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Minding the Kids

Recognizing that concerned parents are keeping their young children indoors more often than they used to and are with them less often than they would like to be, children's-TV programmers are making their shows more toddler-friendly, even infant-friendly. Is that targeting the innocent or attempting to help parents (as well as the programmers themselves, of course)? According to the majority of parents in a Kaiser Family Foundation survey released last week, TV is trying to help. We think the parents are right, though, of course, it is ultimately their responsibility to ensure it does help. TV is a tool and, like any tool, can be misused. The finding that a third of the households surveyed leave the TV on "most of the time" suggests that, if children are being inundated by TV, it is not at the direction of the TV station or cable system.

The report correctly calls unrealistic a recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics that kids under 2 not be allowed to watch TV at all ("Why did the kids put beans in their ears?" asks the song. "Simply 'cause we said no.") Although we must admit that the news that a quarter of kids under 2 have a TV in their room makes us wonder about some parenting techniques.

One important finding of the study is that the "vast majority" of parents have rules about TV watching and that those rules appear to be working. In households where the parents have such rules, kids watch a third less TV than in homes without, or about an hour a day. TV in moderation, parenting in excess. That sounds like the right equation to us.

Just a Day at the Office

Southern California broadcasters had to drop business as usual last week to cover the massive wildfires there. In some threatened areas, said one observer, the only people left were firefighters and reporters. Millions of dollars in ads were dropped, and extra expenses were added. Stations were already starting fund drives to help the victims, even as some broadcasters evacuated their own homes. At one San Diego station, staffers hosed down the roof while simultaneously setting up a live shot of the fire.

Sometimes we take dramatic video for granted. It requires skill, planning and sometimes great risk to gather. One look at KNBC-TV's burning news truck is more than enough reminder of the inherent dangers of covering a disaster.

One of the FCC's localism hearings is next March in California. As soon as they can catch their breath—sadly, the fires were still blazing at press time—broadcasters should collect the evidence of their good work and make a coherent presentation of it.

It's a shame that it takes a tragedy to remind us how important local broadcasting is and how well it performs in the clutch.

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