A Christian TV channel watched by at least 4.6 million* Arabic speaking children in the Middle East and North Africa is putting up the bunting, banners and balloons for when it celebrates its 10th birthday on 10 December.
“We would need the largest cake ever made if we could invite all our precious viewers over for a party,” said SAT-7 KIDS Channel Manager, Andrea el Mounayer. “Borders, practicalities and wars mean that isn’t possible. But, just as they have been watching us – sometimes even when there has been danger all around – they will share in the joy and fun in the safety of their homes.”
From 10 December through to Christmas SAT-7 KIDS will broadcast special programmes from its Lebanon and Egypt studios. One highlight will be a 90-minute show inspired by a much older tradition – the “Watch Box” (sunduq alfaraja) entertainer who travelled around Arab villages for children to watch a magic lantern show of beautiful images.
In SAT-7 KIDS’ 21st century version, a van with transparent sides becomes a mobile studio that visits a Palestinian refugee camp, a Syrian refugee settlement, and a children’s cancer centre. In each location, one or two inspirational youngsters, who have overcome obstacles of poverty, war and ill-health, are invited inside as guests. Here they are surprised by seeing their story told in video clips from their past, messages from their families, and objects that have meaning for them.
“’Where your kids are safe’ is the slogan of SAT-7 KIDS,” Andrea el Mounayer explains, “These stories are examples of how we seek to give children living in the most dangerous places hope for a better future. And instead of watching as spectators, these children will become the stars of the show.”
Since launching on 10 December 2007, SAT-7 KIDS has built up an incredibly regular viewership, with almost 80 per cent of its million viewers (3.7 million) watching at least once every week – most on a daily basis. The largest proportion (just over 40 percent) live in Egypt. However, the channel is watched in every country in the region. The next-largest audiences are in Syria, Morocco and Yemen.*
In a region where 30 per cent are estimated to be aged 14 or under1, children’s programming has been an important part of SAT-7’s broadcasts since its launch in 1996. But when the dream of a 24-hour-a-day dedicated channel for children was realised, the breadth of the programmes was able to grow enormously. Today its output ranges from drama and comedy through children’s prayer and worship, quiz and talent shows, cartoons, news reports, and programmes that address children’s questions about good and bad in the world.
Over this time, many viewers have grown up with the channel. Some have even become presenters!
With 25 per cent of the programmes now live and many giving viewers the chance to call in to the show, thousands of children and their families tell SAT-7 how much they appreciate the programmes.
“My two sons are five and six years old. Through your programmes they learned to read with me a Bible story every night before going to bed,” said a mother from Iraq.
“I love your programmes and I love Christ’s teaching because it is a teaching of forgiveness and love,” said a boy from Yemen.
SAT-7 Chief Channels Officer and Deputy CEO, Rita el Mounayer, comments: “It’s a blessing that SAT-7 KIDS impacts children’s spiritual lives, helping them to know His love, understand His Word, pray for His peace, and seek His forgiveness. Many of these children now have an unfailing hope in God with which to face their futures, and are equipped to change the face of the Middle East, applying what they have learned from our screen and sharing it with their families, neighbours and friends!
I pray that SAT-7 KIDS will always bring joy, love, peace, reconciliation and hope but, above all, faith, to millions of children in the region, whom God dearly loves.”
*Audience figures drawn from Ipsos research, 2016
1Current estimates by the World Bank