Three crummy hours of good kids' TV

August 05, 1996|By Linda Valdez

BILL CLINTON crows about a pitifully dim sunrise.

Meanwhile, Bob Dole's presidential campaign office says what Bill did was just an "imitation of Bob Dole's real leadership in LTC confronting the excesses of the entertainment industry."

Clinton's big accomplishment? He got TV broadcasters to agree to offer three hours a week of educational children's programs. It is precious little and six years late.

The Children's Television Act of 1990 required local stations to increase educational programs for children. The Federal Communications Commission then began wrestling to determine how much "government intrusion" should be allowed to sully the TV industry.

Mr. Clinton saw the political advantage in toughening rules that had been stretched to allow "The Jetsons" to qualify as educational fare. He compromised his way to standards flexible enough to get by the industry and significant enough to win a qualified nod from Captain Kangaroo.

Bob Dole, who as recently as last month was silent on the kid's TV issue, could only bristle with envy and make another speech lamenting Hollywood's hedonism.

But three hours a week of educational television is a mighty small fig leaf. American kids watch four hours of TV a day. Even if they watch quality television, that's still too much vegetating. If they watch commercial TV, what they see is either mind-numbing drivel, adrenalin-elevating violence or consequence-free self-indulgence.

Worse yet, more and more children spend hours watching the tube while their parents work. It's not safe to go out and play, schools are locked and recreation activities are nil. Imagine what's going to happen to America's exalted economic status when this generation of dolts begins competing in the world marketplace.

Those who argue that parents should monitor their children's viewing habits are more self-righteous than realistic. Sure, it's the parents' responsibility. But this isn't 1955. These days a man can't parlay a high school diploma into a steady job and a nice house where mom waits for the kids to come home from school. Single mothers struggling to sustain less comfortable lives have little choice but to assign babysitting duties to the television. Who's around to monitor anything?

It's not right, but it's reality.

And it gets worse. Recent statistics reported in the Arizona Republic show that 54 percent of 4- to 6-year-olds would choose watching TV over spending time with their fathers, and 70 percent of day-care centers use television on a typical day. Even Barney can't make lemonade out of that.

Yet our first television-generation president says he "cannot imagine anything that serves the public interest more than [giving] our children at least three hours of educational television a week."

Presidential wannabe Bob Dole glowers with charisma envy.

And the public can only wonder: Would Mr. Rogers want either one of these guys for a neighbor?

Linda Valdez is an editorial writer for the Arizona Republic.

Pub Date: 8/05/96

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