Writer's note: When it comes to extending the Children's Television Act, I wonder if the primary issue isn't the content of the programming, but the platform on which it is delivered. Would the FCC have the authority to mandate educational content or other restrictions on platforms that don't use public airwaves? That will be the most interesting conversation to watch as these issues move forward under a new Chairman.
Ultimately, this hearing was only tangentially about the Children's Television Act -- the scope of which was limited to educational and informational content mandates, commercial time restrictions and the establishment of the late and lamented "National Endowment for Children's Educational Television" (unless I missed it, Sandy Calvert didn't cite this precedent in introducing her idea for a think tank/production center).
Certainly, there was attention to adding more programming for the 6-12 year old audience, and to limiting commercialism; however, the tone was much more about how to support parents in an increasingly complex media environment, and how to surround kids with quality content(including entertainment!).
Here are the most encouraging things I heard in that light:
- we've evolved from talking only about tools that block what we don't want, to developing means for helping families navigate to what they do want;
- we are talking thoughtfully about the home-school connection -- not trying to replicate school learning via home media, but using the power of technology so that formal and informal learning tools can work in concert;
- the panelists from industry we talking about their role in ways that suggest they are coming to see "360 commissioning" as not about themselves (we need to be everywhere!), but about the child and ensuring that they can find content for their needs, abilities and interests in the places they feel most comfortable.