Public Affairs; A.C.T. Symposium
From Washington D.C. National Public Radio presents taped coverage of the seventh national symposium of Action for Children's Television heroes Hamburg's and hard rock TV and young adolescence. This imposing will be presented in four half hour segments produced at WGBH in Boston from material taped by National Public Radio on May 1st and May 2nd 978 Action for Children's Television was founded in 1958 by actor president Peggy Charron to encourage diversity and to eliminate commercial abuses from children's television during its 10 year history. The Massachusetts based group has become the most powerful consumer organization in broadcasting in the first of our programs. We will hear two speeches from the panel discussion in titled truth and consequences in television. We will hear first from Mr. Alfred Schneider vice president for broadcast standards of the ABC television network and then from Dr. Dorothy Broaddrick editor in chief of a paper called the voice of
youth advocates. The moderator for this session is Action for Children's Television president Peggy Charen. Going to skim quickly through the introductions and not do any more talking which most of you probably appreciate anyway because there is not enough time left to hear from our excellent panelists. Alfred Snyder has been a vice president of American broadcasting companies since 1972 with administrative responsibility for the broadcast standards and practices department. He first joined ABC in 1052 as a member of the legal department. He's the senior member of the television code review board at the National Association of Broadcasters I think this morning he said he'd serve for 13 years. We hope it's going to be the luckiest year. And he served three terms as a member of the Board of Governors of the International Radio and Television Society. In October 1975 he was elected to the board of directors of the council the Better Business Bureau's. Is a graduate of Harvard Law School and Phi
Beta Kappa graduate of Hamilton College we are absolutely delighted to welcome Alfred Schneider. Thank you for asking me to be here. Let me first give you an overview of our philosophy and approach to programming. And then some specific examples of a certain program scheduled recently which in addition to providing entertainment and part. Pro-social values address to the subject television role models and young adolescents. ABC is basic commitment to diversity is to present productions as big to the varied needs and sensibilities of an entire viewing audience. Our continued success in broadcasting measured by viewer response and approval depends partly on our sensitivity to our audience in making these programming decisions our audience though is really many different groups and individuals with a wide range of tastes opinions and attitudes. ABC is commitment to serve the needs of our whole audience the total audience children and adults men and women urban and rural
viewers demand different approaches to different kinds of programming. If everything on the air were appropriate for any child above the age of 6 most if not all teenagers and adults would quickly get bored and stop watching. On the other hand if everything we broadcast was suitable only to those over the age of 25 we would be abdicating our responsibility to young people. They employ. Our job is to pull our programs must conform to a consensus of community standards and at the same time we must independently judge and weigh the impression our programs might have on individual viewers. Most of our judgments are based on guidelines not on immutable facts and figures but with an on to preserving artistic integrity and an ear to listening to our entire audience. We do not see ourselves as censors. Rather we are added to his advises as a liaison between the artist and the audience. A producer or director knows his medium and his craft.
We try to know the viewing public and to communicate our knowledge to the production community. We do not regulate the free flow of new and creative ideas. It is not our intention in that sense to be censors television will develop new creative ideas every year certain of them will be difficult for us to handle. It will require hard and fast rules for appropriate treatment or require scheduling consideration advisories even revisions. We will not permit irresponsible exposition or exploitation of claims of ideas. The producer and the writer is the expert and dramatic or comedic presentation of ideas. That is why he has asked the producer right in the first place. We however bring some expertise of our own and understanding why our audiences do and do not like what they will and will not tolerate and what we try to do is join our expertise with theirs. There are only a few rigid rules we will not to create any creative idea is at all times wrong. For our medium
or our audience goal we arbitrarily deny any producer the opportunity to use strong language or realistic depictions if it is essential to the best creative approach for the theme. On the other hand we will not permit such things as full frontal nudity. The use of violence for its own sake detail dwelling on brutality of physical agony or the glorification of immoral acts of people we strive to avoid offensive stereotyping of groups or individuals. On. Are you now as a child psychologist an educator wrote not long ago. The monster in the garden is not a three headed Public Enemy called ABC CBS NBC bent on destroying our children but a serious lack of parental involvement in controlling what their children watch and for how long. No program can seriously damage a child in any way. If a concerned loving adult shares the experience and uses it as an opportunity to talk about feelings we
share her views and have a supported parent child viewing discussion. It is should be obvious that the subject of television's influence particularly on our young viewers is extremely complex. We know again intuitively that television plays a role in the process by which social problems grow or shrink but we do not know yet how to define or shape that role. Nevertheless as a concerned and active member of our society we are anxious to learn more about our role and its effects. We solicit and analyze published material from a variety of professional and responsible sources. We commission the subsidised studies of area of special concern as they affect young people. All information is evaluated by our department in the research department and dialogue and no one of that future decisions may be made as effectively and as responsibly as possible. In pursuit of its stated goals program as a scientific community enter in a dialogue with us we seek out and employ the opinion advice of various outside consultants in our children's programming such as the Bank
Street College of Education. Their determinations help us to mold our standards and practices in regard to program acceptability. Now let me briefly review the several issues addressed in recent episodes of some of the series which are most popular with our adolescent viewers and which in our opinion impart important pro-social messages to that audience. Clearly subject matter dealing with questions of sexuality. Causes us the most problems. And raises the most controversial issues. On some sexual subjects. Many parents have a close your eyes itll go away attitude. A mad is like premarital sex birth control or homosexuality. They feel that are just referring to such subjects let alone discussing them is tantamount to condoning them or encouraging certain behavior in teenagers. Some parents just assume. What have us not even touch upon these subjects.
