YORK, Pa. (AdAge.com) -- No more SpongeBob? No more iCarly?
Much to my children's horror, that was exactly the threatening message scrolling across the bottom of the TV screen this morning as they watched the very cute, Dora-like cartoon about a little Chinese girl, "Ni-Hao, Kai-Lan" on Nickelodeon."ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!" the ominous Viacom message began, "... Starting tonight, you will lose Nickelodeon and 18 other channels from your TV. Don't miss out on 'Dora the Explorer,' 'SpongeBob SquarePants,' 'iCarly' and all your favorite shows. You can stop this!"
My 7-year-old son, who can read quite well, panicked. "Mom, what does that mean? Are we going to lose Nickelodeon? No more SpongeBob?" His 5-year-old sister, who's just beginning to read, quickly picked up on the hysteria, mimicking, "What? What does that mean? Where is it going?"
I explained that the message was for Time Warner and Bright House Network customers only, and we have Comcast, so we would not be affected. (Don't ask me why, but I added that we used to have Time Warner when we lived in New York -- further confusing the situation.)
That tricky cable concept
That of course, wasn't nearly enough. After many more reassurances, a seriously lame attempt to explain the cable TV system in this country, and an actual viewing of our recent cable bill with the word "Comcast" on it, they finally seemed to believe me.
The Viacom scroll message did point out the dropped channels would be specific to Time Warner and Bright House's 13 million total viewers, and that one had to be 18 or older to call the complaint numbers Viacom helpfully provided in the note. (Along with the suggestion to "DEMAND THEY KEEP THESE CHANNELS!" Yes, all in capital letters.)
But I couldn't help but wonder what Viacom was thinking by broadcasting on Nickelodeon -- and Nick Jr., Nicktoons and Noggin for that matter -- a fairly intense message that was bound to be misunderstood by the 4-to-12-year-old set that frequents those channels. I mean, go ahead and scare the Jon Stewart, Spike and MTV fans, but little kids? Isn't there some code of kiddie conduct in the media mogul handbook?
And I'm not the only concerned parent.
Parents speak out for children
An Asbury Park Press business editor and dad who got the message via scrolling news his own 8-year-old son saw wrote today on the APP blog, "Nickeolodeon pulled a smooth move, by letting the kiddies know they were about to lose their SpongeBob fix. ... Any parent of a kid knows the power of SpongeBob, which admittedly, is a funny show. If we were about to lose Nickelodeon in some contract dispute, you can bet I'd be on the phone lobbying to bring it back."
With my children now reassured, I tried to revisit the potential loss with my son. "What would you do if we really were going to lose Nickelodeon?" I asked him.
"I'd tell those people to not do it," he said.
"You can't, you're not 18. I'd have to do call them," I replied.
"Well, then I'd get you to call. And tell them this is really boring. We just want to watch Nickelodeon."