Study: Parents Want Better TV for Kids

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Washington -- While the quality of children's television
programming on the networks has improved, parents and children still have a low opinion of
television today, according to a new study.

The report, released last week by the Annenberg Public
Policy Center, said children's programs have a higher percentage of "enriching
content," and there are fewer "low-quality" shows.

This year's study also found that fewer shows had "no
enriching content." But the report found that parents still consider children's TV
too violent.

"The good news is that children's television is
getting better," Annenberg researcher Dr. Emory Woodard IV said. "But it's clear
that there is still room for improvement."

The study cited PBS' Bill Nye the Science Guy, Fox's
The Magic School Bus and Nickelodeon's syndicated Nick News as high-quality
shows

The misuse of ratings remains a problem. The study found
that of the 28 percent of children's shows that had four or more acts of violence, 75
percent did not carry the "FV," or "fantasy violence," rating.

Because of such mislabeling, the much-hyped V-chip, due out
next week, will fail to block out these shows because it relies on the ratings system to
block out objectionable programming.

Some of the improvements in children's television are a
result of the Federal Communications Commission's "Three Hour Rule."

In 1997, the FCC said commercial broadcast networks could
get speedy license renewals if they provided at least three hours of educational
programming per week. The three-hour rule does not apply to cable networks.

No cable networks were in the study because viewers have to
subscribe to cable in order to watch them. Only Nickelodeon shows syndicated on network
television, such as Nick News, were included.

Cyma Zarghami, executive vice president and general manager
of Nickelodeon, expressed frustration that her network was not included in the study.
"We're providing a seven-day-a-week, 24-hour-a-day outlet for children's
programming," she said.

Meanwhile, as parents worry about the safety of their kids
in school after the shootings in Colorado, kids fret more over the basics of fitting in,
making friends and being respected by adults, according to another study released last
Tuesday by Nickelodeon and Time magazine.

That study was based on interviews with 1,200 kids aged six
through 14 and 400 parents. A total of 79 percent of kids are in no hurry to grow up, and
they are content just being kids.

A total of 60 percent worry about fitting in at school, and
50 percent worry about being victimized by crime. But 93 percent of kids said they feel
"pretty safe in their school."

Noting that one out of six 12-year-olds has seen a gun in
school, Nickelodeon president Herb Scannell said the media needed to relay nonviolent
messages to children.

"We don't make television shows that have guns,"
Scannell said, pointing to shows such as Nick News, which addresses topical issues,
and to forums like one Nickelodeon recently held on the Columbine High School massacre.

"We will keep providing a voice to kids."
Scannell added.

More than three-quarters of kids would like to spend more
time with their parents. And parents, more than teachers or friends, most influence kids'
opinions on events in the news.

"Kids are not as disinterested in our lives as we
believe." Scannell said, referring to his own experiences with his father.

As a child, Scannell would watch shows featuring performers
like W.C. Fields and the Marx Brothers because his Dad enjoyed watching them. "I
loved my Dad and I wanted to spend time with him," he said.

States News Service.

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