"Much of children's television stinks," Susan Scanlan, chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations, said at a press conference today. "We don't need a poll to learn that children have all-too-easy access to violent, indecent, inappropriate or just plain stupid TV programming."
She said aim is to increase ratings and advertiser support for better shows. The urging will come in a twice-a-month newsletter and a website that members of the groups can access. The website, smarttelevisionalliance.org, won't rate shows itself but will list shows recommended by child experts. Ms. Scanlan said the alliance, which is being formed with funding from TiVo, may meet with networks, advertisers and program providers.
"Rather than sit back and wait and wait for something to change, [the alliance] is going to change children's television ourselves," Ms. Scanlan said.
National PTA CEO Warlene Gary said the media industry hasn't done enough on its own. "Those in the television industry have had years to provide parents and families with the tools they require and deserve," she said. "Unfortunately these efforts have fallen far short of even basic needs. The PTA was intimately involved with the negotiations that created the television rating system. We had high hopes for it, but those hopes have not been realized."
NEA President Reg Weaver said teachers, too, have been eyeing children's TV. "We have long been concerned about the impact of television, particularly violent television on children," he said. "Studies show that average child spends about 900 hours in the classroom during the course of a school year but 1,023 hours in front of a TV. Think about the level of violence to which they are frequently exposed. Thousands of studies have been conducted on children, television and violence, and according to a majority, kids who watch violent programming are more likely to exhibit aggressive behavior."
Other groups in the alliance include the Afterschool Alliance, the Association of Jewish Family and Children's Agencies, the Coalition for Quality Children's Media, Kids First, Common Sense Media, the Parents' Choice Foundation and the YWCA.
An alliance official said one reason for the positive focus was a fear that bashing programs could be counterproductive, potentially making "bad" programs more appealing to kids.