We should foster the development of more diverse programming by updating the Children’s Television Act so that what kids see on their television reflects the reality of their universe.
During this time, I reviewed and aligned Informational and Educational (I/E) content from many content providers, including history content from the Biography channel, animal and cultural studies programming from National Geographic, and two big kid content cable networks.
The definition of “educational content,” as outlined in the CTA, was broadly defined that even shows like The Jetsons qualified as “educational” because it showed “life in the future.”
To help our team align truly educational content, I created a rubric, based on the content analysis of E/I programming by the Annenberg Public Policy Center (APPC), that listed criteria to meet educational children’s programming. Among the APPC criteria were categories that focused on overall educational value, age appropriateness, and educational applicability.
Nowhere in the CTA legislation are television stations on public airways required to air I/E programming to reflect children’s racial or gender diversity. So I also included another category that wasn’t in the original Annenberg content analysis model: diversity.
As we reviewed and aligned television programming, we weighted content that showed racial diversity, the inclusion of kids with disabilities, and gender parity higher than children’s programming, reflecting the content creators’ monoracial viewpoints.
Children who depend on E/I programming on public airwaves deserve to see themselves reflected in their media.
Even in the 2019 update of the Children’s Television Act, there were still no requirements for public television stations to meet a diversity standard in their I/E programming, which features stories and characters featuring different ethnicities, physical ability, genders, and orientations.
Even today, with children’s programming on YouTube, cable, and subscription VOD platforms, there’s still a lack of content that is representative of the audience. A 2018 analysis of kids’ programming by The Conversation found that while “Hispanic or Latinos make up 17.8 percent of the population, Latino characters only made up 1.4 percent in their sample.”
While streaming networks like Netflix, AppleTV+, and Hulu are producing diverse subscription-based content, over on the public airwaves, we can encourage and should foster the development of more diverse programming by updating the Children’s Television Act.
While this is a step in the right direction, this is only an option in homes with the broadband required to stream video and the means to subscribe to streaming networks. Children who depend on E/I programming on public airwaves also deserve access to content that reflects the diversity of their community.
Moreover, a revised CTA should come with a requirement that a certain percentage of the content on public airwaves must be sourced from creators of color, differing abilities, genders, and orientations so that what kids see on their television reflects the reality of their universe.
The Children’s Television Act is beyond overdue for a meaningful and substantive update. I urge you to contact your elected representatives and the Federal Communications Agency and ask them to lead the charge on making I/E content reflect the diverse and multicultural world kids live in 2021.