ACTION FOR CHILDREN'S TELEVISION

U.S. Citizens' Activist Group

A "grass-roots" activist group, Action for Children's Television (A.C.T.) was founded by Peggy Charren and a group of "housewives and mothers" in her home in Newton, Massachusetts in 1968. The members of A.C.T. were initially concerned with the lack of quality television programming offered to children. In 1970 A.C.T. petitioned the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) asking that television stations be required to provide more programming for the child viewer. In that year the organization also received its first funding from the John and Mary R. Markle Foundation. A.C.T. later received funding from the Ford and Carnegie Foundations as well, grants which allowed the group to expand from volunteers to between 12 and 15 staff members at the height of its activity.

A.C.T. was not generally viewed as a "radical right-wing group" advocating censorship. According to Charren, "too many people who worry about children's media want to do it in. A.C.T. was violently opposed to censorship." Partially due to this attitude, the group was able to gain support from members of the public and from many politicians.

A.C.T. also became concerned with issues of advertising within children's programming. Of particular concern was their finding that one-third of all commercials aimed at children were for vitamins. Partially due to their efforts, the FCC enacted rules pertaining to program length commercials, host selling, and the placement of separation devices between commercials and children's programming.

A.C.T. was responsible for many cases brought before the courts in regard to the FCC and its policies concerning children's television. These cases include a major case in media law, Action for Children's Television, et al. v. Federal Communications Commission and the United States of America (821. F. 2d 741. D.C. Cir. 1987).

One of the major successes of A.C.T. was the passage of the Children's Television Act of 1990. Shortly after the passage of this act, Charren announced the closing of Action for Children's Television, suggesting that it was now up to individual citizens' groups to police the airwaves. In recent years Charren, a strong supporter of the First Amendment, has fought against FCC regulations limiting "safe harbor" hours.

-William Richter

 


Peggy Charren
Photo courtesy of Peggy Charren

FURTHER READING

Alperowicz, C., and R. Krock. Rocking the Boat: Celebrating 15 Years of Action for Children's Television. Newtonville, Massachusetts: Action for Children's Television, 1983.

Cole, B. G., and M. Oettinger. Reluctant Regulators: The FCC and the Broadcast Audience. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley.

Duncan, Roger Dean. "Rhetoric of the Kidvid Movement: Ideology, Strategies, and Tactics." Central States Speech Journal (West Lafayette, Indiana), Summer 1976.

See also Activist Television; Children and Television