Listening with mother: the cultivation of children's radio

Lacey, Kate (2016) Listening with mother: the cultivation of children's radio. In: Wesseling, Elisabeth (ed.) The child savage, 1890-2010: from comics to games. Ashgate studies in childhood, 1700 to the present . Ashgate, Farnham, pp. 151-170. ISBN 9781409455981

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The very phrase, ‘Listen with Mother’ conjures up an image of the archetypal domestic radio audience, while effortlessly connecting modern media consumption with more traditional forms of storytelling - and listening. This chapter takes the title of the iconic BBC radio children’s programme, Listen with Mother (1950-82) as the starting point to consider the act of listening in the practices and representations of childhood in the modern media age. The subtitle, ‘Cultivation of Children’s Radio’, refers to both the development of children’s radio as a genre, and to the ways in which children’s radio sought to ‘cultivate’ its listeners and their listening skills. Significantly, children are not exhorted to listen to Mother, but to listen with her. Moreover, the maternal voice is no longer the intermediary channel for children’s engagement with the written word. That role is taken over (albeit temporarily,) by a less ‘familiar’ voice, and the mother’s role is to be an intermediary for her children’s engagement with the broadcast word, a new hybrid of the written and the spoken, the public and the private.

The central questions for this chapter, then, are how early radio remediated earlier forms of storytelling for young children and how fears of the unruly (infantalised and feminized) mass audience connect with fears of as-yet uncivilized children. It will explore how the audience, listening at home, listening with mother, is domesticated both literally and figuratively and how, paradoxically, the spectre of the innocent child, listening in to programmes not designed for their ears, has haunted broadcasting policy from the earliest days.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Listening, Children's Media, Radio, Broadcasting History, Medium Theory
Schools and Departments: School of Media, Film and Music > Media and Film
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DA History of Great Britain > DA020 England > DA129 By period > DA300 Modern, 1485- > DA566 20th century
H Social Sciences > HE Transportation and communications > HE7601 Telecommunication industry. Telegraph > HE8689 Radio and television broadcasting
H Social Sciences > HQ The Family. Marriage. Women > HQ0503 The Family. Marriage. Home > HQ0767.8 Children. Child development Including child rearing, child life, play, socialisation, children's rights
P Language and Literature > P Philology. Linguistics > P0087 Communication. Mass media
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Depositing User: Kate Lacey
Date Deposited: 07 Mar 2016 08:15
Last Modified: 07 Mar 2016 08:15

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