Little to offer

Sadiqur Rahman reflects on how privately-run television channels in the country are giving little to no focus on developing programmes for children, a segment that is nearly half of the entire population

016Bangladesh was among the first signatories to the Rights of Children Charter, an outcome of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Children (UNCRC) held in November 20, 1989, during the UN General Assembly. Next year, Bangladesh had proclaimed national level implementation of the charter.
The focal points mentioned in the Charter include, right to express views freely and access to information and material for children from a diversity of national and international sources, especially mass media, that can greatly ensure children’s social, spiritual and moral wellbeing, and physical and mental health.
Despite having a child population that is nearly half of the entire population of Bangladesh, Bangladesh is, in general, still lagging behind other nations at ensuring children’s access to information and their right to learn and express themselves through mass media. The issue persists due to the indifference of privately-run television channels which have few programmes for children other than news.

Television, a strong and influential mass media, is considered an attractive source of entertainment and study for children worldwide. Article 17 of the UNCRC stresses state parties to recognise the important function performed by the mass media and encourage these to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the children in accordance with the spirit of the charter.
While the state-run Bangladesh Television (BTV) devotes considerable airtime to programmes for children, most privately-run television channels broadcast programmes for grown-ups despite government directions to give more focus to children’s programmes. For the entertainment of children, few TV channels show cartoons dubbed into Bangla as a part of the channels’ weeklong schedule along with occasional programmes marking children days which are most likely ‘eye wash’ attempts, as felt by members of the audience.
According to a latest weekly schedule, BTV airs child-based programmes spending nearly four and half hours on Friday and Saturday.  Moreover, the channel arranges child-base programmes every day in a week spending a minimum of half an hour to two hours. The programmes contain varieties of cultural shows, theatre and TV dramas, song tutorials, quiz contest and school debate, religious classes, Bangladeshi-made cartoon shows etcetera.
Maasranga TV, a private TV channel, currently airs only Bangla-dubbed cartoon show ‘Motu Patlu’ six days a week starting from 5:00pm. SA TV airs Bangla-dubbed cartoon show ‘Dora’ five days a week around 2:30pm and Bangladeshi-made cartoon show ‘Bholar Bahaduri’ only on Friday at 10:30am.
Besides airing Bangla-dubbed cartoons at 6:30pm – ‘Barney’ on Sunday and Monday, and ‘Toy Box’ on Tuesday and Wednesday, Desh TV also telecasts song-tutorial programmes on Friday at 9:00am, hosted by famous Nazrul Geeti singer Khairul Anam Shakil.
NTV, as an exception, shows informative and participatory programmes six days of the week targeting school kids. It telecasts ‘Zanar Ache Bolar Ache’ from Sunday to Thursday starting at 4:10pm and ‘Tiffin er phake’ at 5:30pm only on Fridays.
Jannatul Ferdous Abrar, a seven-year-old Khilgaon resident, likes to watch the Bangla-dubbed ‘Doraemon’ on Asian TV. ‘I love to watch this,’ she says. When asked whether she watches any other similar cartoons or programmes on Bangladeshi private television channels, she says, ‘I do not know whether the other channels air programmes for us.’
However, parents allege that overall programmes, either for children or grownups, are mostly stereotypical, lack creativity that can attract the kids to watch programmes of the foreign TV channels which are influencing them culturally. Many concerned members of the audience allege that TV channels most likely do not feel the social commitment to invest resources into making quality children shows.
Monira Yasmin, a Dhaka University graduate and housewife, shares with New Age Xtra that her four-year-old son, who will be enrolled in a kindergarten school in the coming year, is fond of Hindi music channels. ‘I often try to convince him to watch cartoon shows in the Bangla channels. But he is usually disappointed when I make such suggestions.’
Yasmin also informs that at a younger age, her son used to enjoy ‘Meena’- a South Asian popular cartoon show and puppet show ‘Sisimpur’ on BTV. The conscious mother feels that Bangladeshi producers should make more programmes targeting different age groups, which can be both educational and entertaining for children.
Following repeated calls from audience and parents, information minister Hasanul Haq Inu promised to issue letter to the TV channel heads and directors requesting them to arrange more programmes for children. On March 17 this year, the minister, while addressing a TV reality show, said, ‘They would be directed to arrange informative and educational programmes in their regular programme schedule.’ But, the schedule of various TV channels show that the request has most likely fallen to deaf ears.
The national broadcasting policy 2014 though restricts TV channels not to show programmes and news containing derogatory or insulting elements to children, it does not bound the broadcasters to make child-based programmes on regular basis.
An adviser to programmes of a popular TV channel, who had earlier worked for BTV, regrets to New Age Xtra that programme sponsors are usually not interested for the children shows due to low commercial outcomes. Under terms of anonymity, the TV personality says, ‘Making children’s programmes is tough and requires more creativity, attention and time. Producers need to be experts on child issue in such cases. Due to lack of financial sponsorship, creative producers avoid investing energy in this field, despite a large number of children population in this country.’
Former chairman of the Bangladesh Sishu Academi, Mustafa Manwar, also the renowned artist and puppeteer, observes that children of the current generation watch Hindi and English shows as they are becoming less interested in their own culture, which is frustrating. He says to New Age, ‘We have vast collection of Bangla literature and contents those could be presented in innovative exhibition to the children. That would be entertaining, interesting and education as well.’
The veteran artist thinks that only the government intervention would not be effective, rather consensus from people is needed to change the TV shows for better.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *