Children’s Television Act (1989)

By: Evan Frohock and Chris Zelante

kid watching TV

On April 5th, 1989, the United States congress created the Children’s Television Act (CTA). This act increased the amount of educational television that had to be aired weekly. With the popularity of television on the rise the United States Congress felt that it was necessary to take action and make sure that useful and education television stayed prevalent. While shows like the Jetsons, Flinstones, and other entertaining shows for the younger generation serve the purpose of amusement and enjoyment, these shows did not necessarily fulfill all of the needs that the FCC felt children should be receiving from television. The Children’s Television Act laid out crucial guidelines that had to be followed for education TV.

These shows had to serve the educational and informational needs of children as a significant purpose, and be at least thirty minutes in length. These shows must be aired between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The shows must be a regularly scheduled weekly program. These shows must be identified as specifically designed to educate and inform children by the display of the symbol “E/I” on the television screen throughout the program. These guidelines created a good basis for educational Television. Along with that, it sparked a revival in shows that could be seen as both useful and entertaining for kids under the age of 16.

The Children’s Television Act made TV producers produce many great shows. From this act, we get shows like “Blues Clues”, “Arthur”, “Curious George” and “Wonder Pets!” Now obviously this did act did not affect “adult networks”, such as Comedy Central. The three hours must be during prime time, and on channels like PBS, Nickelodeon, and Cartoon Network. This act has ushered in a new wave of television where children and parents can watch shows together, and use them as learning tools outside of the classroom. Instead of growing up on mindless cartoons, kids now-a-days are growing up on shows that help to enrich their mind and social skills. Along with taking their knowledge to a new level, these shows typically deal with viewers on an interactive basis, and gives them social skills that can be used in their every day life.

Looking back on the creation of this act, it has changed the way children watch TV from years past. Going from Saturday morning cartoons to weekly shows that teach kids their numbers, “ABC’s”, and even different languages, TV has become a crucial part of a child’s learning experience. Outside of the classroom the television has become one of the most useful tools parents, teachers, and children can use to further education. This act has reformed the type of TV shows you will see on your local programming, and become a stepping stone in children’s education.


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