Subjects able to interact via YouTube

LONDON It isn’t every day you get to talk to a queen, particularly from the comfort of your own home. That’s exactly what Jordan’s Queen Rania has allowed the world’s youth to do by launching her own YouTube channel aimed at encouraging cross-cultural dialogue.

The online channel, youtube.com.QueenRania, which features posts from the glamorous royal and allows viewers from around the world to upload their own responses, launched in April.

Since then, more than 1 million people have watched the videos, with their filmed responses ranging from beaming platitudes to irate rants.

“For several years now, I’ve been advocating for greater knowledge and understanding between East and West,” the queen tells Variety. “The YouTube project was a natural extension of these efforts. It struck me that setting up a YouTube account and starting an online conversation was an excellent way to reach out to a huge audience, particularly youth. The great thing about YouTube is its non-exclusivity — anyone can view and pass on videos.”

The camera-friendly queen kept the conversation going until Aug. 12, to coincide with Intl. Youth Day. The very public move is a rare one for any royal to make, particularly in the Arab world, where many of the ruling elite have traditionally maintained a respectful distance from their subjects.

Queen Rania, however, is one of the brighter examples of the new breed of Arab royalty who have learned the benefits of using the media — old and new — to further their social and humanitarian works. Dubai Crown Prince Sheik Hamdan, for example, became something of a local celebrity when he starred in “Al Maidan,” a hit skein dedicated to a native Emirati folk dance, which aired on terrestrial channel Sama Dubai.

“Media has always been a strong partner in everything I do, and as we move forward, it will continue to be so,” said the queen. “Media has an important role to play in raising awareness on global issues, highlighting what needs to be done, and reaching the right channels to accomplish it.”

Not that embracing the web is limited to royalty only. Embattled British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has launched his own online channel, Number10TV, which offers users exclusive video of the prime minister in action, in a bid to reconnect with voters after a string of political setbacks (see story, this page).

And while the vote is still out on whether the famously dour Scottish pol proves more genial online than he does on more traditional media outlets, for Queen Rania at least, the YouTube experiment has freed her up from the typical constraints of royal duty.

“The ease and anonymity of YouTube has been very refreshing: people have been talking to me directly, informally and frankly,” she says. “Citizens of both East and West must be willing to sit down and listen to the other — even in cyberspace!”

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