Family Issues

Channel Change

More TV for kids

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We're well acquainted with perennial complaints that children are hooked too tightly to the boob tube. Now an Oakland-based group called Children Now (www.childrennow.org) is arguing that children don't have enough opportunity to watch TV, due to a decline in network children's programming.

According to Children Now, networks have been ratcheting back the hours once devoted to cartoons and programs such as Bill Nye the Science Guy, replacing them with more profitable adult fare. Media mergers will accelerate the decline, the group posits, and things are bound to get worse with the FCC voting to relax its regulations.

As you might have guessed, Children Now's concern is as much media conglomeration as Inspector Gadget. "Our research demonstrates that the FCC is moving far too fast and with far too few facts to make changes that encourage further concentration among media owners," says Patti Miller, director of Children Now's Children & the Media program. "The impact on programming for children and their communities clearly has not been properly evaluated."

But does the decline in kids' shows on network TV have anything to do with media consolidation? The Children Now study showed that the largest decrease in programming for children occurred at stations that are part of duopolies, in which one company owns two stations in the same market. Yet it would seem that cable TV, which has entire channels devoted to children (Nickelodeon, Disney, Cartoon Network), is merely overtaking broadcast stations in that capacity.

The general manager of KTTV in Los Angeles, David Boylan, agrees. "The reduction in children's programming is really a result of competition from cable channels that now specialize in that genre," he told the Times. "It has nothing to do with duopolies."

Children Now did get a strong endorsement from FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, who told the Times he's "been saying since day one that the FCC must consider the impact of media consolidation on our children." His approval is no small surprise: Copps has frequently spoken of the need for the feds to censor radio, for the children.

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