Exploring the Future of Taiwanese Children's Programs, from Content to Industry.
In one episode of the children's reality show 'Having Fun in the Mountains,' two young boys hike up a mountain together. As they approach the mountaintop crest line, they catch sight of the most iconic landmark on the northern peak of Hehuan Mountain: a giant, upright reflector. However, the weather suddenly changes, and the boys must decide what to do next. This program is a co-production of the Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation and Hakka Television. Unlike previous Taiwanese children's programs, the production team focuses on children's autonomy, allowing children to see themselves and create extraordinary journeys.
We are all children once. We all had the experience of listening to stories and watching children's programs, and we are all connected by these experiences. Therefore, we come together at the "Momo Mini Film and Television Children's Festival" to think about how to improve the quality and quantity of Taiwanese-made children's programs and lay a more solid foundation for the future development of children's film and television culture. The stories we choose to tell now will be there for the next generation of children.
In 2018, the Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation held a workshop for people who wish to devote themselves to making children's programs. And then, the Foundation began implementing a children's program incubation plan in 2019, producing multiple Taiwanese-made children's programs and dramas and continuing to incubate more programs. Over the past few years, while completing these unique, high-quality programs, the Foundation has encountered firsthand the reality and difficulties of making Taiwanese-made children's programs. And these experiences have become the impetus for the "Momo mini Film and Television Children's Festival."
The "momo mini Kids' TV Wonderland" forum and activities aim to inspire and motivate the Taiwanese children's film and television industry through exchanges and cooperation with international experts. The forum focuses on two main topics: first, how Taiwan can change its national policy and regulations and what role public television can play; second, how children's viewing habits are transitioning from television channels to streaming platforms and new media, and how children's programs should face these challenges and adapt to these trends.
The forum's opening ceremony was hosted by Homme Tsai, the chairperson of Taiwan Creative Content Agency, and Irene Chen, the Executive Director of Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation. The two signed a Memorandum of Understanding on "Talent Cultivation and Program Development Investment for Children's Film and Television," which declares their commitment to investing more resources in cultivating talents and content production within the children's content industry. Shih Che, the Minister of Culture, also showed up at the forum and showed his support.
Irene Chen, Executive Director of Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation, also shared that to face environmental changes, we need cooperation between the government, education sector, and industry. The changes in technology and media will not only affect children's viewing habits but also impact the shaping of Taiwan's culture. Minister Shih Che mentioned that Taiwan needs to make its cultural content "T-content," and children's content is nevertheless essential. Minister Shih Che also acknowledged Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation's incubation plan and hopes that through this forum, T-content will become stronger.
The opening keynote speech, "Why is quality children's programs essential to a nation? An Australian perspective." was delivered by Jenny Buckland, CEO of the Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF). Buckland shared how the Australian government has promoted the development of locally-made children's programs through various regulations and incentive mechanisms.
Australian children's programs have received widespread attention and acknowledgment in recent years. The Australian children's program "Little Lunch" has won multiple international awards, while The New York Times named the animated series "Bluey" one of the best TV shows of 2020. In addition, the youth drama series "First Day" tells the story of a transgender high school student. This program won an Emmy Award for its outstanding plots and beautiful story. "MaveriX" tells the story of six young motocross riders; now, the rights have been bought by Netflix, and audiences across the globe can all watch it.
The success of Australian children's programs is not accidental. Jenny Buckland, CEO of the Australian Children's Television Foundation (ACTF), reviewed the development history of the Australian television industry in her keynote speech. Since 1979, Australia has implemented quotas for commercial television programs for children. However, these are not the only measure, and Australia has proposed three production goals for children's programs: "only for children," "entertaining," and "high-quality production." To achieve these goals, the Australian Children's Television Foundation was established in 1982. Today, Australia is one of the world's most productive countries regarding children's program production, thanks to the joint efforts of the government, industry, and foundation.
However, this process took work and effort. In the early days, to save money, Australian TV stations purchased British and American programs at a low cost and were not interested in developing local programs. Therefore, the Australian government decided to intervene and implement quota regulations. In addition, children's programs also had to overcome funding problems. Thus, the Australian Children's Television Foundation actively participated in script development, production execution, finding co-production partners, and even participating in international distribution. The foundation also developed educational resources to introduce children's programs into schools.
In addition, the Australian Children's Television Foundation also actively advocated for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which belongs to the public broadcasting group, and lobbied the government to invest in establishing a digital TV channel dedicated to broadcasting children's programs.
Jenny Buckland, CEO of the Australian Children's Television Foundation, shared that Australian children's programs face new challenges. The rise of international streaming media has brought more intense competition to TV stations, and old financing and regulatory models are being disrupted. Children's viewing habits have also changed. Despite the Australian government canceling quota regulations for commercial television stations in 2020, the Australian Children's Television Foundation will continue to advocate for the responsibility that international streaming media should take for children's programs.
After the opening speech, Sheng-Yen Shiang, the Development Executive from Hakka TV, hosted another expert forum, "The keys to producing quality children's programs." In addition to Jenny Buckland, Marney Malabar, an experienced producer of the Ontario Public Television Children's Channel in Canada, and Kalle Fürst, former director of the Children's Department at Norwegian Public Television, both joined the talk. They discussed the impact of self-made children's programs on children's rights, education, and cultural identity.
First, the forum discussed the importance of entertainment in children's programs. Jenny Buckland shared that children have the right to enjoy stories, and good stories make it easier for children to understand the messages conveyed in the works. Marney Malabar mentioned that educational elements and messages could be included in children's programs, but children need exciting adventures, not dull, textbook-like content.
The forum also detailedly discussed the language and multiculturalism in children's programs. Kalle Fürst, the director, explained that modern children could watch all kinds of programs but can only find their own identity in programs with local languages and further connect with the local society, language, and culture. Marney Malabar believes multicultural programs can create opportunities in the international market, and children from different countries can resonate with programs that showcase multiculturalism.
The experts also shared how public television in various countries participates in children's programs. From the proposal, crowdfunding, and production to marketing, including diverse casting and promotional methods, each link is crucial to the success of children's programs. Nowadays, the length of programs has also changed due to children's viewing habits. A more flexible way of organizing the broadcast of children's programs can allow programs to have more opportunities to reach audiences and cultivate children's viewing habits of public television's self-produced programs.
At the end of the forum, an audience member asked how to balance animation production and educational content in children's programs. Jenny Buckland and Marney Malabar mentioned that experts in the education field should join the team in the early stages of program production to help shape the program content.
momo mini Kid's TV Wonderland also invited representatives of Taiwanese children's programs to showcase their works with the theme of "Nature and Children," demonstrating the diversity and richness of Taiwan's self-produced children's programs. This allowed participants to experience the development and achievements of Taiwan's children's film and television culture more directly. Workshops were also held outside of the forum, where selected programs from various countries were screened and discussed.
The Fubon Cultural and Creative Foundation strives to better connect with the international community and become an accelerator for the industry. Our belief is that visuals serve as vital tools for connecting with the hearts and minds of children. A child-friendly atmosphere is imperative, where young viewers can explore a plethora of options. When young minds are exposed to content made in Taiwan, they can cultivate awareness and connection to the land we call home.