Development & Aid, Education, Headlines, Latin America & the Caribbean

Culture Vulture Kids on Argentine TV

Marcela Valente

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 20 2010 (IPS) - A public children’s television channel broadcasting high quality fiction, animation and documentary programmes designed by the Argentine Education Ministry for the two-to-12 age range can now be viewed elsewhere in Latin America via the internet.

A channel for children to learn from and enjoy.  Credit: Pakapaka

A channel for children to learn from and enjoy. Credit: Pakapaka

Pakapaka, launched in September, grew out of the programmes for children on Encuentro, the ministry’s cultural channel, and is one of the first public educational channels in Latin America produced with children specifically in mind by experts in different fields.

Coordinator Cielo Salviolo told IPS that Pakapaka “is for children to be able to learn, play, express themselves, participate and see themselves on TV screens, where children are individuals with rights, full citizens and creators of culture.”

The channel’s institutional goals are to promote children’s access to information that supports their development, and to create high quality programmes that stimulate creativity and imagination, social inclusion, and the love of learning.

The channel’s materials are also designed for use in public and private schools all over the country and the region, to support the teaching-learning process.

Salviolo said that until Pakapaka hit the small screen, there was no consistent children’s programming that showed real-life children. Instead, there were a number of stereotyped fictional stories and cartoons, she said.

“Pakapaka intends for all children to feel represented and to be active participants, whether they are in Argentina or other countries in the region, no matter what their geographical location or social circumstances,” she said.

This openness can be sensed in the programmes. On one of the regular segments, called “Aquí estoy yo” (This is Where I Live), children show their home, their school, their routines, their playground, and talk about their lives.

A programme called “Ronda” is for ages two to six and another programme targets children between the ages of six and 12.

The station’s programmes are mainly produced in Argentina by independent production companies.

“The channel is owned by the Education Ministry, but once the ideas have been worked out, we call for tenders to make the programmes. This benefits independent producers, who make 70 percent of the material,” Salviolo said.

The content of the programmes is discussed in advance by experts in mathematics, ecology, music, history and so on, and the channel works in close collaboration with other regional public television channels that broadcast children’s programmes.

Señal Colombia, Mexico’s Channel 11, and Brazil’s TV Futura, TV Cultura and Ra Tim Bum are some of the public channels with which Pakapaka produces, discusses and exchanges materials.

Many of the item exchanges are arranged through Red ALA (Alliance Latin America network), coordinated by Brazilian journalist Beth Carmona, an expert on high quality children’s TV programmes. Contributors to the network provide 5-minute items suitable for children, for exchange.

Pakapaka participates actively in children’s film festivals, like Chulpicine in Ecuador and Colibrí in Bolivia, making contacts for co-production of serials and gaining access to high quality short and full-length feature films for children.

“In Latin America, there is a strong movement demanding quality television programmes for children, which has not been sufficiently accommodated by TV broadcasters so far,” said Salviolo.

To get the Pakapaka signal in Argentina, viewers must have a digital converter box. The Argentine government has already distributed free converter boxes to the lowest-income households.

The channel can also be received via satellite television or by paying a subscription for cable TV. Some operating companies in the provinces have taken it up, but the largest companies in Buenos Aires have not yet done so.

“We are looking forward to their doing so with great anticipation, because we are a free, high quality channel,” said Salviolo. But the cable operators with the most subscribers, Multicanal and Cablevisión, are in a legal conflict with the government and have declined to include it in their programming.

The dispute, now in the hands of the courts, arose from the multimedia companies’ rejection of the new broadcasting law passed this year, which restricts media monopolies.

Nevertheless, some of Pakapaka’s programmes are available in DVD format and are distributed to public schools, and they can now also be accessed from other countries in the region via the internet.

The Pakapaka web site for watching the programmes online was developed as part of an agreement between the Education Ministry and the Association of Ibero-American Educational and Cultural Television (ATEI).

ATEI was forged at Ibero-American summits, with the aim of disseminating educational television contents. The Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID) has financed part of Ronda, the programme aimed at the younger age group.

Salviolo said that a collection of 150 video items from the Pakapaka channel will be available for viewing on its web site from 2011, and from the middle of that year, the full range of its programming will be available online.

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