Duronto TV is daring our children, 27.76 percent of Bangladesh’s total population, to dream. The first television channel for children in the country has been successfully performing its duty to entertain and educate the future of our country for a year now.

But it has much left to do.

Children’s television as a medium to entertain, and sometimes to educate, has a history nearly as old as television itself. The BBC’s ‘Children’s Hour’, broadcast in the UK in 1946, is generally credited with being the first TV programme specifically for children.

In Bangladeshi history children have entertained themselves through different native games (Ha-Du-Du, Golla-Chut, Bouchi etc) as a main source of entertainment. Our children came into contact with visual entertainment through bioscopes and puppet shows, which have left a lasting legacy. The first television programme for children was telecast in 1966 on TV when ‘Ajob Deshe’, a famous puppet show about anti-Pakistan sentiment was broadcast to stir patriotism by Mostafa Monowar. After independence, children in Bangladesh were introduced to child talent hunt programs like ‘Notun Kuri’ or puppet show ‘Parul’ and different cartoon series on BTV.

As times have changed, the popularity of children’s TV programming has reached new heights.  As the result of rapid growth and the trend towards urbanisation (an annual 3.19 percent increase, which suggests it is the inevitable destiny of the human civilization) in Bangladesh, parks and open spaces are gradually disappearing. Fear of negative social consequence (drug addiction and violence) of urbanisation (35.8 percent of Bangladesh’s population lived in urban areas in 2017), parents feel that keeping their children engaged with television at home is safer. Children of working parents are often left unsupervised in front of the TV and given free rein to watch whatever they want to as long as they remain quiet and occupied.  Some parents even use the TV when attempting to coax children to eat vegetables, exercise and study. So the role of children’s television has become inevitable. The growing demand for domestic child entertainment on television came to an end with the rise of popular foreign programmes through satellite TV like ‘Tom and Jerry’, Disney and other Indian Hindi cartoon channels.

It seems that children are found to be spending more and more time plugged into the world of TV even before they are able to string a sentence together. There is a growing interest in cartoons, which have become a prominent pastime.

Japanese cartoon series like ‘Doraemon’ are dubbed in Hindi and Indian series such as ‘Motu Patlu’ and ‘Siva’ telecast on Disney and other channels, are the favorites amongst children under ten.  Parents complained that their children were getting more adept in Hindi than Bangla and that it is difficult to tolerate them being more fluent in  foreign language than in their own native tongue. Though they pick up the language it has little practical use in their real lives. ‘Doraemon’ has stopped airing in Bangladesh recently after concerns from parents prompted government criticism of the ubiquity of the programme. The government also criticised the airing of unapproved foreign satellite television channels such as Disney, Disney XD and Pogo. But there was a huge question as to what could step in to fill this overwhelming demand for children’s entertainment? Thanks to Duronto TV, a full package of children’s entertainment has been available to shoulder the burden for one year now.

However, if we want better television programmes aired on our local TV channels for children, more high quality shows must be introduced.

Overwhelming amounts of animated shows could have negative effects on a child’s mind. These days it is extremely difficult to find a TV channel that is 100 percent child friendly. Despite some negative results, cartoons have a tremendous impact in improving some cognitive aspects among young children including mental development, self-confident and their conscience. Children become more creative by watching cartoon films. They try to do things in different ways, which exercises their imagination and enhances their creativity only when education is provided alongside entertainment in programmes.

There is often some national concern about our children adopting a foreign culture. If we want to discourage our children from doing so our local television industry needs to introduce better, more attractive shows for children like Duronto TV.

Duronto TV starts its day with light physical exercise through a programme called ‘Duronto Somoy’.  The early morning telecast can encourage children to remain active, healthy and happier. The puppet series ‘Khatta-Mitha’ is another example of an educational show that provides amusement. The family game show “Ma Baba–i Sera” is a popular reality show. The children are acquainted with Bangalee literature from the short films telecast at different times, based on famous novel and drama of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam.

Nowadays we have nearly lost the culture of listening to oral stories from our elders.  The ‘Golpo Seshe Ghumer Deshe’ programme recalls the time we spent listening to the magical stories of our grandparents. Storytelling through visualisation is represented by ‘Rong Be-Ronger Golpo’, an exceptional show that teaches children to to dare to dream and inspires creative thought.

The pastime related programmes “Chutir Dine” and “Cholo Jai Jai Jai” stirs up awareness of our historical and cultural heritage and geographical resources for children and elders alike. Drama serial like “Bo te Bondhu” or “Ponchovuj” can inspire us to live to the highest standards of personal honesty and moral behaviour, along with the commitment to family and friends. These programmes awaken our understanding of our glorious cultural heritage through traditional folk games, arts, folk songs and dance.

I am not against introducing foreign educational children’s programmes. ‘Sisimpur’, the Bangla version of American television series Sesame Street is a good example of how to adapt these programmes to our needs. Duronto TV must maintain this level of foreign program and take the initiative of introducing similar foreign educational programs.

The channel should also encourage kids to engage in other forms of recreation like sports, art, music and literature. Even as adults have started to forget their own culture, history and legacy, Duronto TV can remind them about the legacy of their nation.

In this way Duronto TV can connect children, across the boundaries of age, class, religion and region.

As Bangladeshi viewers become apathetic towards local television channels and our living rooms are being overrun by channels from neighbouring countries, Duronto TV with its diversity of programs, creative direction, quality programs, and good production quality has brought us back to our own tradition and culture.

Produce good programs for our viewers so that they can learn about their own traditions and culture. Since the impact of globalisation cannot be stopped altogether, we have to be careful about the program selection. And we need to nurture our own cultural myths in order to connect more audiences to our programs. Newer storytelling technique, good stories, and the thematic representation of ideas can help.

Duronto TV can be an example for all channels by becoming a panacea to the boredom of children and the monotony faced by adults.

Md Abu Toha Biswasteaches history at Asian University Bangladesh.