By Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS - 09/10/09 07:18 PM EDT
Recently the Senate Commerce Committee and Julius Genachowski, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, took an important first step in reviewing the state of the Children’s Television Act in the digital age.
Passed in 1990, the act was designed to assure the creation and distribution of quality educational programming for the medium’s youngest viewers. The act mandated that broadcasters offer a minimum of three hours of educational and informational children’s programming per week.
The law addressed advertising limits on children’s programming as well, with the intent of reducing commercialization in programming.
In addressing the need to modernize the legislation, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) framed the issue: “Our media landscape has changed dramatically during the last two decades … How do we take these values and apply them to the very different media universe our children know today?”
Rockefeller cited a digital world where the TV screen is fusing with the computer screen, where cable channels have multiplied and young people view programming over mobile phones.
In testifying before Congress, Chairman Genachowski was clear: “Guarding against inappropriate marketing to children is as vital as it was 20 years ago.”
We need to establish new policies to ensure that commercial and marketing interests do not take precedence over the welfare of our children. The imperative is to monitor the tidal wave of content that has become available on cable, satellite, mobile devices, video games and the Internet.
PBS will continue to play its role as both a standard-bearer and innovator in children’s programming. At present, more than 350 PBS stations offer a minimum of 35 hours per week of free educational and informational offerings for kids.
Educational media can make a difference. A new study ascertained that watching the PBS series “SUPERWHY!” helped children with poor reading ability improve their literacy skills to match those of children with more resources. Children from low-income families who watched as few as two episodes of the series scored 46 percent higher on standardized tests than those who did not watch the program.
The challenge here is much more than bringing the Children’s Television Act into the 21st century. It is to maintain the intent and spirit of the original legislation: to put the interests of children first.
Reminder of 1856
From Pam Hairston
I was outraged when Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) called President Obama a liar as the president addressed the Congress on Wednesday. For some odd reason, this reminded me of the story of another member of Congress from South Carolina.
In 1856, Rep. Preston Brooks entered the Senate chamber and beat Sen. Charles Sumner (Mass.) within an inch of his life. Sumner had addressed the Senate on the explosive issue of whether Kansas should be admitted to the Union as a slave state or a free state. After the beating, Brooks walked calmly out of the chamber without being detained.
Although calling a president a liar before the world cannot be compared to almost beating a senator to death, it just shows how race is still a factor in America. The only difference is that the major players have switched parties.
Let us show our first black president some respect!
A good man’s mistake
From James Romano
Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) made an unfortunate remark Wednesday during the president’s address to Congress. Having known Rep. Wilson for over five years, I am sure this was a mistake that he wishes he could take back. Joe Wilson is a good and decent man as well as a fine public servant. I happen to be in the opposite political camp as Mr. Wilson; however, I find that he is a wonderful family man, a kind person, and is always interested in finding ways to help everyone who comes to him.
Finally, I know Congressman Wilson does the right thing, evidenced by his quick and sincere apology. Every one of us says things that we wish we could take back, and this incident should not be used to demonize Congressman Wilson. Joe is a champion for people with chronic and catastrophic illnesses and I am sure he is interested in many aspects of health reform. Those who want to condemn the congressman should really work to reach out to him to work together on needed reform.