratulated for its impressive contribution to media research in New Zealand since 1989. As a result, we have had more informed debates about what is happening in the broadcasting environment and where we want to go in the future – especially with the emergence of new media, and the convergence of television, internet and cellphone broadcast technologies.

The BSA does play a pivotal role in New Zealand broadcasting, by developing, promoting and upholding broadcast standards; and making sure the standards align with contemporary social values. This work is underpinned by the BSA’s research activities, which provide regular snapshots of New Zealanders’ media use and attitudes.

It is good to see the continuing interest and support broadcasters have shown to the BSA over the years, and I would like to also acknowledge the New Zealand Television Broadcasters Council and the Radio Broadcasters Association for their assistance with BSA research projects.

Seen and Heard illustrates the benefits of longitudinal research, enabling comparisons to be made with the earlier research in this area that was carried out in 2001.

One interesting finding in this latest research is that since 2001, fewer caregivers are aware of the 8.30pm watershed on TV, but children frequently watch TV past 8.30pm. This means children are more likely to come in contact with material that they or their caregivers might consider unsuitable.

It is important we understand this. The need for parental responsibility is increasing as children have access to media forms that are not always subject to regulation. Knowing what our children are accessing and teaching children good safety practices with all forms of media is the only way to ensure they are protected from harmful content.

At the same time, it was good to read that some children have views about what material they think is unsuitable viewing for children, and if they are disturbed by it, they choose to stop watching it, or turn it off. This is a good reminder that children are not necessarily passive viewers.

The protection of children is nevertheless a matter of public concern and debate – in this case, the community wants to be reassured that children are not being harmed by media, or media content, especially when a new medium comes on the scene.

Seen and Heard provides us with real data about what children are actually doing with media, what they like and what they find disturbing, and what their caregivers are doing to control access to it.

It also gives us the data about the children who are missing out on access to computers and the internet. The inequality of access is an important social and educational issue - we all know how essential media literacy is becoming to New Zealand.

Government recognises the importance of media research, and I note that Te Puni Kōkiri and the Ministry for Culture and Heritage are managing a complementary piece of research, assessing the media use of adult New Zealanders. It will be interesting to make comparisons between these two pieces of work.

Some shifts noted in Seen and Heard since the 2001 study are not surprising, given the rapid evolution of the media landscape.

This research is undertaken at regular intervals – which is a good thing. We need this data if we want to know how young New Zealanders are adapting to the brave new media world and it's also important information for the range of programmes and initiatives on offer that centre on children and their media use.

I'm told the research will be used to inform the BSA in complaint determinations relating to children's interest issues. It will also input into the BSA's media literacy strategy and assist with the development of the codes that outline the standards which broadcasters comply with.

I imagine this will be of interest to others who work in this area. For instance, media literacy is already taught in schools at the secondary level. Through the Ministry of Education, government also supports NetSafe, which provides internet safety kits to schools along with web and phone support. They work closely with schools, police and community organisations to increase media literacy and the safety of our children on the internet.

So, I hope that the findings of Seen and Heard are disseminated widely, so that caregivers, lobbyists, broadcasters, and educators take advantage of the most up-to-date knowledge of how children engage with the media and how it impacts on them – and adapt their programmes and initiatives as necessary.

Congratulations to everyone who has been a part of this research project.


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