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Children's Educational Television

Children's Educational Television

The transition to digital television is a perfect opportunity to strengthen the quality of children's programming. The transition could more than quadruple the number of channels available to young viewers. Broadcasters are receiving new revenue streams from their use of additional spectrum and can make the transition profitable for the public by sharing the community's commitment to educate children.

Historically, children have been awarded special status in broadcast regulation. Children are particularly vulnerable to commercial exploitation. Three surgeons general have presented Congress with evidence that violence on television has negative effects on children. "By the age of 18, the average child will have watched 22,000 hours of TV - more time in front of the tube than in the classroom." Research has made clear what a powerful educational medium television can be when used thoughtfully. Children who regularly see Sesame Street and Mister Roger's Neighborhood "got along better with other children than those who didn't." With television as such a strong influence, it is clear that what is on television for our young people needs to be based on programming quality not just on revenues gained from advertising.

The Benton Foundation suggests that the Commission define clear, concrete guidelines for children's programming on digital television, guidelines that could include:

minimum hours of programming per day. With ATV, broadcasters will be able to air at least 96 hours of programming per day. Benton argues that at least six hours per day of programming should be devoted to noncommercial, educational television for children. This minimum attaches to the assignment as a whole and not to each SDTV channel broadcasted. hours during which programming should be shown. Benton suggests that broadcasters be mandated to air the programming when children are most likely to see it - between 7:00 am and 9:00 pm. exclusion of all commercial programming (i.e., Beverly Hills 90210, Inside Stuff and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers ) to count as children's educational TV.

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Last updated: 17 December 1996 ha