Action for Children's Television
Action for Children's Television
The best-known public interest group aimed at improving the quality of children's television programming in the United States.
The organization Action for Children's Television (ACT) was founded in 1968 in a suburb of Boston by Peggy Charren, a mother concerned about the content of the television programs she saw her children watching at home. Its initial efforts were aimed at advertisers. In 1970 the group filed a petition with the FCC to ban commercials from children's programs altogether, petitioning in subsequent years for more limited concessions, such as a prohibition on advertising specific products, including toys, food, and vitamins. In 1973, largely in response to the actions of ACT, the National Association of Broadcasters adopted revised codes prohibiting the hosts of children's television programs from appearing in commercials aimed at children and limiting the amount of commercial time in children's programming to 12 minutes per hour (a limit that was further reduced two years later to 10 minutes and nine-and-a-half on weekends).
Advocates of better children's television enjoyed further successes in the 1970s, as the networks introduced a substantial amount of educational programming, including Afterschool Specials on ABC and, on CBS, a special newsmagazine program for children modeled on the popular adult program 60 Minutes. By 1980 the FCC was giving serious consideration to a measure requiring television stations to broadcast a minimum amount of educational programming every day, but it was scuttled when the agency changed hands after Ronald Reagan was elected to the presidency. During the following decade, ACT's major targets included television programs that featured popular toys, such as G. I. Joe, and were often referred to as half-hour commercials. It also opposed the proposed introduction of a channel featuring advertiser-based news programming into the schools.
At one point, ACT, with its four-member staff (including Charren), had as many as 20,000 volunteers nationwide working in support of its lobbying, research, and educational efforts. Its annual budget, derived from both public and private sources, was said to be as high as $400,000 or $500,000, which covered the costs of salaries, consulting and legal fees, office rent, publications, transportation, and other expenses. In 1989 the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Peggy Charren its prestigious Trustees' Award in recognition of her contribution to the industry, and a counterpart to ACT was launched in Britain. The following year Action for Children's Television saw many of its efforts come to fruition with Congress's passage of the 1990
Having accomplished two of its major goals, Action for Children's Television disbanded in 1992, contributing $125,000 of its remaining funds for a lecture series on children and the media at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education, and another $5,000 for graduate school research fellowships. The 63-year-old Chairen voiced the hope that people concerned about the future of children's television programming would support organizations such as the Center for Media Education, a public interest group charged with monitoring television stations' compliance with the Children's Television Act.
Alperowicz, Cynthia. Fighting TV Stereotypes: An ACT Handbook. Newtonville, MA: Action for Children's Television, 1983.
Fischer, Stuart. Kids' TV: The First 25 Years. New York: Facts on File Publications, 1983.
Sarson, Evelyn. National Symposium on the Effect on Children of Television Programming and Advertising. Action for Children's Television. New York: Discus Books, 1971.
Schneider, Cy. Children's Television: The Art, the Business, and How It Works. Chicago: National Textbook Company, 1987.
Van Evra, Judith Page. Television and Child Development. Hillsdale, NJ: L. Erlbaum, 1990.
Winn, Marie. The Plug-in Drug. New York: Viking, 1985.