Convention on Television Broadcasting for Children and Youth: A Case Study of Academic-Professional Collaboration in Israel
Lemish, Dafna, Communication Research Trends
The potential benefits of collaboration between academics, who specialize in the study of children and media, and media professionals working in the field can be illustrated in the development of the Convention on Television Broadcasting for Children and Youth in Israel (first published in English in Lemish, 2007). Growing out of the collaboration between the author of this document and the Head of Programming of Israel Educational Television, this process began with convening a brainstorming symposium to discuss the need for a convention of ethical practices. Participants in this discussion included all of the broadcasters for children in Israel (public and commercial, cable and satellite). All agreed at this initial meeting to establish a joint committee of academics and professionals, who met and drafted a document that was circulated for feedback among all the broadcasters. Members included from Tel Aviv University: Dafna Lemish, Chair of the committee, expert on children and media; Zeev Segal, expert on law and ethics; Yehiel Limor, expert on media institutions and professions; and Avinoam Damari, Head of Programming, Israel Educational Television, who initiated this process. Following extensive deliberations and exchanges regarding this document, the Convention document was officially signed in July 2002 by all broadcasters in a festive event hosted by the Chair of the Education Committee of the Israeli Knesset (Parliament). The signed convention was re-produced in the form of posters for display in broadcasters' offices and as leaflets for distribution among media professionals, educators, and the public.
Several years later, following growing dissatisfaction with some of the current practices, the Council for Cable and Satellite Broadcasting in Israel initiated discussions of the ethics of broadcasting for children in Israel. These discussions led to agreement entered into on December 2008 by all broadcasters who target children (public and private, including representatives of international corporations broadcasting in Israel such as Nickelodeon and Jetix), to reaffirm their commitment to the original convention and to also apply it to their supporting Internet sites and interactive-contents. They nominated a supervisory committee whose role it is to follow the implementation of the convention, to bring up issues and concerns to the forum, and to report to it at its annual meetings.
What remains to be seen, of course, is how the convention will be implemented; what peer sanctions might be applied for those who deviate from the agreements; whether the symbolic act of signing will be reinforced with in-service training efforts, etc. Still, this convention exemplifies the hope, underlying these collaborative efforts by academics and broadcasters in Israel, to improve the content offerings of television programming for children and is a statement of good will by those concerned with the well-being of children.
B. The Convention
The convention was framed as the "Ten Commandments of Broadcasting." They specify five principles of "thou shalt do" and five principles of "thou shalt not do."
Convention on Television Broadcasting for Children and Youth in Israel
We are committed to the happiness and welfare of all the children from all social classes and sectors without distinction in regard to gender, ethnicity, or religion, as delineated in the UN Convention Regarding the Rights of Children and Youth ratified by the state of Israel.
In view of our understanding of the important role that the medium of television plays in shaping the spiritual, emotional, and behavioral lives of children and youth; and
In accordance with the basic laws, legislation, regulations, as well as, ethical codes that apply to the different broadcasting authorities; and
In view of our strong sense of responsibility for our roles as creators, producers, and broadcasters of television programs;
We have committed ourselves, collectively, as the representatives of those involved in the production and broadcast of programs for children and youth, in consultation with relevant members of the academic and educational communities, and in recognition of our right to preserve the distinctive uniqueness of each constituent organization, to this convention regarding television broadcasting. …