Yes, They Do Call This Educational
By Andy Heyward -- Broadcasting & Cable, 9/19/2004 8:00:00 PM
DIC Entertainment has produced over 3,000 episodes of children's programming, with emphasis on shows for the 6- to 11-year-old audience that meet the requirements of the FCC's Children's Television Act. Among them are Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?, Madelineand Captain Planet.We have won not only numerous Emmys but Humanitas, NEA, and Environmental Media Awards.
We work with the most gifted academics and recognized medical professionals from top universities. They are prominent researchers and publishers in the fields of education, child development, communications and pediatric public health.
Their input and guidance have been at the core of our programming. Notable among them are Dr. Don Roberts of Stanford University and Dr. Gordon Berry from the UCLA Graduate School of Education, as well as others from the USC School of Communication and the Department of Pediatrics of the Mayo Clinic.
We have convened industry seminars under the auspices of the PTA and the National Education Association from which to determine responsible content guidelines for children's programs.
Our head of creative affairs, Robby London, is a longstanding advocate of positive children's programming and is a former chair of Mediascope. The producers of DIC Entertainment take the counsel of our advisers with the utmost seriousness.
Having said the above, we find the University of Arizona's Dale Kunkel's recent criticism of two of our shows superficial, uninformed and irresponsible. (B&C, "They Call This Educational?, 9/13, page 36)
The programs he criticized target 6- to 11-year-olds, not preschoolers. These older kids crave drama, conflict and jeopardy in the stories they watch. "Job one" of any educational program mustbe to attract an audience, a reality acknowledged by the FCC itself.
Nothing in the Children's Television Act or any other FCC edict suggests that conflict, action and jeopardy (often put under the pejorative term "violence") preclude a show from being educational.
Kunkel fails to acknowledge a difference between action that is portrayed responsibly, appropriately for children, and in service of a valuable lesson and violence that is gratuitous, graphic or inappropriate. In fact, two of DIC's proudest moments were our series Liberty's Kids on PBS, which told accurate stories of the American Revolution, and Our Friend Martin, in which kids time-traveled to the time of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and experienced the horrors of racial discrimination. These shows were informed by child-development experts. If one were to accept the position of Kunkel and his cohorts, these shows are not educational.
The presumptive overall objective of the Children's Television Act was to make TV a positive tool for kids in support of their development. The "child advocates" seem to have lost sight of that goal. If stations can air programs that draw kids to the television and keep them there and those programs have been informed and approved by the participation of academicians and educators, the Children's Television Act itself has been a wonderful success story.
We strive for that in every DIC program submitted in fulfillment of the Children's Television Act. We question those who make specious comparisons of today's legitimate children's educational television with claims of 15 years ago regarding The Flintstones and The Jetsons.
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