In 1991, in an address to the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, James Grant, executive director of UNICEF, made a request: ‘Would it be possible for the television industry to pick one day, say a Sunday, when the world media would put the focus on children . . . one day in a year when you put your hand behind our children, our future?’
His request was heeded and one year later, several hundred radio and television stations from 80 countries around the world set aside time in some cases the entire day on the same day for kids. By 1995, those numbers had swelled to 2,263 television and radio stations in 171 countries.
This year, the International Children’s Day of Broadcasting, which is sponsored by UNICEF and the International Council of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, takes place on December 15.
The concept is simple: any broadcaster anywhere in the world can participate by airing special programming for or about children or children’s issues.
What has resulted has been extraordinary. Children have been given the opportunity to go where they have rarely had a chance to go before. In December 1995 in the Dominican Republic, an eight-year-old girl interviewed Dr. Joaquin Balaguer, the president of the country, during a 24-hour programming marathon. In Poland, 9,000 children took part in benefit concerts for disabled children organized and broadcast by TVP1. On Guinea National Television, children produced their own programs, and from 3 p.m. to midnight, all reporting was done by kids.
The day has also been the catalyst for many significant changes throughout the world: Cameroon developed a government plan of action to promote children’s rights; Guatemala permanently incorporated children’s programming into its television and radio schedules; the Liberian government appointed a child welfare officer at the Ministry of Youth & Sports and a cabinet committee to establish a commission for the protection of children’s rights.
Some of the events planned for this year include 12 hours of broadcasting dedicated to the day on TV Cultura, Brazil’s public broadcaster, and Canada’s TVOntario. TV Cultura will air UNICEF programs as well as its own original programming and, through its affiliates, will reach the entire country. TVOntario will profile initiatives that provide young people with ideas for making positive changes in their communities and will give kids the opportunity to call in on open phone lines with their questions, comments and opinions.
The International Children’s Day of Broadcasting has given children the means to have their voices heard. It is now up to the broadcasting community to ensure that children remain on the air everywhere. with files from Jyoti Chopra, UNICEF, Radio/TV/Film Section