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Children's-TV Advocates Launch Campaign To Put 'Teeth' Into 1990 Broadcasting Law

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By Mark Walsh

Washington--The advocacy group Action for Children's Television last week launched a campaign to get community leaders and educators involved in efforts to improve youth programming.

Peggy Charren, act's president, announced the "Choices for Children'' campaign at a news conference here, saying it will be up to parents, teachers, and group leaders in each community to keep the pressure on local television stations to live up to the requirements of the Children's Television Act of 1990.

The new law limits the amount of advertising allowed during children's shows and calls for more programming to serve their educational needs.

The law's only "teeth" come in the form of a provision that allows the Federal Communications Commission to deny license renewal to stations that fail to meet its provisions. The fcc, which rarely revokes broadcast licenses, last month adopted final rules interpreting the law. (See Education Week, April 17, 1991.)

"We don't really expect the license-renewal challenge to be the dynamic to make this work," Ms. Charren said. "What is going to hap4pen, we think, is that the broadcaster won't want to look like Godzilla in the local community."

If attention from parents and community groups "starts making them look like bad players," she added, "then the station is going to be hurt."

Under the campaign, "action kits" are being mailed to local community leaders to urge parent and community leaders to focus on one station at a time for compliance with the law; to seek meetings with station managers to ask what plans they have for programs to meet the educational and informational needs of children; and to complain when those plans are insufficient.

'Watching Closely'

Many prominent groups have signed on to the effort, including the National pta, the National Educa8tion Association, and the American Federation of Teachers.

"We are here to put broadcasters on notice that the public is knowledgeable about the law and will be watching closely for improvements in the quality of children's programming," said Francis M. Palumbo, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Meanwhile, act is still lobbying the fcc on its rules interpreting the Children's Television Act.

Act would like the commission to take a tougher stand on toy-based programs. In a petition to the fcc, act calls for a one-year delay between the creation of a children's show and the marketing of a related toy.

Under the rules adopted by the fcc last month, no commercials for a product can air during a program with which it is associated; for example, no toys for Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figures can be shown during the cartoon series about the same characters.

But Ms. Charren noted that such practices are already barred under another fcc rule.

More information about the "Choices for Children" action kits is available from Action for Children's Television, 20 University Road, Cambridge, Mass. 02138.

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