Stations inch up in kids' TV shows


The article in yesterday's Sun on a media group's evaluation of educational children's TV in Maryland inaccurately reported the number of hours of such programming individual stations broadcast weekly. The correct numbers are: WFTY-Channel 50, 6 hours; WMAR-Channel 2, 3 hours; WBAL-Channel 11, 3.5 hours; WBFF-Channel 45, 3 hours; WJZ-Channel 13, 2 hours and WNUV-Channel 54, 4 hours.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Baltimore's TV stations are still underachievers when it comes to children's television, but they are making slow progress in their educational programming, a media watchdog group said yesterday.

The Maryland Campaign for Kids' TV awarded the stations in the Maryland-D.C. area a C for the quality and quantity of their children's programming -- up from the D+ earned two years ago and the C- awarded last year.

However, officials said, too much of the children's programming is scheduled for the early morning hours, before 7 a.m., and not enough is local programming designed specifically for a young audience.

"We are making slow and steady progress," the group's director, LaTanya Bailey Jones, said during an afternoon press conference at the Pratt Library's Edgar Allan Poe Room. "The glass may be half-full or half-empty, but we're getting there."

The group, which began issuing report cards in 1993, says its goal is to ensure compliance with the Children's Television Act of 1990. That act requires the Federal Communications Commission to consider the quality and amount of children's educational programming when renewing a station's license.

To grade the stations, the group assembled 14 teams of parents, children, teachers and community leaders. Each team was assigned to a specific station.

Although considerable weight was given to the number of hours devoted each week to children's programming, the group also looked at the quality of the programs, when they are aired, vTC whether the needs of all age groups are addressed, how willing station management is to discuss their efforts with the group and how much of the programming is produced locally.

Of 14 stations included in the group's report card, Washington's WFTY (Channel 50) ranked highest, with 24 hours of educational programming each week -- a considerable improvement over 1993, when the station had no such programming at all.

Among Baltimore-area stations, WMAR (Channel 2) placed third on the list, with 12 hours of programming. It was followed by WBAL-Channel 11 in fifth place (14 hours), WBFF (Channel 45) in sixth place (6 hours), WJZ (Channel 13) in 10th place (8 hours) and MNUV (Channel 54) in 12th place (16 hours)

"I'm pleased with this," WMAR General Manager Joe Lewin said. "They've recognized the effort we've put forth to improve the amount and quality of the programming.

"There is room for improvement, I'm the first to admit that," he added. "But [the programs] are getting a lot better."

While careful to laud stations for the progress they've made, the group criticized what it said was a predilection for scheduling programs in the early-morning hours. Eighteen percent of children's educational programming in Maryland airs before 7 a.m., group officials said.

"If you threw out anything that is shown before 7, we'd be at the same place we were last year," Ms. Jones said.

The group also chided stations for stretching the definition of educational programming to include public service announcements and sitcoms with socially relevant themes.

"Some people call them light educational programming," Ms. Jones said of such programs as "Saved By The Bell" and "California Dreams," shows NBC programmers label as educational. Shaking her head, Ms. Jones added, "We don't want to see too much light programming."

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