News

More Bindi, Less Bucks

5/02/2009 2:00 AM Eastern

I've gotten to know a lot about Discovery Kids programming by scanning the shows that keep getting added to our DVR's series manager.

Lively Bindi the Jungle Girl and Endurance — a reality show like Survivor for kids, with interesting physical challenges and intriguing brain puzzlers — were first to arrive.

After that came the animated Tutenstein and Growing Up Creepie, the latter about a girl who's raised by a bug family.

No surprise, a member of the target demo is wielding the remote. It's my 10-year-old daughter, who says she's learning a lot about bugs. She makes an effort to persuade me that her TV choices are educational.

That's more than Discovery and Hasbro managed last week in announcing plans to remake Discovery Kids next year into a channel aimed at preschoolers through 14-year-olds, featuring programming built on Hasbro's “brands” that include popular games and toys such as Scrabble and Tonka. (The news story is on page 2.)

Hasbro CEO Brian Goldner stated clearly that preschoolers were going to be served by the new channel's “educational platform,” but fell back on existing Discovery Kids fare like the delightful Bindi, mentioned a Hasbro-related show in Australia and cited Romper Room, which he called “one of the earliest interactive educational shows.”

OK, point taken. But where are the academic consultants, the advertising guidelines, the assurances that the brand-driven new fare Hasbro wants to create won't be “infomercials,” as several critics charged?

Backlash had to be expected when a toymaker buys into a kids' network and in fact will be in charge of providing the new programming, according to the press release.

Leaving aside possible problems for Discovery and Hasbro's deal-making at the FCC or the FTC, kids' programmers need to win parents' trust and must take seriously the responsibility not to treat young viewers as “consumers.”

They have more than a year to work on these issues and more than enough smart people to figure this out — and plenty of people already giving them unsolicited advice.

But they should remember that series managers can always be changed. Parents like me will vote with their remotes.

This one says — more Bindi, less bucks.

March