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Last Updated: Wednesday, 25 April 2007, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Jordan launches children's TV news
By Ian Prince
Editor, CBBC

The first news service aimed at children in the Arab world has launched on TV and online in Jordan.

Presenters Mohammed al-Rimawi and Malak al-Khouri
Shabab News presenters prepare for broadcast

Shebab News [Youth News] is a new weekly half hour news and current affairs programme which broadcasts on Thursdays at 1700 local time. It can also be seen online.

It offers a range of stories from a roundup of world news to stories directly affecting its target audience - young teenagers in the kingdom.

The stories and the way they are told is breaking the mould of many existing domestic news programmes in the region, which tend to feature what government ministers and members of the royal family have been doing.

A dozen journalists were recruited to work on the project in November, and by February the best six had been kept on.

It was thought they were most able to break with established news formats - all were women apart from a male presenter.

Special investigations

The stories range from the legacy of Israeli cluster bombs in south Lebanon to the effect of discarded plastic bags on Jordanian's environment.

There are also special investigations such as a report into child labour in the country.

Journalists in the studio
All six journalists recruited for Shabab News are women

Shebab News is the latest to join what is now a world wide family of news programmes for children.

The first was BBC's Newsround which launched in 1972.

Jeugdjournaal in the Netherlands followed in 1980 with other countries such as Germany, Sweden, Italy, and Australia also realising the benefits of news made accessible for children.

Jordanian TV executives are currently deciding whether to commission Shebab News as an ongoing programme. Newsround was also initially commissioned as a short run experiment - but has been on air ever since.

'Reliable and in touch'

The project got off the ground with funding from Jordanian TV and from the Dutch Foreign Ministry.

Brenda deJaeger, Jemstone consultant
This is a region with a lot of conflict and which needs very careful and balanced handling - particularly when young people are starting to form their opinions
Brenda deJaeger
Jemstone consultant

Jordanian journalists on Shebab News have been supported in programme design and writing for young people by experts from the BBC and Media Development organisation, Jemstone.

Brenda deJaeger, a former journalist for Dutch youth programmes and senior consultant with Jemstone said: "There is clearly a great need for a programme like this in the Arab world.

"This is a region with a lot of conflict and which needs very careful and balanced handling - particularly when young people are starting to form their opinions about the world.

"Fifty per cent of the population here us under 18 so there is an important audience to serve. Ultimately it is about good journalism."

Jordanian Television does not have detailed audience figures, but Ms DeJaeger has seen a growing web response, with people watching online from around the world, including Arab states, the Arab diaspora, and even Israel.

"Shebab News is much more than just giving youth a voice here. It wants to become their first news source - reliable and in touch," Ms DeJaeger said.

"We have noticed lots of adults watching too - finally a programme with clear information. It's hoped this will have powerful developmental benefits too."

The programme anchors Muhammad al-Rimawi was seconded from Jordanian adult news, while Malak al-Khouri had just joined Jordanian Television as a weather presenter.

"I am very excited at this opportunity. It is very important for us to make this work," Ms Khouri said.

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