Children's Television Programming Opportunities

Article excerpt

In his paper on opportunities by which children's TV can enrich a country or region, Valerio Fuenzalida addresses whether current policy and creative stars are aligned for a Latin American revolution in culture-specific, educational children's TV. In fact, this revolution is already well underway. oddly enough, many of the movement's roots can be traced halfway around the world to Germany.

Since 1964, the international children's television festival, PRIX JEUNESSE, has taken place at the headquarters of Bavarian public broadcasting. For a week every other year, Munich becomes the world capital of children's television where 400 producers, writers, executives, researchers and others, from more than 50 countries, watch and discuss dozens of programs from around the world, created for kids from tots to teens. At the end of the week of screening and debate, participants vote and their results honor the most outstanding and innovative shows. The prizes are important, but the real benefit lies in the intensive exchange of experience and expertise that extends beyond the formal elements of the festival, into late nights in Munich's beer gardens. PRIX JEUNESSE has been called "a market of good ideas."

Many years ago, the festival organizers recognized the shortcomings of this structure. As the festival was held only every other year, much momentum was lost in the intervening time. Moreover, only those fortunate enough to attend the festival benefitted from immersion in this master class environment.

Thus was born the PRIX JEUNESSE "Suitcase"--a traveling exhibition of the festival's best and most intriguing entries. The Suitcase could be packed with a wide range of shows, or with a handpicked and highly-targeted collection aimed at specific needs or interests.

Latin America was among the first regions to see the power of the Suitcase, and the collection traveled from Mexico to Chile, in venues from high tech libraries to remote villages (where shows were projected on a sheet). The turnout for these screenings revealed a hidden regional resource--a collection of wildly creative but professionally isolated independent producers, writers, and storytellers. of course, animation experts and festival organizers had known for some time that such artistry existed; however, without a nucleus around which to build--a market or broadcasters, in particular--the community remained atomized.

Latin American media leaders quickly recognized the inherent power in its creative community, and set up venues for professional exchange. The "TV de Calidad" conferences in Colombia--dating back to 2000--led directly to a "Compromiso Nacional de Television de Calidad para la Infancia," developed in cooperation with broadcasters, producers, academics, and even Colombia's First Lady. This national pledge to improve the quality of children's television led to government investment in home-grown, carefully-researched program development and production.

Argentina, as well, offers a fine example of the energy and power that emerged from the growing Latin American network. In 2007, a children's block called "Paka Paka" launched on the Ministry of Education's television channel, devoted substantially to national or regional programming; by 2010, it had been spun off into its own channel.

Chile has hosted a number of pan-Latin conferences, too, often under the auspices of the Consejo Nacional de Television (CNTV). The Consejo offers competitive funding for children's programming, airs children's and educational shows on its Novasur service, and has adopted a special outreach program in media literacy.

Maybe no Latin American country has embodied the revolution in children's media more than Brazil. That country has been engaged in indigenous production with international reach for some time. It is interesting to note that TV Cultura produced the most iconic Suitcase program--the one that, by a huge margin, has been featured most often and widely. …