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Mukto Khobor (Free News)

A weekly 25-minute adolescents' news and current affairs programme with a focus on children and child rights issues.

Organization

Ekushey Television Limited (ETV), Dhaka, People's Republic of Bangladesh

Contact details

Fuad Chowdhury, Commissioning Editor ETV and Executive Producer Mukto Khobor

Ekushey Television Limited
Jahangir Tower
10 Karwan Bazar
Dhaka - 1000
Bangladesh
Tel: +880 2 812 6535 8
Fax: +880 2 812 1270
Email: mail@ekusheytv.com

Contact in UNICEF:
Zafrin Chowdhury, Communication Officer
UNICEF
P.O. Box 58
Dhaka - 1000
Bangadlesh
Tel: +880 2 933 6701 to 6720
Fax: +880 2 933 5641 or 5642
Email: zchowdhury@unicef.org

Project partners

Ekushey Television (ETV) UNICEF
Bangladesh
Save the Children Sweden in Bangladesh

Location

Dhaka, Bangladesh

Background

Ekushey Television is the first private television network in Bangladesh to have the same coverage as the national television company, BTV, with which UNICEF has a programme of cooperation under the auspices of the Ministry of Information.

ETV started operating in 1999. UNICEF Bangladesh's Communication Section had an exploratory exchange of ideas with ETV at its formative stage, from which the concept of Mukto Khobor emerged. UNICEF was effectively involved from this stage on. Save the Children Sweden have also shown interest in co- sponsoring Mukto Khobor, and both agencies were involved in the recruitment of adolescents and providing child rights training for the young people and adults who form part of the team.

Mukto Khobor instantly drew an audience and generated interest among young people and adults.

Aims and objectives

Mukto Khobor is a weekly, 25-minute, adolescents' news and current affairs programme with a focus on children and child rights issues.

The aims are:

1. To create a space for children in the media; a forum for young people to express their views on issues and events around them where they will be heard by children and adults across the social strata.

2. To empower the young journalists by training them in specialized skills; on the other hand to empower and inspire the large number of young viewers who draw inspiration from this programme as a good example of how effectively they could work in the media when given an opportunity. To help adolescents build self- confidence and self-esteem.

3. To add value to children's views and voices in establishing that they too can offer opinions and solutions; to change the traditional idea that children should only listen and not say much.

4. To make this programme a model of equal opportunities for child participation in the media.

Participants

A group of 32 adolescents aged 11-17 of whom 16 are girls and 16 boys. Exactly half belong to privileged groups of society and the other half to the underprivileged - including working children and children in difficult circumstances, some of who are barely literate.

A seven-member adult team supports the young journalists, comprising two producers, one associate producer, one production assistant, one researcher and two camera crew.

Target audience

The primary target audiences are children and adolescents in Bangladesh between the ages of 8 and 18. The programme also interests young adults up to the age of 25.

Wider beneficiaries

The wider beneficiaries include parents, families, communities and society at large, to some of whom Mukto Khobor is an eye-opener to child rights and children's views.

Involvement of children

Children and adolescents aged 11-17 are involved in all stages: planning, researching, designing, reporting, presenting and producing each episode of Mukto Khobor.

Summary of project

The end-product is a widely-viewed weekly 25-minute news and current affairs television programme focusing on children's rights.

The young journalists are selected through a child-friendly, yet competitive process from several hundred applicants from schools and NGOs (non- governmental organizations).

With no prior experience in the media and with a short course of training, the children get straight down to work. Every week they plan, research, design, report and present the programme. With support from a team of producers and a camera crew, they divide into four groups of eight and take turns to produce the programme. The first episode was transmitted on 2 September 2000. Within a very short time they have shown amazing ease and facility in their work, and Mukto Khobor has become a highly popular programme that ranks among the most notable productions of ETV in audience surveys.

It has generated a lot of interest among the audience. At times there have been tensions and unease between children from different backgrounds working together but they have overcome this and have formed excellent working relations.

Partners

The Mukto Khobor team within ETV produces the programme.

UNICEF and Save the Children Sweden give professional advice on child rights issues, making Mukto Khobor an effective vehicle for the expression of children's voices and views. These two agencies contribute to children's participation, and to the form and content of the programme.

Mukto Khobor has an Advisory Group which meets once a month to give feedback on the past four episodes. This group includes representatives from children's organizations and the private sector.

Funders

UNICEF Bangladesh.

Save the Children Sweden in Bangladesh.

Cost

The total cost of each weekly 25-minute episode is US$3,430. This includes production cost and airtime.

Production cost per episode is US$2,830, which is equally shared by UNICEF and Save the Children Sweden.

The cost of airtime per episode is approximately US$663, which is borne by ETV. ETV repeats the programme once during the week, and also provides space, studios and other technical support, which is not shown in this budget.

Yearly cost for 52 episodes comes to US$178,360.

Strengths of project

The project creates a space for children in the media and a forum for young people to express their views on issues and events where they will be heard by children and adults. It directly empowers the young journalists by giving them specialized skills and increases their confidence and self-esteem.

It also empowers and inspires a larger number of young viewers for whom the programme is a good example of how effectively children can work in the media. Finally, it demonstrates that children and young people can offer opinions and solutions to contemporary problems, and challenges the traditional idea that children should listen but not say much.

It brings together children from different backgrounds and generates a gender- balanced and socially balanced audience from the outset.

Challenges

The most difficult challenge is to find ways of persuading adults to work with adolescents in a way that ensures the children's meaningful participation. The concept of child rights, especially protection and participation rights, are still somewhat fuzzy to adults. Even in the media, not all adults are aware of the dynamics of working with children, and how to facilitate the process.

Evaluation

ETV, UNICEF and Save the Children have done separate audience surveys, all of which confirm the wide viewership and popularity of Mukto Khobor. The number of letters that come to ETV is too large to manage, quite apart from the telephone calls and visitors received by ETV in relation to Mukto Khobor. These all indicate a large audience response, especially from adolescents and young adults. They say they enjoy the programme, give feedback, and show an interest in becoming involved with it.

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