2 April 2007 – Children’s TV producers from 88 countries, along with media regulators, researchers, and youth media projects enjoyed the hospitality of Johannesburg at the 5th World Summit for Media and Children last week. Their worthy theme was ‘Children’s media for peace and democracy’, but the stars of the show were the 300 children who attended. They made films, produced a daily newspaper, and demonstrated their talents as communicators with testimony, challenging questions, and energy levels that put the adults to shame.
A former child soldier from Liberia, now working in local radio, urged the adult world not to make youngsters killers but to invest in the education they need to make something of themselves. A young girl from Palestine also pleaded for peace and spoke of the terrors that she and her peers must endure daily. A Swedish teenager who had monitored media coverage challenged journalists to change their negative attitudes towards reporting young people. A little girl from New Delhi showed us the film she had made among nomadic children in India who wanted to know what happened inside the silver ‘eagle-carts’ that traversed the skies.
Their message was simple – listen to young people, and let us in on the closed world of mainstream media production. They told an audience that included UN and government officials, senior TV executives, academics and development agencies: ‘We are your audiences and your future. We have plenty to say, and plenty to give. In an interactive multi-media world there is no excuse for excluding us.’
Some will undoubtedly make their presence felt in the coming years. In a bustling community centre at the heart of the sprawling Alexandra Township, a few minutes from the splendour of the Sandton conference complex, Djibril Diallo, Director of the UN Office for Sport and Development, gave his blessing to an exciting project which should reach our TV screens in advance of the next World Football Cup which South Africa hosts in 2010.
Broadcasters in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, France, Holland, Italy, Japan and South Africa, signed up to a scheme which will see local youngsters devise and make a series of 2.5 minute films taking sport as their theme. The plan is to engage underprivileged young people and their more affluent neighbours in combined soccer tournaments and produce a season of films that can be broadcast everywhere in the run up to the World Cup.
Judging by their contributions to the World Summit, it will be a season worth waiting for – and it might alert mainstream broadcasters to the wealth of talent from the unlikeliest of backgrounds that is waiting to break into mass communications.
As weary delegates made their way home, plans were already underway for the next World Summit, to be held in Karlstad, Sweden in 2010. The idea of bringing together film and TV producers, their audiences and those who analyse the impact of their products originated in Australia in 1995. It has expanded to include radio and print, and offers one example of a response to the challenge of global media. It will never be the same now that young people are part of the action – and by then the world will have seen the quality of their productions.
Visiting Professor in Media Ethics, Lincoln University
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(Bulletin No 134)