Action for Children's Television

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Action for Children's Television
Founded 1968[1]
Founders Peggy Charren Lillian Ambrosino, Evelyn Kaye and Judy Chalfen[2][3][4]
Dissolved 1992[5]
Type Advocacy group
Area served
United States
Method Media attention, direct-appeal campaigns

Action for Children's Television (ACT) was founded by Peggy Charren and Judy Chalfen in Newton, Massachusetts in 1968 as a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the quality of television programming offered to children.[3][4] ACT had up to 20,000 volunteer members and an operational budget of almost a half a million dollars before disbanding in 1992.[6][7]


Co-founder Peggy Charren commented in 1995 that "Too often, we try to protect children by doing in free speech".[8]

ACT's initial focus was the Boston edition of the syndicated Romper Room, a children's show which promoted its toy products to its viewers. When ACT threatened to complain to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), WHDH-TV scaled back the host's role in product promotion.[citation needed]


In 1970, ACT petitioned the FCC to ban advertising from children's programming. In subsequent years, it sought a more limited prohibition, eliminating commercials for specific categories of products. In 1971, ACT challenged the promotion of vitamins to children. "One-third of the commercials were for vitamin pills, even though the bottles said, 'Keep out of reach of children' because an overdose could put them in a coma," said Charren. Responding to ACT's campaign, vitamin-makers voluntarily withdrew their advertising.

In 1973, responding to concerns raised by ACT, the National Association of Broadcasters adopted a revised code limiting commercial time in children's programming to twelve minutes per hour. Additionally, the hosts of children's television programs were prohibited from appearing in commercials aimed at children.

In 1977, ACT, together with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ban television advertising targeted at children too young to understand the concept of selling, as well as advertising for high-sugar foods pitched at older children.


In 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan had appointed Mark S. Fowler as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Fowler, a longtime proponent of deregulation, had determined that children's television should be dictated by the marketplace. So that year saw the cancellation of many long-standing and Emmy-winning shows such as Captain Kangaroo, Schoolhouse Rock, Kids Are People, Too, Animals, Animals, Animals, and the CBS Children's Film Festival, all of which ACT had vigorously fought to keep on the air. It also saw the debut of many toy-inspired programs, which ACT contended were nothing but half-hour commercials: G. I. Joe, My Little Pony, Transformers, M.A.S.K., He-Man and the Masters of the Universe and the controversial Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future.

All throughout the 1980s, ACT criticized television programs that featured popular toys such as G. I. Joe and He-Man, saying that they "blur the distinction between program content and commercial speech", and successfully barring Garbage Pail Kids from the air. It also opposed the proposed introduction of Channel One News, a television news show featuring advertiser-based programming, into the schools, an effort which met with only limited success.

ACT brought many cases before the courts, including "Action for Children's Television v. FCC, 821 F.2d 741 (D.C. Cir. 1987)", often cited in media law.[9]

ACT's efforts culminated in the passage of the Children's Television Act of 1990, establishing formal guidelines for children's programming, including rules governing advertising, content and quantity.[10][11][12]


  1. ^ Lawson, Carol (1991-01-24). "Guarding the Children's Hour on TV". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  2. ^ O'Connor, John J. (1990-02-20). "Critic's Notebook; Insidious Elements in Television Cartoons". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  3. ^ a b [1] Archived February 12, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ a b "Sarasota Herald-Tribune-Google News Archive Search". Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  5. ^ "Watchdog Group for Children's TV to Disband". The New York Times. 1992-01-09. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  6. ^ "Ms. Kidvid Calls It Quits". Time. 1992-01-20. Retrieved 2010-08-14. 
  7. ^ Chronology of Women's History - Kirstin Olsen - Google Books. Retrieved 2014-04-19. 
  8. ^ Andrews, Edmund L. (1995-07-01). "Court Upholds a Ban on 'Indecent' Broadcast Programming". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  9. ^ "Court orders f.c.c. review of policy on children's tv". The New York Times. 1987-06-27. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  10. ^ Andrews, Edmund L. (1991-04-10). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; F.C.C. Adopts Limits on TV Ads Aimed at Children". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  11. ^ Nash, Nathaniel C. (1990-10-02). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; White House Gets Bill Reducing Ads on Children's TV Programs". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  12. ^ Andrews, Edmund L. (1991-04-10). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; F.C.C. Adopts Limits on TV Ads Aimed at Children". The New York Times. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 

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