17 JUN 2022

Jenny Buckland: "We have a singular focus on providing the highest quality shows for Australian children"

The Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) has turned 40 in 2022. The CEO of the company explains its evolution, how they have adapted to kids’ current content needs, and its new content launches.

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Jenny Buckland

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Reaching the 40-year milestone in the current entertainment arena and success in the kids’ content business is a worthy achievement. The Australian Children’s Television Foundation (ACTF) turned 40 years in 2022, and Señal News spoke with its CEO, Jenny Buckland, about the main challenges on this unique path.

The ACTF has celebrated its 40th anniversary in March. What are the most valuable lessons you have learned in this remarkable trajectory?
“Over our 40 years, we’ve learned to stay true to our fundamental values and the things that have always been our in our DNA while adapting and evolving for changing times. Respect for the past while looking to the future is our secret weapon. We have always focused on providing the highest quality shows for Australian children, breaking new boundaries, and having the audience at the center of every decision. But the way we do things has changed, and the kind of programs we deliver has changed. Over the first 20 years, ACTF was directly involved in the production itself. Still, we decided to work with the independent sector all over Australia and support them to make shows that met our aspirations for the children’s audience. That opened us up to new ideas and voices and enabled production all over the country. Today, with the competition for the children’s audience stronger than ever, we see primetime production values in children’s television and shorter-episode series. So, it’s about having a consistent culture of continual improvement and evolution while staying true to our audience and the values that make us unique”.

How have children and teen needs changed during these years? How has the ACTF adapted to cover those needs?
“Kids are still kids, but the world has changed a great deal over 40 years, and today’s kids have many more choices and are extremely discerning. They also have a lot less free time, with many more scheduled activities. They’re very aware of external forces shaping the world, like climate change, and they are under more pressure to achieve and compete at school. The programs we support need to accept that children don’t just plonk themselves in front of the TV and watch whatever they are served up. They have limited time and make active choices, so stories that draw them in and high production values are imperative. We have a real opportunity to contribute to the mental health of today’s children by exploring relevant and contemporary issues, making room for fun and entertainment, and ensuring that children feel seen, heard, and valued in the content we provide.”

ACTF has been betting on shows like “First Day,” “More Than This,” or “DisRupted” with inclusive and diverse stories. How important is it to offer these kinds of content nowadays?
“Today’s children live in a diverse world, where it’s more important than ever that we all get along and respect and value our differences. Valuing everyone means that everyone feels seen, but also that we all have an opportunity to try on someone else’s shoes and walk around in them. That’s why diverse content is so important – it builds people up and creates universal bonds and values. It’s also what young people today demand and expect to see.”

What is the current company's distribution strategy?
“ACTF has always taken the approach that if a show is made with high production values and is entertaining and captivating, kids will find it, no matter what device they’re viewing content on or how they’re accessing it. ACTF will always ensure that its shows can be found via multiple access points. If the show is good, kids will seek it out and find it no matter where it is.”

What are ACTF’s new content launches?
“New release programs include ‘MaveriX,’ a ten-part adventure drama series filmed in Alice Springs. ‘MaveriX’ premiered on ABC ME in April, and Netflix premiered the series outside of Australia. Furthermore, the International Emmy award-winning series “First Day” returns with a new four-part season. Another series to look forward to is ‘Barrumbi Kids.’ The 10x30 minute series is full of fun, action, humor, and heart, filmed outside Katherine with stunning outback scenery. ‘Barrumbi Kids’ will be available in July 2022.”

By Romina Rodriguez