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Annual Children's Television Week Commences

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By Congressional decree, this week is "National Children and Television Week." And some organizations plan to use the occasion to let the Congress know that they are unhappy with the quality of children's programming and the Federal Communications Commission's role in it.

The scheduled observance (and related activities) will include a congressional hearing, press conferences, the presentation of awards, and some "special" programming by the major networks.

The National Council for Children and Television (ncct) is the nonprofit educational organization that conceived of the week.

According to its president, Nicholas B. Van Dyck, the group is holding a workshop for teachers in Los Angeles on "ways children's fascination with television can be incorporated into study"; is presenting a "lifetime achievement" award to Jim Henson, creator of the Muppets; and is giving a "corporation achievement award" to The Sears Roebuck Foundation for its 15-year support for "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood."

The Bush Foundation Program in Child Development and Social Policy at the University of California at Los Angeles is holding a series of invitational events bringing together people representing television production houses, various network television departments, the Public Broadcasting System (pbs), and cable and pay stations.

The workshops will focus on outstanding children's programs, guidelines for educators who want to work with producers to create children's programs, and policy recommendations to increase their production and distribution.

"Quality programming for children is in a difficult position right now," said Aimee Dorr, a television researcher at the university's graduate school of education and organizer of the events.

"Networks know how to create good programming, but they have less motivation to excel than in the past," she said. "The climate of deregulation has led to decreased funding for production of new quality programming for children."

Press Conference Planned

Action for Children's Television (act), an advocacy group that works to increase the amount of programming for children, is planning a press conference this week in Washington that will be attended by Sen. Charles H. Percy, Republican of Illinois, Rep. Albert Gore Jr., Democrat of Tennessee, and Henry M. Rivera, a commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission (fcc).

"We're going to point out that there are actions the government can take to encourage a new world of children's television that's better than the old one," said Peggy Charren, president of act

"We are using the week to emphasize that this is no time to celebrate children's television, but to raise consciousness about its problems," Ms. Charren said. "We think it's a wonderful week, however."

On Capitol Hill, hearings about children's television will be held Wednesday before the subcommittee on telecommunications, consumer protection, and finance, chaired by Rep. Timothy E. Wirth, Democrat of Colorado.

The hearings will focus on the issue of "the adequacy of programming for children" instead of on the often-discussed topic of "sex and violence" in children's television, according to a spokesman for Representative Wirth.

Sharon Robinson, director of instruction and professional development for the National Education Association (nea), will be among those testifying.

The nea will propose the formation of a temporary commission on children's programming.

According to a spokesman in the nea communication department: "We will be expressing great frustration with the fcc, which since 1971 has been holding inquiries, appointing commissions and task forces, hearing reports, and having incomplete rulemaking sessions on this very subject."

The major commercial networks are also quietly observing the week. NBC is airing an episode of'rent Strokes" with an anti-drug message, featuring an appearance by First Lady Nancy Reagan.

ABC is "highlighting and underscoring the message that our children's programming as usual is enough," said a spokesman.

The network will air a new "After School Special" called, "Have You Ever Been Ashamed of Your Parents?"

CBS is airing "The Wizard of Oz" and a made-for-television movie called, "Still the Beaver," featuring three members of the original "Leave It to Beaver" cast, including Tony Dow as Wally and Jerry Mathers as The Beaver.

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