The Evolution of the Children’s Television Community, 1953-2003

J. Alison Bryant, Peter R. Monge


Understanding the organizational history of the children's television community is essential to understanding why children’s television has evolved in the way it has. A theoretical model is developed that focuses on the evolution of communication networks linking the major organizational populations that comprise the children’s television community. Additionally, a stage model of community evolution is proposed that contains emergence, maintenance, self-sufficiency, and transformation phases. The model specifies the changing levels of competitive and cooperative networks that should occur in community evolution. Six hypotheses test the relative efficacy of competitive and cooperative networks across the four phases and the role of major environmental events. Data from interviews, network analysis, and historical records are combined to create networks representing the relationships among eight organizational populations over 50 years between 1953 and 2003. The analysis shows that the empirical data fit the curves specified in the theoretical model fairly closely. Also, several of the hypotheses are supported, including those that specify the preeminence of mutual networks over competitive ones in the early phases of the community, the increase in competitive networks with an increase in density, and the decline of both as the community entered a period of transformation, changing from the children’s television community into the children’s media community.

Full Text: