Video nicies: re-thinking the relationship between video entertainment and children in Britain during the early 1980s

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Abstract

Published work which addresses video’s formative years in Britain typically frames children in one of two ways: either as victims of ‘video nasties’, or as scapegoats used by social guardians and policymakers to further a profoundly moralistic, censorious, agenda. The centrality of youngsters to this historical moment cannot be denied, but there is much more to be learned about their relationship with video entertainment during the early 1980s. It would be unreasonable to suggest—as some have—that, because the video industry lacked governmental regulation between the years 1978 and 1984, video distributors disregarded children’s welfare. On the contrary, and as this article will reveal, many distributors traded in an array of videos intended specifically for a child audience, ranging from age-appropriate feature films to cartoons to non-fiction education videos, while others dealt exclusively in children’s entertainment. Indeed, far from simply being irresponsible peddlers of horror and pornography, some companies went to great lengths to appeal directly to youngsters—including companies that would be subsequently prosecuted for trading in ‘obscene publications’. Situating the video boom in its historical context, this article examines how distributors marketed ‘kidvids’ in the trade and consumer press, and how they sought to promote children’s product that was not only designed to entertain, but also to educate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)630-648
JournalHistorical Journal of Film, Radio and Television
Volume37
Issue number4
Early online date13 Mar 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2017

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