Authors of a New Anthology: “We Need to Understand How the Media Industry Stays Relevant to Young Viewers” 

Pia Majbritt Jensen and Eva Novrup Redvall discuss their new anthology, Audiovisual Content for Children and Adolescents in Scandinavia: Production, Distribution, and Reception in a Multiplatform Era, exploring the challenges in media consumption by young audiences.

Pia Majbritt Jensen, Eva Novrup Redvall, and Christa Lykke Christensen, editors of the anthology Audiovisual Content for Children and Adolescents in Scandinavia: Production, Distribution, and Reception in a Multiplatform Era, were all participating in the research project “Reaching Young Audiences”, based at the University of Copenhagen and funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark (Danmarks Frie Forskningsfond). “It was already written in the research funding application that we wanted to co-edit a book together”, Jensen begins. 

– The anthology focuses primarily on fiction for children and young audiences through three different work packages. We are interested in the ideas of commissioning editors: What do they think that it means to be a child today and what kind of content do they think that children “need”? We are also looking into how this content is then written and produced. And finally, we are researching what kind of content the young audiences are watching. We wanted to engage with other Nordic scholars around different topics, so the book has a bit wider scope and expands beyond fiction, says Eva Redvall. 

Jensen and Redvall had collaborated previously in a research project called “What Makes Danish TV Drama Series Travel”, which dealt with television drama for adults. During that project, they quickly realised that there was a lack of research focusing on children and young audiences, which became the starting point for the current research project. 

– It has been very nice to find like-minded people and create this edited collection. The people who are actually interested in children and young audiences – we have to team up! Jensen points out. 

A changing media landscape 

The media landscape has gone through some profound changes in the last decades, which has affected the media reality that children and adolescents are faced with today: from television showing mainly national content, to global platforms providing international film, series, and social media content straight to their personal devices.

– It’s very important that we research what effect this changing media landscape has on a young audience, especially since they are the viewers of tomorrow. We need to understand them, and we need to understand what the industry is doing to stay relevant to them, says Jensen. 

– We are, for example, looking at what the industry practitioners think is good, quality content for children based on adults’ assumptions about children and childhood today. With all the effort being made and the range of productions in the Nordics – and of course the taxpayers’ money being spent on this – it is important that this is being researched from several different perspectives, adds Redvall.

– There is a very interesting chapter in the book written by Ewa Morsund on the television series Rådebank, where she explains how NRK wanted to reach an audience of young, less-educated males and portray their reality in a more rural setting. This really demonstrates how much effort is put into making content for specific target groups among the young audiences, Jensen continues. 

Capturing young audiences’ attention

In Denmark, children and adolescents have on average access to four or five streaming services each, and they get their own smartphone at an average age of eight or nine years old. This raises challenges in not just getting, but keeping, the attention of children and youth. Jensen highlights the trend of content producers embracing these challenges to create innovative and engaging content. 

– The anthology contains a great chapter by Andreas Magnusson Qassim about the SVT series KÄR (In Love), where they are really trying to engage with mobile phone culture for quite young children, so-called tweens. Keeping the attention of children and youth in today’s media environment is a battle for everybody, but the producers are really taking up the fight, Jensen explains. 

– Many chapters in the book address these challenges in various ways. When kids get their own phone, they can make their own choices, and this poses natural challenges not least for the public service broadcasters that are not allowed to be on, for example, TikTok, which is a very popular platform for young people. It’s all interrelated, and the independence young people get from having all that content in their pocket at any moment is a great challenge, Redvall sums up. 

Nordic collaborations crucial

The Nordic public service media have a rich history of sharing programmes and engaging in cross-border collaborations, such as Nordvision. The editors emphasise that such collaborations are crucial for staying relevant in the age of global platforms, and they suggest that Nordic broadcasters need to stand together to tackle the competition posed by global media giants. 

– I think we should even go beyond the Nordics to collaborate. I could imagine a European funding scheme or something like that. The competition from English-language content is huge, and children nowadays speak English from a very early age, says Jensen. 

A collaborative future

Concluding, the editors outline their hopes for the policy implications that research such as theirs would have in the Nordics. Jensen expresses her hope for the EU to regulate global platforms, allowing public broadcasters to use these platforms to reach young audiences while ensuring safety and quality content. 

Redvall suggests that it could be interesting to explore the possibility of having a Nordic platform that could offer high-quality content, catering to children and parents, where they could go to find the best content produced for a young audience. 

– Moving forward policy-wise, I think it’s really important to safeguard productions particularly for the younger children. We see a tendency of focusing more on the older children, and the discussions end up being about whether small children should be watching screens at all. I do think we have to acknowledge that they are watching screens, and we need to produce national quality alternatives to everything else out there, Redvall concludes. 

Read the anthology

Audiovisual Content for Children and Adolescents in Scandinavia: Production, Distribution, and Reception in a Multiplatform Era

Pia Majbritt Jensen , Eva Novrup Redvall , Christa Lykke Christensen (Eds.)
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Photo: Scandinav Bildbyrå