But whereas Disney has long mined cultures around the world for legends and myths—dropping them into consumerist, family-friendly American formats—ChuChu’s videos are a different kind of hybrid: The company ingests Anglo-American nursery rhymes and holidays, and produces new versions with subcontinental flair. The characters’ most prominent animal friend is a unicorn-elephant. Nursery rhymes become music videos, complete with Indian dances and iconography. Kids of all skin tones and hair types speak with an Indian accent.
Of course, YouTube is funded by advertisers. So it makes sense to pay attention to their wants and desires. But under the current model, brands’ reactions are often a placeholder for third party regulation. And at the moment – as content creators are sketching the line for appropriate content – it is often advertisers who have the final say about acceptability.
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Conversely, YouTube has also allowed government to more easily engage with citizens, the White House's official YouTube channel being the seventh top news organization producer on YouTube in 2012 and in 2013 a healthcare exchange commissioned Obama impersonator Iman Crosson's YouTube music video spoof to encourage young Americans to enroll in the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare)-compliant health insurance. In February 2014, U.S. President Obama held a meeting at the White House with leading YouTube content creators to not only promote awareness of Obamacare but more generally to develop ways for government to better connect with the "YouTube Generation". Whereas YouTube's inherent ability to allow presidents to directly connect with average citizens was noted, the YouTube content creators' new media savvy was perceived necessary to better cope with the website's distracting content and fickle audience.
Congress held hearings on television’s possible deleterious effects on children (and adults) in 1952, 1954, and 1955. But not much happened, and the government and TV networks generally settled into a cycle that has been described by the media scholar Keisha Hoerrner. “First,” she has written, “the government castigated the industry for its deplorable programming, then the industry took its verbal punishment and promised to do better, followed by the government staying out of the industry’s business.”
For kids to have the best chance of learning from a video, Johnson told me, it must unfold slowly, the way a book does when it is read to a child. “Calmer, slower-paced videos with less distracting features are more effective for younger children,” she said. “This also allows the video to focus attention on the relevant visuals for the song, thus aiding in comprehension.”
YouTube was founded by Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, and Jawed Karim, who were all early employees of PayPal. Hurley had studied design at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, and Chen and Karim studied computer science together at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. According to a story that has often been repeated in the media, Hurley and Chen developed the idea for YouTube during the early months of 2005, after they had experienced difficulty sharing videos that had been shot at a dinner party at Chen's apartment in San Francisco. Karim did not attend the party and denied that it had occurred, but Chen commented that the idea that YouTube was founded after a dinner party "was probably very strengthened by marketing ideas around creating a story that was very digestible".