Flexibility from the FCC Kids TV: Compromise on FCC rule is a big step forward.


RUN YOUR FINGER down the daily television listings and it's hard to say that the offerings geared toward adults are any more enlightening or educational than the baleful fare aimed at children. But at least there is plenty of it, and it's available all day long.

Except for the oasis of public television, children's programming is short on both quantity and quality. As a result, too many young Americans spend time watching shows full of sex and violence grossly inappropriate for their age. The few good shows designed for children are often relegated to off-hours less in demand by advertisers or pre-dawn time slots when few children are watching.

After years of lobbying by advocates for better children's television, Congress passed the Children's Television Act in 1990, which required local stations to increase educational programming for young viewers. Since then, the Federal Communications Commission has been dealing with the resistance of broadcasters to attempts to impose quotas on stations or otherwise set standards for increasing the amount of children's programming.

President Clinton, acutely aware of the political pay-off for issues related to family values and concerns about cultural decay, can now claim credit for progress on breaking this impasse. At the White House this week, he gathered broadcasters, child advocates and some American TV icons -- among them Bill Cosby and Fred Rogers -- to announce a compromise.

Broadcasters will have to air three hours of regularly scheduled educational or informational programming a week, between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. To allay objections that the government is now dictating programming, the compromise includes flexibility. Stations that do not broadcast the full three hours could substitute public service announcements, specials or short programs. They could also fund quality programming to be shown on other stations.

The compromise is just that -- it gives neither side all it wants. That's progress.

Pub Date: 8/03/96

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