'Schoolhouse' Should Rock Again


Children Now wants the FCC to tighten its kids TV rules so that The Jetsons, Flintstones and baseball pregame shows aren’t offered up as educational/informational (E/I) programming.

The FCC currently requires stations to carry three hours of such E/I programming. I’m not a fan of any kind of programming quotas, but on the onerus scale, this one doesn’t set my blood aboil.

Children Now wants the FCC to get more deeply involved in the process, which is usually not a direction I want them to be going, and still isn’t. But I would like to see the FCC change one of its current rules. That is the one that says that to qualify for E/I status, a show has to be at least a half-hour long.

I talked to a top Children Now exec who said the group was not pushing for that. It came as something of a surprise since in the executive summary for a report the group released this week, the lead paragraph pointed to the educational power of television and used as one of two examples (Sesame Street was the other), Schoolhouse Rock, the wonderful 1970’s animated interstitials on ABC that helped some of us learn the preamble to the Constitution (which I can still sing, and will over the phone if anyone wants to call me on it at 202-659-3852) or the peripatetic path of legislation.

But I digress. The old half-hour format is heading to the tar pits, if you ask me, with the rise of alternative media and shorter attention spans, so an artifical half-hour minimum to qualify as educational is equally outdated.

The fact that ABC could revive, or create new, interstitial programs along the lines of Schoolhouse Rock ("How I hope and I pray that I will, but today I am still just a bill," and not have it qualify toward that three-hour limit is luddite and discourages creativity and thinking outside the crayon box.

But, hey, maybe it’s just me.