Media Column

By Cindy Currence — January 25, 1984 2 min read

The Federal Communications Commission rejected proposed regulations last month that would have required commercial television stations to provide at least seven hours of children’s programming between 8 A.M. and 9 P.M.

Based on research that indicated an increase since 1980 in the overall programming available to children, the commission said it found “no market failure” and would not adopt mandatory programming rules for commercial broadcasters.

“The record reveals that a variety of existing communications services provide quantity and quality in children’s programming,” commission officials said. “Furthermore, it appears that new services can be expected to add to that diversity.”

Commission members also said they had “constitutional concerns” about the proposed regulations and were reluctant to interfere “with the exercise of a licensee’s programming discretion.”

Officials at Action for Children’s Television, a Boston-based advocacy group that has been lobbying for the mandatory programming regulations, said they were disappointed by the commission’s decision.

“With all the concern about education in this country,” said Peggy Charren, ACT president, “if it were anything but a Mark Fowler commission, something substantive would have come of this rule-making.”

Mr. Fowler, chairman of the commission, was appointed by President Reagan in 1981.

Children who view television programs depicting alcohol use in a positive manner are swayed by that message, according to research conducted by Dr. Robert G. Rychtarik, director of the Alcohol Dependence Treatment Program at the Veterans Administration in Jackson, Miss.

Children in the study were divided into three groups. The first group watched episodes of “M*A*S*H” in which two primary characters are shown drinking martinis. The second group viewed the same episodes with those scenes deleted, while the third group did not view any program prior to the experiment.

When asked to “serve” either water or “whiskey” to adults, 74 percent of those who had viewed the programs that included drinking scenes offered whiskey, while only about half of the other children offered the alcoholic beverage.

Dr. Rychtarik’s research was published in a recent issue of Addictive Behaviors. Copies of the report are available by writing the Alcohol Dependence Treatment Program, 116B1 Veterans Administration Medical Center, 1500 East Woodrow Wilson, Jackson, Miss. 39216.

Lawrence K. Grossman, president of the Public Broadcasting Service, announced last month that he will leave P.B.S. in February because he has been hired as president of NBC News.

The system’s executive committee is in the process of finding a replacement for Mr. Grossman, who has been president of P.B.S. since 1976, and is expected to announce its decision in March.

A version of this article appeared in the January 25, 1984 edition of Education Week as Media Column