Kids make news on CBC-TV show

Digital puppetry interacts with real kids telling real stories in a news show for the preschool set beginning Monday on CBC Television.

An ant for an anchor

Digital puppetry combines with real children telling real stories in a news program for the preschool set beginning Monday on CBC Television.

What's Your News is a half-hour show hosted by a little red ant named Anthony, who talks to real-life kids about news from their lives.

The news is not the latest car crash or war story, but word that Zander has lost a slipper-sock or that Maya can play the piano with both hands.

"This show has one simple big idea that we never say, and that idea is whatever you do — if you're four years old, if you're six years old, if you're 86 — is significant if it's new," producer Larry Mirkin told CBC News.

"If you're a five-year-old girl and you're dressing yourself for the first time, that's news. If you can kick a ball really far, that's big news. This show is filled with those kinds of experiences for kids."

It will air at 9:30 weekday mornings in the Kids CBC Word Power hour, a broadcast segment dedicated to early literacy. CBC Television broadcasts four hours of children's programming without commercials on weekday mornings, and has bought 26 episodes of What's Your News.

Anthony is a computer-animated figure, as are some other regular characters such as the traffic and weather reporters, but the children telling the stories are not actors — just regular children aged four to seven.

'Based on real stories'

"Every episode is based on real stories that kids told us, as well as spontaneous things that happened when we were filming," said Mirkin, who worked on Jim Henson's Fraggle Rock with co-producer Jocelyn Stevenson.

Mirkin said the show portrays all kinds of experiences a child can identify with, from learning to hop and skip to making a mistake while playing the piano. One child even told of a painful experience.

"She said, 'My news is that my mother has cancer but she's getting better now.' I just love that we show that — that's an experience a child has," he said.

The show, a co-venture between TT Animation of Britain and Lenz Entertainment of Canada, first showed in the U.K. eight months ago to good response, he said.

Global ambition

Earlier this month, it won the overall prize and the award for best preschool show at an international conference on educational TV in Japan.

The long-term plan is to create versions of What's Your News around the world, and then allow children in Canada to hear stories told by kids in Japan or Brazil and vice versa, Mirkin said.

Making children's programming is often a struggle between developing a product that can be merchandised and creating an educational experience, Mirkin said, adding that a decreasing number of broadcasters are willing to support children's TV.

"In my opinion children's TV is not supported enough," he said. "This is their first experience with entertainment. They should have the best priority, not the what-we-can-afford priority."

With files from CBC's Margo Kelly