5th Annual International Conference of the Arab Media Centre
Vigorous expansion of free-to-air children’s television in Arabic is something that has happened rather recently. Spacetoon Kids’ Arabic satellite channel dates back to 2000, but MBC3 and Al-Jazeera Children’s Channel (JCC) were launched in 2004-2005. Nickelodeon Arabia started up in July 2008 and Baraem, a JCC offshoot, went on air in January 2009. A long list of other children’s channels and related initiatives emerging during this period raises many social, cultural and economic questions about the production and distribution of programmes for Arabic-speaking children and about the way this output is received and used by its young viewers.
Papers were invited for a one-day conference in London to address these issues. The morning will feature panel debates by invited industry practitioners, educationists and policy-makers. Afternoon sessions will be devoted to presentation of academic research. By bringing scholars together with executives and experts from all parts of the children’s television landscape, the conference aims to explore, among other things: whether local creativity in children’s television programming in Arabic is helped or hindered by the volume of dubbed imports; whether public service elements in children’s TV can set precedents for the rest of Arab television; and whether there is credible evidence that innovations in content and interactivity are meeting children’s educational and entertainment needs.
Suggested themes for papers
Suggested topics for research papers included, but were not restricted to, the following:
- Programme content — underlying values and assumptions
- Channel finance — implications of public service and commercial models
- Parent power – mechanisms for voicing preferences and concerns
- Young audiences — quantitative and qualitative insights
- Online games and virtual worlds — implications for children’s broadcasting
- Merchandising – applicability and impact in the Arab context
- Animation – developing local skills and innovation
- Segmentation – are some groups of children overlooked?
Background to the event
The conference reflects two specialist areas of research being developed within the University of Westminster’s Communication and Media Research Institute (CAMRI), namely Arab media and the ecology of media production for children. In its 2008 Research Assessment Exercise, the UK’s Higher Education Funding Council ranked CAMRI as the best media and communication research centre in the country, with all of its submissions rated as being of international standard, including 60 per cent classified as ‘world leading’ and a further 30 per cent as ‘internationally excellent’.
CAMRI runs numerous international conferences every year. In September 2008 it held a conference on “Making Television for Young Children: Future Prospects and Issues”. In March 2009 it held another on “Arab and African Audiences: Shared Agendas for Research”. The conference on “Children’s TV in the Arab World” builds on these and other previous events and has secured the participation of leading names in the field.
Programme and registration
Conference registration will be open to all and not conditional upon presenting a paper. The conference lasts one day only, beginning with coffee and registration from 9:00 am and ending with a reception from 17:30 to 19:00. Plenary sessions with invited industry speakers will take place in the morning. Presentation of academic papers will take place in concurrent panels in the afternoon.
The fee for registration will be £85, with a concessionary rate of £35 for students, to cover attendance at all sessions, refreshments and conference documentation.
Formal registration is now open and informal applications may be addressed in the meantime to Helen Cohen at [email protected] Successful applicants will need to arrange funding for conference attendance from their own institutions.
Opportunities will be open for publication of selected conference papers in academic journals whose editors or co-editors are based in CAMRI. It is proposed to develop a themed issue of the Middle East Journal of Culture and Communication, but stand-alone articles may also be submitted to Global Media and Communication, Westminster Papers in Communication and Culture and Interactions.