Janet Holmes a Court to retire as ACTF chair after 36 years

janet holmes a court to retire as actf chair after 36 years

Esteemed chair of the Australian Children’s Television Foundation Janet Holmes à Court, will step down later this year after an incredible 36 years, leaving behind a proud legacy of 61 Australian-made ­programs.

Perth-based Holmes à Court, 79, leaves behind a proud legacy of 61 Australian-made ­programs that have earned lucrative export income and three Emmy Awards.

She told The Australian, “It’s a huge pleasure to know that kids in 160 countries around the globe watch Australian programs, listening to our accent, our humour, learning about our values. For example, MaveriX was shot in Alice Springs with a largely indigenous cast, and now Netflix has released it globally and translated it into 38 languages.”

She says Round the Twist, about an eccentric family living in a lighthouse, has become one of the most successful children’s programs made anywhere. “Thirty-five years later, it’s still on air somewhere around the world in any 24-hour period, and the young boy who played Bronson, the junior lead, is now grown-up director Jeffrey Walker, who has directed series for us.”

But she also laments the current lack of quotas for children’s content.

“When quotas were put in place for children’s programs back in the 1980s – the first of their kind in the world – the Foundation was established and suddenly Australian children could see their own stories. And now, 40 years later, we’re in crisis. We have lost the quotas for children’s content and free-to-air channels and streaming services are not mandated to produce or fund it. They want to be able to do whatever they like but self-regulation is not enough.

“Personally I think it’s a privilege to have a TV licence and therefore it comes with responsibilities,” she says. “I would have thought one of the responsibilities would be to make and screen product for Australian kids.”

The Seven network last year commissioned less than seven hours of kids’ TV for a show made in New Zealand. “Having been married to Robert – who owned Channel Seven for a while – I’m very disappointed with the fact that children’s TV doesn’t seem to be an important factor in their programming. And the ABC has never had in its charter that they have to do anything about children’s programming. The ABC must be mandated to do this if the commercials are not.”

Holmes à Court has made 144 trips to Melbourne for Foundation board meetings and only ever missed one. “It was in 1990 – Robert died on the second of September and the meeting was on the fourth.”

CEO Jenny Buckland says her chair “is incredibly supportive, always at the end of a phone line”. And hard-working. For three gruelling years Holmes à Court led the Foundation’s campaign to convince the Howard government, and later the Rudd and Gillard governments, to create Australia’s first dedicated children’s TV channel, ABC TV 3. “Janet respects politicians and she’s been really effective at dealing with both sides,” Buckland says.

You can read more here.


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