President Augusta Kappner, Panelists Laybourne of Disney, Monroe
of Fox Kids Network & Kleeman of Center of Children's TV speak
at Harvard Club
the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a regulation
that requires a minimum of three hours per week of television
educational programming for children. What are the ramifications?
What directions will programming take? How will television handle
the new regulation?
These were just a few of the questions explored in a provocative,
cutting edge conference organized by Bank Street College of Education
at the Harvard Club. Panelists representing the leading private
and public sectors involved in children's television programming
met with educators and media specialists to present their views
and have an open discussion. "What kinds of programs help children
discover their own ways to learn: to question, speculate, and
learn more about themselves?" asked President Kappner of Bank
Street as she opened the session.
Historically, Bank Street has been a leader in working with teachers,
parents and schools since 1916. Bank Street began its involvement
with television by serving as consultants to Captain Kangaroo,
one of the first educational programs for children. The College
served for many years as consultants to the ABC After-School Specials.
Next came the Voyage of the Mimi, a multimedia math and science
learning package broadcast nationwide on PBS in 1984. Currently,
the College provides consultation services for Allegra's Window,
a preschool television show on NICK, Jr. as well as developing
child centered products, books, CD Roms and educating hundreds
of teachers and children each year.
Geraldine Laybourne, President of Disney/ABC Cable Networks lauded
Bank Street for its vision in putting the panel together. She
noted that "advances in children's television have come from people
with lofty goals" not from governmental regulations. Producers,
parents, programmers and educators are the ones who have the ability
to make a difference in children's television. Laybourne is concerned
that the labeling of programs by the FCC, that a narrow view of
the term 'educational' may actually make children turn away; that
broadcasters will put on shows that will meet FCC requirements
but that will not be viewed by children. Programming on ABC will
be filled with characters that are interesting to kids like "Pepper
Ann, too cool to be 12" (clip was shown), coming to ABC this fall
on Saturday mornings. Programs will tackle science and teach kids
to solve problems creatively. ABC is making educators part of
their team. "We have a job to educate the FCC as to what is good
for kids and what kids will watch," said Laybourne. She ended
by noting that children's television is only in its infancy; that
we've only just begun.
David Kleeman, Executive Director of the American Center for Children's
Television, feels that we should have hard research data on what
enrages kids and what they enjoy. He feels we must give children
a compelling reason to come to a television station. His concept
is to build a "three hour amusement park for learning." He cited
the importance of the five C's: Cash, Clout, Commitment, Competence
and Connections (ie creative exchange). Laybourne added another
C: Caring Adults.
Carol Monroe, Senior Vice President, Program Services, at Fox
Kids Network, clarified the role of the FCC. Stations are required
to report to the FCC what they're actually doing in addition to
providing programming. The FCC is vague though, about the definition
of 'educational.' Monroe spent the last several months meeting
with kids, educators and technologists to talk about the future.
"The one thing we know about the future is that everyone's predictions
will be wrong," she said. "We do know that there will be a convergence
of computers and television but we don't know when or how. Kids
today are excited about learning. We will be able to help the
learning process in ways that we were never able to do before."
What will the future hold in store? Some of the recommendations
of the panel and audience: programs that educate 9-11 year olds,
a better navigation system to help parents choose programs, better
preschool programs, news shows for kids, a magazine format for
President Kappner summed it up when she said, "We have entered
a new era in thinking about creativity in television programming
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