Day Eight - Prix Jeunesse suitcase presentation for Armenian children's TV producers
With the OneMinutesJr workshop in Yerevan just finished, it is now time to beat the drum for better and more educational children's TV in Armenia.
The Prix Jeunesse is a bi-annual children's TV festival based in Munich, Germany, and sponsored by the public broadcaster BR (Bayerischer Rundfunk). Since the mid-90s, the Prix Jeunesse also delivers trainings for children's TV producers around the world. The "Prix Jeunesse suitcase" is a household name - it is a suitcase full of the best programmes from the last festivals and tours the world to give producers a better idea of what state-of-the-art children's TV looks like.
In Armenia, children's TV is not a priority. Very little local productions are put on TV. Cartoon Network is available on cable and satellite, there are some Russian channels that broadcast their children's programmes into Armenia (in Russian, of course), but Armenian-language productions for the young viewers are definitely the exception. The public broadcaster seems to have no interest in children's programmes at all and the small private stations, although interested and motivated, mostly lack the funds. Children's TV is work-intensive and costly if done properly.
Upon invitation from the Prix Jeunesse and UNICEF Armenia, 10 children's TV makers have gathered in the Internews office in Yerevan today to see a whole new world opening up for them when the suitcase arrives. Seven DVDs with the best productions from the Prix Jeunesse 2002, 2004 and 2006 are on offer. There are several categories such as "entertainment", "best for teens", "low budget - high quality", "pre-school", "drama" and "documentaries". To nobody's surprise, the Armenian producers are very interested in the "low budget - high quality" productions.
And the first film is already a "hit". "Eva's Winterplaster" from Sweden is a short programme that explains how constipation comes about in the human body and how this can be prevented. The way it's presented is so simple but so interesting that the Armenian producers would immediately love to see more of the series. But we move on to other productions from Mongolia, the UK and. Anahit Hovhannisyan and Astghik Darbinyan from the junior programmes of H2 TV in Yerevan comment that while most of these are low budget productions from Western Europe, they would still need funds that exceed everything they have to spend by a huge margin. And Arevik Sardaryan, Director of the puppet show "Hupet" from Hai TV, adds that her programmes are often funded by the parents of the children she works with.
What is a problem in Western Europe is a problem here as well - advertisements on children's TV. But while there is a tendency in Western Europe to put a ban on advertisements during children's programmes, especially when it comes to "junk food ads", the problem in Armenia lies somewhere else. There simply is no advertisement interest during children's programmes and therefore it is difficult for the producers to demand more funding from their channel directors. One participant mentions that there are no efforts undertaken to do proper research into marketing and advertising in the country. This leads to untargeted advertising where "biscuit ads" run late at night when the potential customers, the children, are not watching and the children's TV producers cannot capitalize on the raised money from the stations.
The suitcase examples are discussed in all detail during this first day of the Prix Jeunesse suitcase presentation. In the afternoon, the participants want to see some of the content of the "entertainment"-DVD and also some of the world's best educational programmes. They are all intrigued by "Amigo", an educational game show for children and how it is presented. They say they would like to learn how to organize a show like "Amigo" and how they can adapt the visuals and the content for Armenian children.
Tomorrow, on the second day of the training, they will get a chance to check out some of the most impressive documentaries produced for children and will also get to see more examples of children's game shows from the Netherlands, Sweden and Germany. And they want to discuss how to produce good talk-shows locally, because they see this as a relatively inexpensive way of producing content that is both entertaining and interesting for the children in Armenia.
Yerevan - April 14, 2008 - Chris Schuepp