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 Judith "Judy" Chalfen[2][3]
Dissolved 1992[4]
Type Advocacy group
Focus "Children's" television programming
Location
Area served
United States
Product None
Method Media attention, direct-appeal campaigns
Key people
Peggy Charren, Judith Chalfen
Volunteers
20,000 maximum
Website None

Action for Children's Television (ACT) was founded by Peggy Charren and Judith "Judy" Chalfen in Newton, Massachusetts, USA, in 1968 as a grassroots organization that claimed that it was dedicated to improving the quality of television programming offered to children.[3] ACT had up to 20,000 volunteer members and an operational budget of almost a half a million dollars before disbanding in 1992.[5]

History[edit]

The 1960s[edit]

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 the late 1960s, ACT also targeted Saturday morning cartoons that involved superheroes and violence, including The Herculoids, Space Ghost, Birdman and the Galaxy Trio, Super President and Fantastic Four (1967 TV series). The group was responsible for driving these shows off the air by the start of the 1969-70 television season, and they were replaced by Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?, H.R. Pufnstuf, Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, and other light comedy-fantasy programs.[6]

The 1970s[edit]

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.

The 1980s and the 1990s[edit]

In 1983, then-President Ronald Reagan had appointed Mark S. Fowler as chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. As Fowler, a longtime proponent of deregulation, had determined that children's television should be dictated by the marketplace, 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 more than half-hour commercials: G. I. Joe, My Little Pony, The Transformers, M.A.S.K., He-Man and the Masters of the Universe, and the controversial Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future.

Throughout the 1980s, ACT criticized television programs that featured popular toys such as G. I. Joe and He-Man, maintaining that they "blur(red) 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.[7]

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.[8]

Co-founder Peggy Charren commented in 1995, "Too often, we try to protect children by doing in free speech."[9]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lawson, Carol (24 January 1991). "Guarding the Children's Hour on TV". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  2. ^ O'Connor, John J. (20 February 1990). "Critic's Notebook; Insidious Elements in Television Cartoons". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  3. ^ a b Gloria Negri (9 June 2011). "Judith Chalfen, 85; took action to help reform children’s TV". Boston Globe. 
    - Patricia McCormack (4 July 1971). "Teach Tots To Discriminate". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  4. ^ "Watchdog Group for Children's TV to Disband". The New York Times. 9 January 1992. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  5. ^ "Ms. Kidvid Calls It Quits". Time. 20 January 1992. Retrieved 14 August 2010. 
    - Kirstin Olsen (1994). Chronology of Women's History. Greenwood Press. p. 313. Retrieved 19 April 2014. 
  6. ^ Hollis, Tim (2001). Hi there, boys and girls! : America's local children's TV shows. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. p. 20. ISBN 1578063965. 
  7. ^ "COURT ORDERS F.C.C. REVIEW OF POLICY ON CHILDREN'S TV". The New York Times. AP. 27 June 1987. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  8. ^ Andrews, Edmund L. (10 April 1991). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; F.C.C. Adopts Limits on TV Ads Aimed at Children". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
    - Nash, Nathaniel C. (2 October 1990). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; White House Gets Bill Reducing Ads on Children's TV Programs". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
    - Andrews, Edmund L. (10 April 1991). "THE MEDIA BUSINESS; F.C.C. Adopts Limits on TV Ads Aimed at Children". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 
  9. ^ Andrews, Edmund L. (1 July 1995). "Court Upholds a Ban on 'Indecent' Broadcast Programming". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2010. 

External links[edit]