Why should Pakistani media produce their own shows as they can just import high quality shows from other countries ?
Dr. Maya Götz
First thing: To see yourself on television means you are meaningful. Children deserve to see their own culture, their own environment and people from Pakistan on TV. Even if it is not high-end animations, even if it is not the perfect fictional or non-fictional program. It is so important that they see themselves represented, that they learn about their problems and not about problems of US-American kids for example.
We have conducted a study in which we asked children what kind of presenters they would prefer to have in an educational show. And actually children all over the world would prefer a presenter of their own gender and of their own ethnic background.
By the way: children in South-East-Asia could not even imagine that somebody of their own origin could explain things in a good way. This shows a big lack of self-confidence. And for me this is a very clear hint: Pakistani children need their own Pakistani program with a presenter from their own culture who explains things or offers opportunities to learn about their own culture.
For further information read Study ‘This is the tv-presenter I’d like to have’
Why should Pakistan have TV programs especially for children ?
There are three main reasons. First of all: The way children think is very different from how adults think. Until the age of ten children think on a very concrete level. Adults think in structures, but children understand the world based on concrete experiences. That is why they need programs, which are especially designed for them.
The second reason is they are a really sensitive age group. Pre-schoolers for example are so easy to scare. It is not easy to overwhelm them intellectually but on the emotional side they really need to be protected from certain programs, which will overwhelm them or lead to a traumatic experience.
Our prototype is a 5-year-old boy who saw the horror movie “Jaws 2”. The grandfather did not know it is a horror movie and therefore he let the boy watch it. This 5-year-old-boy is now 26 and still cannot swim in lakes without hearing the title music of the “Jaws”- movie. This shows how important it is to decide carefully on what programs we allow children to watch.
Third reason is: We should be very clear that children are the future of our societies. And they need to make things better than we did. If you talk about Pakistan they have to learn to read and write which is very important for the girls especially. Also the children have to care about their own health and the health of our environment. So what they really need is more knowledge and good values. We don’t know what their future will look like but we have to educate them for what comes.
What does high quality children’s TV look like ?
That is a difficult question. High quality children’s TV should enrich children. It should be made regarding their cognitive and emotional needs.
Children love to learn. They are so curious about the world. So to offer them a program that explains them the world and maybe even gives them ideas how they can change something within their own community that would be of high interest for them.
Also they need to learn about their own emotions. For Example how they can deal with fears or anger or with relationships.
And they should learn that even when times are a bit rough with energy and by trying to do their best they can achieve their aims.
What are the relevant target groups for TV productions ?
Roughly you can divide in three groups:
Pre-schoolers watch differently than every other group. They need much longer to understand a picture so editing style has to be relatively slow. They are easy to overwhelm emotionally so the heroes should have no antagonist. No complex stories – little adventures, one direction, no sub-story. Everything should be very simple.
Primary school children (6 to 9 years):
They are very curious about the world so they love every kind of educational program: Science shows, reports. Just to learn about all things surrounding them. How things are produced. For example how bread is baked. Also they like to learn about different kinds of cultures. They really want to know everything.
Preteens, roughly from 9 years and older:
They are already in the next step of their development. Especially girls get interested into the question of relationships. For example: how to deal with best friends. Meanwhile boys often like to test their own borders, they like to experience how far they can go.
What kind of formats work well for children ?
One very simple and easy to produce example are little adventures out of the everyday life of a small child. Theses adventures are for example how to put on a shoe. Sounds totally silly to us but can be so difficult for small children. Or how to make your first omelette. Put children in the centre who are actively showing what they can do. This is of high interest for pre-schoolers.
For the production side there is one tool that is very interesting: exchange pools. Pre-schoolers is a relatively small target group. But it is so important that they have their own program. The ABU – the Asian Broadcasting Union – has the pre-school exchange. And the item exchange is actually a worldwide initiative where at the end you produce five items after following certain rules and you can get out more than two hundred each year. So it’s a kind of an exchange pool which makes it possible to have for example a nice magazine with different pieces. A magazine is relatively good to produce because you just need a good host or something that is connecting the single pieces.
For primary school children:
Knowledge/Science shows would be of high interest for them and cheaper to produce than fictional programs or animated programs. The easiest way to do it is a format like “Willi wants to know it all” or “Checker Can” where you have a host who is highly likable. They interact with children by looking into the camera and addressing them directly. Topics again can be everything e.g. different kinds of animals or how certain things are made e.g. glass.
For this report format camera works is of high importance. Children of all ages are detail seekers. The younger they are, the more details (close up shots!) they want so see.
These are just some examples. Of course there are a lot of other formats that would work. You just always have to consider the age group you are producing for very well.
Why is Children’s TV especially important in countries like Pakistan ?
Countries like Pakistan do not have a long tradition in children’s TV. Also in less than one per cent of the programs worldwide the main characters are of South East Asian Origin. So children in Pakistan are not used to see children of their own ethnic background in children’s TV. But exactly that would encourage them a lot.
Children also should be an active part of their social surrounding. They can be the ones that make their environment, their little town, their village a better place. E.g. by doing very little things like caring for each other or painting pictures on the wall of the school or help the elders in their village. There are so many things they would love to do to be a part of the society. Adults often don’t see their abilities and children don’t trust themselves enough that they are able to do it. So some idol or role model has to show them. And these role models could be the cool presenter from their favorite TV show or the young reporter.
A very important argument for good educational children’s media in Pakistan is that a lot of children do not have the possibility to get a good education. Educational programs can give them a view to the world and can provide them with basic education e.g. small language lessons or teach them to read and write.
A lot of children in Pakistan have a difficult life. They have to work or they might even be living on the streets. Professor Sayed Ibadullah Rashdi from the University of Sindh and his Colleagues have conducted a study on working children in Pakistan with support of IZI. Working children are watching a lot of TV. But they are watching a lot of shows from the USA for example. That means they are staring at Malibu beach and villas and a life full of a lot of things they never will have. This is not really encouraging them!
They should rather understand that they can do something in their environment and change something there to make it a better place. So as soon as you start covering their own culture, showing opportunities what they can do, it can be one of the important little steps, which help e.g. to encourage and to make them understand how important education is.
What kinds of TV programs do Pakistani children watch ?
Actually they watch the same as everywhere. That means: a lot of animation, sponge bob, Hannah Montana, US or the global networks program for entertainment. And that is totally fine. Children deserve time to relax and be entertained. But if you additionally offer them educational programs this would enrich them a lot.
Can you suggest something to media people that want to produce children’s TV ?
There are so many reasons to do quality media for children. You can encourage them and you can give them self-esteem. You can reach so many kids and you can really change their view of themselves. We have studies where a child saw one show and then said this film told me that I have more opportunities and abilities than I thought. So this film really changed his life. Dear Pakistani producers, just do it. You don’t have the long tradition of 50 years which the western countries have in Children’s TV, but you can start something now. At some point you just have to start. And you will build a future generation that is well educated.