A special federal task force accused the television industry yesterday of failing to meet a government mandate to improve children's programming and called on the Federal Communications Commission to force compliance.
The FCC promptly voted to study several alternatives to do just that.
Based on more than a year of research, the report by the FCC task force said that while the industry basically has complied with FCC guidelines set in 1974, on advertising to children, broadcasters have not complied with programming requirements set by the agency at the same time.
One staff recommendation would require broadcasters to air five hours of educational programs aimed at preschoolers and 2.5 hours aimed at school-age children each week.
The report notes that only one network, CBS, presently offers the five hours a week that would be required for preschoolers through its daily Captain Kangaroo show.
The other two networks offer limited weekend instruction programming for school-age children, and some short educational segments such as Metric Marvels, and In The News, "but these never total more than 24 minutes a week," the report added.
The report concluded that commercial television, as currently structured, is unlikely to increase voluntarily the amount of educational programming for children, "given the economic incentives of the broadcasting industry and characteristics of the child audience."
Consequently, the task force said, the FCC should mandate specific minimum children's programming requirements for commerical television until such time as pay, cable or over-air subscription television can be encouraged to offer more children's television for parents to purchase for their children.
The task force recommended that Congress improve present government subsidy programs for children's television by earmarking some Public Broadcasting Service funding for children's programs.
The Department of Health, Education and Welfare also spent $50 million to fund children's programs, but the task forces found that the commercial networks won't run those programs because advertising interruptions are prohibited.
The staff recommended the prohibition against commercial insertions into the HEW programming be lifted.
Most advertisers do not support children's programming because children do not make the ultimate decision on whether a product is purchased, the report said.
"The vasat majority of goods and services are bought for children, not by them," it said.
The orginal FCC children's television rules adapted in 1974 were the culmination of a three-year rule-making procedure that generated more than 100,000 letters from the public.
But in July 1978, the FCC initiated a second notice of injury into children's television programming and advertising practices, to see how well the industry was complying with the voluntary guidelines set up in 1974.