Alarm at Spanish youngsters’ late-night viewing habits

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 9:50pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 27 March, 2014, 9:50pm


Spanish television networks are keeping children up past their bedtime by regularly airing their favourite shows late into the night, according to the association that represents television viewers in Spain.

Incensed by the 10pm start times of children's TV shows such as La Voz Kids (The Voice Kids) and MasterChef Junior, Asociacion de Usuarios de la Comunicacion is demanding that broadcasters move children's programming to more child-friendly hours.

The past five years had seen children's shows air progressively later, said Alejandro Perales, the group's president. Even children's channels now started films around 9.30pm, leaving children routinely sacrificing sleep to watch their favourite programmes. "Then they wake up late the next morning, they don't eat breakfast, they arrive late at school," Perales said.

Recent TV ratings show that nearly 600,000 Spanish children aged four to 12 are still watching TV after 10pm on any given weeknight. Perales pointed to the children's version of the Spanish spinoff of singing competition show The Voice, which aired its final episode last week. "When the show finished around 1.30 in the morning, there were still 130,000 kids sitting in front of their TVs," Perales said.

The Spanish workday was partly to blame, he said, as most people didn't finish work before 7pm, pushing dinner and TV viewing to much later in the evening. "The schedules in Spain are a bit strange compared to other countries," Perales said.

For months, his group has been encouraging parents to curb their children's late-night television habits. "But many parents complained to us that this just generated family conflict." Kids would fight to watch their favourite shows, calling it "social suicide" to show up at school the next day without have seen the latest episode.

The association has now shifted its focus to Spanish television networks, pressuring them to agree to air children's programmes earlier. Perales' efforts are part of a campaign being waged by the Association for the Rationalisation of Spanish Working Hours to push TV networks to move prime-time forward. According to those behind the campaign, 90 per cent of Spain's top-rated television programmes finish after 11.30pm and more than half finish after midnight.