Those who are parents of, or aquainted with, a toddler, will doubtless know Peppa Pig, who could soon be crispy bacon Down Under. Introduced into the US market in 2011, the precocious pink cartoon character went straight into Toys R Us stores with merchandising sales well above expectation, and a deal with Fisher Price saw that barometer soar in a billion dollar deal. The animated TV show went right into the top ten pre-school American favorites and was said to have picked up 500,000 viewers in its initial US run. The program is just as popular in other countries. In the UK, it is the fourth highest selling toy and generates a great deal of money for its parent company Entertainment One, which is listed on the Stock Exchange. She even has her very own theme park in the Hampshire countryside.
Toddlers in Australia are no different in loving the little, rosy-cheeked pig that likes jumping in muddy puddles. Thanks to the swinging cuts in the recent budget to the home of Peppa Pig in Australia, the ABC, they may soon have to learn to live without her. As one wag put it, Peppa may be off to the abbottoir. At Senate estimate hearings on Wednesday, the MD of the ABC, Mark Scott, told senators he could not guarantee that the Pig family would be spared the cull. Contracts were in place for the immediate future, but further ahead, they might face the axe.
The ABC has to find savings of $35 million in the next four years, and the immediate victims are bound to be high-budget original dramas– and possibly the Pegga Pig shows. An earlier poster campaign to call for safeguards to the ABC depicted the station’s beloved characters, the Bananas in Pyjamas, in a blender. Now it seems that it is the pigs that will face the chop. Scott may be taking a calculated gamble in making this declaration as the program is the number one download on the ABC iView and gets 2 million hits a month. Pre-schoolers cannot vote, march or protest, but their caretakers can. When it means losing out on a precious few more minutes of sleep thanks to a Peppa Pig DVD or broadcast, for some, this can be the precious difference between being able to function all day, or not. Whilst the teens are up in arms about the university fee rises, it could be that the Australian protest scene ain’t seen nothing yet.
Peppa Pig has bagged the headlines before when she was accused of pushing a “weird, feminist line” by a right-wing columnist, Piers Ackerman, last year. Close analysis of the episodes does reveal some covert feminist tendencies. It has been pointed out that Peppa often comes across as more clever than her little brother George. She introduces Mummy Pig in the opening credits before she gives a mention to Daddy Pig. What’s more she wears a red dress, the color of rampant socialism. It was in reference to this “dangerous feminist ideology” that Senator Louise Pratt had raised the question of her being safe from the conservatives. Then came the horrifying answer: No.
It is classically a sacrificial lamb, not a sacrificial piglet–a cartoon one at that, but Peppa’s potential to be casseroled in this cuts crisis is causing grave concern. Another television station can negotiate for the rights to show it, in the future, but for many parents, they much prefer their children’s viewing to take place in the hallowed, and ad-free, environment of the national broadcaster.
Australians may have been braced to “share the pain” of the forthcoming austerity, but they did not expect it to extend to their “under-fives.” If Peppa Pig gets a roasting there could be tears before bedtime. They will have to hope that the crispy bacon and sausages stay on the breakfast plate and not become the fate of Peppa Pig and family.
By Kate Henderson