Accountability Watch: Educational TV

Gary Handman (
Tue, 13 Jul 1999 12:24:13 -0700 (PDT)

> Accountability Watch: Educational TV
> by Caitlin Johnson
>Television plays a large role in kids' lives. By the time most American
>children begin the first grade, they will have spent the equivalent of three
>school years in front of the television set, according to Federal
>Communications Commission data. FCC studies have also shown that quality
>educational TV can help kids learn. But are stations following federal
>mandates to improve kids' TV diet?
>The Children's Television Act of 1990 defined educational or informational
>(E/I) programming as that which "furthers the positive development of
>children 16 years of age and under in any respect, including the child's
>intellectual/cognitive or social/emotional needs."
>The "Three-hour Rule," added in 1997, requires networks to schedule at least
>three hours per week of E/I programming when children are most likely to be
>The second annual report by the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg
>Public Policy Center (APPC) indicates that they may not be doing enough.
>First, the good news. The study found that the number of shows aimed at
>children has increased. Program content has also improved since 1998, when
>nearly half of all children's programming contained no enriching content;
>this year, that the number is down to one-quarter. Shows carrying the E/I
>label are also less violent than other children's programming.
>Still, one in five of the "educational shows" fails to meet the standards
>for E/I programming. Networks are submitting shows like Rugrats (Telemundo)
>or the animated NBA Inside Stuff (NBC) to fulfill the E/I requirements.
>Further, the study found that information about E/I programs remains hard
>for parents to find, and understand. Programs and TV guides may include an
>E/I icon, but only one in seven parents, according to the study, knew what
>"educational" programming entailed.
>Finally, the studies found a dramatic decrease in local programming, in part
>because networks are packaging the shows for their affiliates in order to
>meet the three-hour rule. In a study of 1,200 local broadcast stations, APPC
>found that only 65 locally produced shows were aired. Local programming can
>bring children together with the issues facing their communities, and can
>sometimes address the needs of children in a way that nationally produced
>shows may not, using dominant languages or local customs to deliver messages.
>Resources, Tools and Reports for Grown-Ups
>According to the Center for Media Education (CME), stations that fail to
>comply with the regulations risk fines, restrictions on renewing their
>operating licenses or being subject to stricter reporting regulations.
>Want to know more? Check out these resources.
>To monitor the implementation of the 1990 act, parents can use the
>Children's Television Act Tool Kit
>(, a great online product from
>the Center for Media and Education.
>The National Institute on Media and the Family
>( has a quiz and tools to help
>you evaluate your family's media habits, and a thorough, content-based
>rating of television shows, movies and video games for children.
>Some reports to read include:
>The Annenberg Public Policy Center's Kids TV 99 reports
>(, where you'll find the comprehensive
>1999 State of Children's Television report.
>The Center for Media Education's own analysis of the Children's Television
>Act (
>The Benton Foundation's summary of the FCC's rules to implement the 1990 Act
>Connect for Kids has lots of information in our Media and Television pages
>in their Topics A-Z section of the Reference Room
>Related Articles Available at
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Gary Handman
Media Resources Center
Moffitt Library
UC Berkeley 94720-6000

"Everything wants to become television" (James Ulmer -- Teletheory)