It is 1964. America's children are currently spending over one-third of their waking hours watching television, and television is bigger, though perhaps not better, than ever.Almost 25 percent of American families now own the new 'wall-to-wall' TV screens equipped with improved quadraphonic sound.
Network's programming for children, as broadcasting tradition dictates, is scheduled primarily on Saturday morning. And as broadcasting tradition dictates, programming for children is animated, but not artistic, and humorous, but not humane. Independent TV stations rely, as they have in the past, on recycled syndicated series to fill the hours between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m. when a large portion of the viewing audience is composed of the 2-to-11-year-old market. Current popular after-school series include "Roller Girls," "Charlie's Angels," "Baby, I'm Back" and "Laverne and Shirley."
Advertisers currently spend almost $1 billion annually to purchase commercial time during these programs, time used to turn children into the nation's only unpaid sales force, for sugared cereals, candy and toys. Perennial bestsellers in the ready-to-eat cereal market, such as Cookie Crisps and Count Chocula, have been challenged by new lines of coffee and tobacco flavored cereals. According to many manufacturers, the new vitamin-fortified breakfast candies are considered the real 'comers' in child-oriented food products.
Children in some areas of the country can, of course, see TV programs without commercials on public television. In general, however, reception of PBS stations remains poor, especially in Washington D.C. and other rural parts of the country.
Moreover, new production of children's programs on PBS has been curtailed due to budget cutbacks. Congress has again promised to look into ways of alleviating both technological and monetary problems besieging the PBS system.
Since the passage of the new Communications Act of 1979 has done away with requirements to serve the public interest, the broadcast reform movement has disappeared.
Television in 1984. That's the way it is. That's the way it has been. And that's the way it will be, unless we act in 1978 -
. . . unless Congress allows the Federal Trade Commission to pursue its inquiry into TV advertising directed to children.
. . . unless the Federal Communications Commission establishes effective guidelines mandating that stations serve the child audience.
. . . unless license renewal for local stations becomes a meaningful process, rather than a rubber stamp.
. . . unless the FCC clears that way for the development of cable, satellite and other alternate technologies.
. . . unless public broadcasting can be assured of long-term funding and reasonable signal strength.
. . . unless equal employment practices and diversification of broadcast ownership become realities.
. . . and unless parents become involved in their kid's TV viewing experience.