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Saturday, May 31, 2008

Formal Discussion: 12-15 Fiction and Non-Fiction

Discussion groups are the heart of PRIX JEUNESSE. After watching hours of programs, the five moderators’ job is to try to manage the fire hose of stored up opinions and reactions, so that it’s released in a controlled and directed flow. The moderators try to find common themes for grouping the programs, rather than attempting to debrief each one separately.

For the first discussion, covering the 12-15 age group, I chose the bilingual Spanish-English group moderated by Adelaida Trujillo from Colombia. It was a tough discussion, dominated by the idea that young teens are an almost impossible group to reach, drifting away from the home and TV set to friends and portable, digital media (your mileage may vary based on cultural norms and technology base). An increasing number of broadcasters simply don’t create or distribute programs for kids older than 12.

In the past, the teen category has been dominated by “worthy” and serious issue-based programs. Interestingly, in 2008, several people noted that the stories were much more about emerging self-identity – “finding me” – than about engaging young people as involved citizens.

Others noticed that the teens in many entries were divided between the strong (taking control of their lives) and the fragile (buffeted by situations and events around them). Documentaries more often focused on the strong (perhaps, one person proposed, because the fragile are too tightly wound to be the protagonists of their own stories), while the scripted stories explored lives in flux, whether in drama or with a bit of humor as leavening.

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