Television must therefore walk a fine line in dealing with these subjects. Matt is dealing with sexuality a relevant appropriate and part of the lives of young adolescents. But they have must be dealt with in our opinion in such a way that the treatment is acceptable to their parents as well. We feel we must meet both parent and young adolescent standards to fail to do this. Places in the potential position of being the scapegoat when parents and adolescents don't communicate with each other on these important subjects. In a recent conference held under the auspices of the project on human social development. For ABC and the Board of Governors of its affiliated stations Liz Roberts. Executive director I was here with you today. Underscore the importance of television the sexual learning. And said quote very little of the information and few of the attitudes are relevant to understanding sexuality. I learned by either children or adults in a formal or through formalized sex
education. They are learned in non-formal incidental ways. We may be sure that sexual learning is going on all the time and that we are all that once teachers and pupils and that process. And not as big was John Gannon. Ph.D. in visiting professor the Graduate School of Education Harvard. Who reported on preliminary analysis of a recent survey conducted by the project a parent attitudes and practices regarding sexuality in Cleveland. The data that they revealed. Is that many parents believe that other than from themselves their 3 to 11 year old children get most of their information about sexuality from watching television. Teenagers However according to other research. Done by a by Dr. Ghanem indicated that they had learned the most about sexuality from their peers. Indeed in the Project survey in Cleveland. Parents cited here is siblings and
older children after television as a major source of sexual learning for their children. The bottom line is recognizing that television does have a role in the socialization process. And then we do have a responsibility which we cannot take lightly. In reviewing programming with deals with social and moral issues we are conscious of the influence of our fictional character is going to have on young viewers. And here's how we have chosen to treat some of those issues. And Eight is Enough. Elizabeth the 16 year old daughter considers going on the pill. A boyfriend is encouraging her and she wants to see him grown up. She raises the issue with her parents. A father was aghast. His stepmother urges him to seek a doctor's advice. The confrontation with the reality of a medical exam and visibly pregnant women in the doctor's office is too much for Elizabeth and she pleads. Ultimately she realizes that there can be an adolescent maturity but that a physical sexual relationship. And fish. There was a
similar story but the streetwise protagonist asks the fishes for the pill to see if they trusted her. They did and she returns the pills with thanks for that trust. Lesbianism was a subject in family it becomes known that went to Buddy's teachers as a lesbian and the school parents polarized on the issue. But he is confused about her own feelings but finally decides that the critical issue is that the teacher really motivated her. The teacher decides that rather than resign she was trying to fight for her rights. So dealt openly with homosexuality as one of its continuing story lines. The ensuing controversy again identified our dilemma. On the one hand the show was criticized by a variety of church groups for showing homosexuals as normal. While on the other hand the series was criticized by the homosexual community for portraying the homosexuals 30th typically. Childbirth and its effect on
older siblings were the theme of an afterschool special my mom's having a baby. This highly rated and critically acclaimed special not only went into the fears of displacement of an older child but also in a clearer but careful way let youthful viewers see an actual deliberate cry into its telecast when that became known and due to the advance promotion. We received a number of phone calls raising the question. As to the appropriateness of this subject matter for an afterschool special. I was asked should we not in fact have an advisory disclaimer. And advisory disclaimer on a program designed primarily for children. Finally we did agree and here is what we said. Quote My mom's having a baby. A story about the beginning of life in which you and your family can share a youngster's learning experience through an actual birth. How do you deal with teenage runaway. Well the difficult question of teenage prostitution or
interracial such will exploitation. These issues were all raised in little ladies of the night. More than a year after the original telecast of this film we all read of the Minneapolis strip the influx of Midwestern teenage prostitutes first to many apples from all over the Midwest and then to New York. Our film was based on a continuing fact of life but a fact that many parents would prefer to avoid. These are undoubtedly difficult questions that parents to deal with those of his that adolescent children. Tom Brad Pitt made his IMAP faces a problem the public display of nudity when his 19 year old daughter performs nude in a scene from Midsummer's Night Dream. The daughter is convinced artistic integrity is involved. Well the thought of feels she is embarrassing the family. Neither one changes position but after discussion of the issues involved both are more sympathetic to the other's point of view. Than all of the above cases we were aware of the sensitivity to subject matter and work with the producer. Whether these programmes are telecast in the afternoon early evening or late evening are a concern is that
we project positive family relationships and role models must remain paramount. Another subject of enormous importance to both adolescents and adults are alcoholism and drug abuse. Family presented an app dealing with teenage alcoholism that show the tragedy and self-destructive behavior the negative effects of drug abuse. The pick going to Welcome Back Kotter. Academic pressure another reality of young lives is the subject of other prime time episodes. And Eight is Enough The father a newspaperman is so convinced that all His children have writing talent that he is blind to his son's difficulties in English. Both father and son must find common ground to discuss and resolve their problem. Here acceptance and respect one another's differences are raised again and again an afterschool specials. Whether it's the fear of a girl to reveal a parent's deafness to a new friend the embarrassment of a bully playing with the mentally retarded for a child why she acts timid with girls. Well the decisions of one officials charges day in school. We're all exploring situations
