The Beeb are to launch a global English-language current affairs programme for children in 2019, Our World.
“There has never been a time when it was more important to introduce the next generation to objective, impartial news and factual explanation of the events and issues shaping our world. Children today are exposed to a lot of opinion, but not necessarily to information that is fact-based and reliable. As a mother, I am very pleased that the BBC World Service is taking this step. It is also important to me that the project is global, and will help young people in different countries to be connected to each other and to have greater awareness and understanding of the news on an international basis.” – Angelina Jolie
One of the main objectives for Our World is to promote global media literacy. The programme will be aimed at children aged seven to 12. Corporation-commissioned UK research shows seven is the age that children become aware of the news and 12 is the average age a stateside child signs up for a social media account. So the time between seven and 12 years of age represents a window to instill in children the value of asking questions and a chance to develop critical thinking.
Our World will provide, the BBC note, ‘much needed impartial access to information of the highest editorial standard, helping young people to understand the world around them and encouraging critical thinking.’ The production aims to produce safe and child-friendly reporting, without speaking down to younger audiences something pioneered by John Craven and the Newsround programme in the 1970s for young UK audiences.
Globally, children are a chronically and acutely underserved demographic the Beeb state. While Newsround caters for UK viewers the Our World programme aims to be truly global in scope, engaging children from Argentina to Zimbabwe. It will start with an English version but the BBC will seek production partners to expand programming into multiple languages.
Our World will also be a multimedia project with digital and broadcast elements, including a weekly half-hour TV show. In 2019, the BBC will be launching a ten-week trial of the project. The corporation is in talks with a number of international public-spirited digital and broadcast media organizations interested in co-production and distribution. The pilot TV programmes will be distributed via the World Service’s existing TV partnerships and via other suitable broadcasters internationally. Angelina Jolie will act as executive producer.
The BBC has produced its flagship Newsround show in the UK for over 40 years. In autumn 2018 the World Service launched two Africa-focussed TV children’s shows: What’s New? in English and Actu Jeunes in French. In November Sky News launched a weekly 15-minute youth-aimed news slot, FYI. The programme also airs on Sky Kids.
“The internet is a democratizing force. It gives voice to the voiceless. But the downside is that it enables some of the worst conspiracy theories to spread. According to a US survey from last year, over a six-month period, 59 percent of 10-18 year-olds had shared a story that they either subsequently found to be inaccurate or were now uncertain as to its veracity. No parent can completely isolate their child from fake news. But what we can do is give kids the tools to distinguish the genuine from the false and encourage them to develop critical thinking – to ask themselves: who produced the video and why? Are they a reputable organization? Are they just telling one side of the story? Is there another view?” – BBC World Service Director Jamie Angus