A rich variety of cutting-edge youth programmes from across the Mediterranean region were showcased at a two-day conference in Amman last week. It brought together 20 media professionals and 20 civil society activists from Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Palestine as well as programme-makers from the UK, Denmark, Germany and France.
The “Youth on Screen” event – a collaboration between MedMedia and the UNESCO led NET-MED Youth programme – also highlighted ways in which the media and civil society can work together to give young people a stronger public voice.
The conference on April 20-21 marked the launch of a long-term initiative aimed at facilitating the development of TV and cross-media programmes which reflect the political, social and economic challenges faced by youth in the region.
The opening address was given by Danuta El Ghuff, programme manager for the EU Delegation to Jordan, who underlined the EU’s commitment to supporting freedom of expression in the region. The EU funds MedMedia and NET-MED Youth as well as a bilateral media project in Jordan.
Key sessions included the presentation of a report by Mostapha Mellouk, of Casablanca Media Partners, who provided a unique insight into media consumption trends and the perceived priorities for national broadcasters looking to reach a younger audience.
The preliminary results of a NET-MED Youth media monitoring initiative, which were also presented at the conference, seem to indicate that the volume of programming for young people on national television tends to remain disproportionately low.
Subsequent interventions by representatives of the broadcast industry reflected a high degree of creativity and innovation across the region as well as a commitment – particularly in Palestine and Tunisia – to introducing new youth programming strands.
However, civil society activists argued that many national broadcasters had failed to embrace their public service remit and that programmes rarely addressed the real interests or concerns of young people.
Lizzy Lambley, a consultant from the UK, agreed that civil society organisations could provide the media with direct access to diverse identity groups and could help generate compelling human interest stories.
But, she said, effective collaboration between the two sectors was often hampered by a lack of trust and conflicting views of what should be considered “newsworthy”.
As well as acting as a professional forum for organisations with an interest in making programmes for young people, “Youth on Screen” seeks to forge closer links between the media and civil society.
MedMedia’s Team Leader, Michael Randall, said that “Youth on Screen” hoped to achieve this objective by acting as a catalyst for programme ideas which improved the representation of young people on TV screens across the region and enabled them to engage in public dialogue.
He added that cross-media initiatives such as “Génération Quoi?” – a French television project which was presented at the Amman conference – provided a powerful platform for empowering young people and capturing their opinions on a wide range of topics.