Italian pubcaster Rai (Radiotelevisione Italiana) is launching new efforts to keep kids entertained and educated during the coronavirus crisis. Rai is releasing new kids content across its channels in the coming weeks, and is teaming up with well-known athletes to share educational messages with kids, says the pubcaster’s head of kids Luca Milano.
The country has been one of the hardest hit by COVID-19, with more than 9,000 confirmed and presumed cases, according to John Hopkins University. This puts it second in the world behind mainland China, which has more than 80,000. The number of deaths from the virus in Italy has climbed to more than 350. Amid the spread, the Italian government has closed all schools, and placed the entire country under lockdown.
“The government has decided to take a more drastic approach to avoid propagation,” Milano tells Kidscreen. “Now with kids at home for probably the next few weeks, we’re doing what we can to ensure they have a continuity of education and entertainment.”
To support the content demand from kids who would usually be at school, RAI is gearing up to launch new titles across its Rai Gulp (kids eight to 14) and Rai Yoyo (preschool) channels, including animated preschool series Art with Mati and Dada (pictured), and season two of tween-skewing live-action kids series Jams, about a young girl dealing with cyberbullying at school.
The company’s generalist channel Rai2 is also opening up a block for family-friendly content, which will feature live-action and animated series, including Rai and ARD’s animated co-pro Leo Da Vinci (52 x 13 minutes), about a young Leonardo Da Vinci; and German live-action films Wendy and Burg Schreckenstein (in English, Shiverstone Castle).
Rai will carve out dedicated spaces for kids content on its free VOD platforms Rai Play and Rai Play Yoyo, and will roll out curriculum on its Rai School platform, which hosts educational content that is made in collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Education.
One of the broadcaster’s aims is to help kids escape from the stressful experience, but it’s also looking to educate children to keep them safe, says Milano. During the infancy of the crisis, the broadcaster used its educational live-action series La Posta di YoYo, where a host reads letters from kids in Italy, to help inform kids about the situation. But now Rai has to step up its efforts to properly address the crisis, he adds.
“At the beginning we gave kids basic information, such as telling them it was OK to play with the Chinese children who were living in Italy,” says Milano. “The situation has become more complicated, and now we’re putting out advice through social media about washing hands properly, avoiding direct contact with those who have the virus, and don’t stay in crowded places, but always done in language that is directed to children.”
Across its social media channels, the team is working with the stars of its kids shows, as well as young popular Italian athletes who will record and share advice and info about handling the virus. The broadcaster is also in talks with Italy’s Ministry of Culture to figure out what else it can do for kids, says Milano.
The situation in Italy has wide-spread repercussions for the entire industry, and Rai recently postponed its annual Cartoons on the Bay festival, with no details on when it might be rescheduled. The country’s box office has also plummeted to an all-time low of US$500,000 over the March 5 weekend. Outside of Italy popular market events, including MIPTV and SXSW were cancelled because of concerns around the virus.
“As a public service broadcaster, we have to help by giving kids content,” says Milano. “This is what we can do. We’re not in the health system, but information and media can be a great support.”