Children’s News Programme “Logo!” Celebrates 25th Anniversary

Child reporter Sieba and Tim Schreder
Child reporter Sieba and Tim Schreder | Photo (detail): Jürgen Detmers © ZDF

On 9 January 1989, “Logo!” went on air for the very first time. 25 years later, Germany’s first news programme for children is a firm fixture on German television. Every day, “Logo!” informs young viewers aged eight to twelve about world events.

At the beginning of 2014, the possible appointment of Christian Democratic Union (CDU) general secretary Ronald Pofalla to the board of German rail operator Deutsche Bahn caused quite a stir amongst adults, and Logo! wanted to ensure that children also understood what the fuss was all about. Using plenty of illustrations, the programme featured a detailed report to explain the fundamental problem of lobbying in politics. The federal election in Germany is not an easily accessible topic for children, too, so Logo! tries to find ways to stimulate their interest.

Hard news explained in a child-friendly way

On 22 September 2013, for example, a special election day programme had children cut up cakes that were in the same colours as the political parties into slices that corresponded to the percentages of the vote that the respective parties had attained. The children then arranged the slices on a plate marked with a 50 percent line. This allowed them to see which parties will be able to join forces to govern Germany in the future – and to see why the large black CDU/CSU slice is not enough on its own. In addition, interviews conducted by child reporters with the party bosses are an entertaining way of making an otherwise rather dry topic appear less inaccessible. Presenting world events to children in a palatable way is a particular challenge which Logo! faces every day. “This requires a precise and readily understandable visual language and structure”, says Markus Mörchen, the editor responsible. The programme is produced by public-service broadcaster ZDF; it is made in the same studio that is used for the adult news programme heute and is broadcast on the children’s channel KIKA. Every day, more than 300,000 children tune in on average to watch the programme.

Experts in their own fields

The programme’s concept has required hardly any tweaking over the past 25 years. “These days, however, children are media-influenced to a much greater extent than in the past”, says Mörchen. It is becoming increasingly important to interact with viewers via the Internet, for instance by offering live chats with the programme’s presenters. The Logo! website gives children the chance to acquire more in-depth background knowledge about issues that can only be touched upon briefly in the short ten-minute television programme. In the spring of 2014, a blog is to be launched that will further intensify dialogue between the programme and its viewers. “Logo! takes the suggestions and questions of its young viewers very seriously”, says Mörchen, explaining that the Redezeit (i.e. Time to talk) section is determined mainly by suggestions from children. At the same time, what is presented on Logo! can have a major bearing on the way children view the world. When reporting on very difficult and alarming events that may scare children, such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, psychologists or media education experts are consulted.

There are no limitations when it comes to the topics selected, but there are when it comes to the images that are shown – no violence is allowed to be depicted. Regional issues which children themselves have brought to the editorial team’s attention – such as the closure of a local outdoor swimming pool – feature in the programme just as much as events like the typhoon in the Philippines. In their reports, the correspondents look at the topic from a child’s perspective: what happened to the children in the Philippines, and how can we help them? Children are much more emphatic than adults and wish to be kept lastingly informed about crises. “Even once a topic like the disastrous earthquake in Haiti disappears from the daily press, children want us to keep them updated on the situation”, explains Mörchen. “By raising regional topics to a higher level our aim is to show children that one can also fight for issues close to one’s own heart, and that politics can start right on one’s own doorstep.” Debates between children and regional politicians are an integral part of the Logo! concept.

Education and media competence

Generally speaking, anything that preoccupies adults will also preoccupy children. Being “digital natives”, they find out about wars, crimes and disasters through all kinds of channels in any case, be it via the Internet or their mobile phones. A programme like Logo! provides background information and sheds light on the bigger picture, and may therefore help to allay irrational fears. “That said, critical parents do occasionally question the topics we select and the stance adopted by Logo!. Thankfully, that happens very rarely”, says Mörchen.

International children’s news network

Logo! is part of an international network of children’s news programmes called the Youth News Exchange. This also includes the early pioneers in this sector, which served as the role model for the ZDF: back in 1972, the BBC launched its Newsround programme in the UK, followed in 1981 by the Dutch NOS channel with its Jeugdjournaal. As Mörchen explains, the Benelux and Northern European countries are particularly strong in the area of children’s news. Members of the network share their experiences, as well as their content. Once or twice a week, Logo! features a report made in another country, says Mörchen. Naturally, Logo! also has plans for the future: its website is to feature an economics module, and there are plans to make greater use of the new media. One thing that will definitely remain part of the programme will be good news – this is something which Logo! considers to be particularly important.