Cable Channel To Broadcast Only Children's Educational Programs
Children's television experts last week applauded plans by Nickelodeon and the Children's Television Workshop to create the nation's first cable channel devoted exclusively to children's educational programs.
But they cautioned that the new channel--named Noggin--should not be viewed as the sole source of high-quality television for young people.
"We shouldn't lose sight of the fact that a third of America's children do not have access to cable," said Amy Jordan, a senior research investigator at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. "It's important they get high-quality educational programs over the free airways."
"Heaven forbid that this should be an excuse to give public broadcasting less money or put it out of business," agreed Peggy Charren, the founder of the now-defunct Action for Children's Television and a prominent advocate of better TV programming for children.
Nickelodeon, a cable network for children, and the Children's Television Workshop, the nonprofit organization that produces "Sesame Street" and numerous other children's programs, announced the creation of Noggin last week.
The channel will begin airing programs next January.
Herb Scannell, the president of Nickelodeon, which is part of the New York City-based Viacom Inc., said his company is teaming up with the ctw to make the most compelling case possible in getting cable operators to carry the channel.
"Distribution is hard enough to get," Mr. Scannell said in an interview. "It's important to put your best foot forward."
Finding a Market
For the first year, Noggin will use programs from the libraries of both partners. If the channel is successful, the partners will contribute new programs.
"Our view is that it can be a business, and that parents and viewers want it and we know how to do it," David Britt, the president and CEO of the Children's Television Workshop, said in an interview.
While commercial broadcasters have been required by the Federal Communications Commission since last fall to provide three hours per week of educational programming for children, cable companies aren't required to do so.
"I think it is really fascinating that cable companies that aren't even required to do educational programming for children are realizing there is a market for this," Ms. Jordan of the Annenberg Public Policy Center said.
Ms. Jordan said that while commercial broadcasters often grumble that children's educational programming isn't profitable, Nickelodeon has proved otherwise. Programs such as "Blue's Clues," a highly rated program for preschoolers, show that "if you're thoughtful and you promote [an educational program] well, it will work," she said.
Ms. Charren said she expects Noggin to be "another place on the remote for parents to consider friendly."