emotions that are common to all. Television is often accused of presenting an unreal world where all problems are solved in 30 to 60 minute increments. In the real world we know what doesn't work that way. We all have problems that may never get resolved and are not subject to the half hour solution. Life is complex and human relationships don't always fit into the neatly packaged fairy tale solutions television devises in the time allotted. But if there is some exaggeration some some simplicity some idealism in television problem solving some positive factors do emerge that may be more important than a precise Imitation of Life. We try hard to provide role models worthy of emulation to see the positive personal relationships off the trade to encourage healthy interaction between parent and adolescent. We don't attempt to have a panacea for adolescents problems. We do want to encourage communication and illustrate the problems and issues parents and their children face in the process of growing
up. The generation gap between parent and child can become a communications gap. That that gap can be narrowed by the experiences young adults live through each week with their prime time friends. Then television can be a valuable conduit to further understanding that television can be a vehicle that spurs discussion if it can stimulate communication. If I can bring this to the table then perhaps I can create a better understanding of the problems and issues for which many in our society has to provide workable or appropriate solutions. Thank you. Our next panelist is Dr. Dorothy Broderick editor and editor in chief of voice of youth advocates a new publication dedicated to interdisciplinary social services for young adults. Dr. Broderick received a doctorate in library science from Columbia University in 1071 and has worked as a children's librarian author editor and consultant to many organizations concerned with literature for children and adolescents
related issues of censorship and the legal rights of minors. She has authored several books both for children and for professional audiences. Welcome back to Darcy Bradford. Now you will evaluate the vineyard and the picking the person here who has the drink the product. And I would have to say that most often in relation to television I think I'm paying $32 for a 59 cent bottle. What I'm hearing what I heard from Mr. Schneider which is I mean it's perfect you can't beat that kind of press release. Because I want you to know he didn't say that some day it would be very nice for him to put the Dean machine on his television.
He said it would be nice if the adults could get down here where it would have a very select group. They wouldn't be upset. So we're not what why I'm here. Is really an act of self-indulgence because given the financial structure of television nothing we have to say about how they should do a better is going to mean anything. You can't serve both parents in youth in a youth program. The title of my new magazine voice of youth that be kids means what it says. We are youth that good kids. And we are always encouraged her on the side of youth in their fight with their parents with the schools with all of the institutions of society that have been developed to exploit and to harass. And to put down kids all for the convenience of the adults who are getting paid supposedly to serve their needs. Now there are
two ways. In which at all that there are two types of adolescent developmental needs. One is in the role and Epictetus behavior patterns and the other is in cognitive. Television People will talk to you about the cognitive. At some length. Rarely about the avg active now. First of all already we've heard. The word sexuality bandied around as if it meant sexual intercourse. It does not and until we stops confusing sex with sexuality we are never going to help adolescents in their developmental. Most important need which is to come to grips with their own sexuality. And. To to coin a phrase from one of the rotten kids books ever written. What it means
is that sometime in those years you learn to say I'm glad I'm a boy I'm glad I'm a girl that you are comfortable with who you are. And who you are has nothing to do. With who you eventually relate to out there in a sexual experience that these two things are very different. Now. Marlo Thomas touched on it last night. The hardest thing in the world in our society is to grow up female and have television make you proud of yourself. And I'm thinking of just two events this year. I think you know that absolutely horrendous disgraceful obscene Beretta show where he told a 13 year old pregnant girl that he was proud of her for keeping her baby. It was sickening. More
obscene than those seven words. They're fighting girl WBA I and George Carlin for not being able to say. On TV. The other thing is the only time all of you in living memory that I ever heard of female referred to on television as a woman. Occurred on the Lou Grant Show this year when they wanted to take the police force off the hook for helping around with underage. Girls and then they became they are not girls Lou. These are women. And yet. In ninety nine point ninety seven percent of the rest of the time even 70 80 year olds are the girls. So when we're talking about a developmental needs one of the most important is not only
with your sexuality. But self esteem. And we need that. Now I want to say one other thing about. The other most important effective learning experience we can have is learn how to be empathetic people. To care about other human beings. And there are two things where television is absolutely appalling. One is the ability to help us learn to laugh and the other is to help us learn to weep. All. And I say there maybe have been some small exception I miss all laughter on television teaches us that what is funny is putting down other people. It is the pit in me. The Dean Martin roasts seen shows on
television and the other thing in terms of weeping and I know it's been said before but I cannot help it that every single time. That television shows the slightest inclination of making me care about a person we switch to some god awful Geritol ad or or something. I was surprised the Geritol didn't sponsor Frederick Mark and Helen Hayes It would have just been the crowning glory. OK. Good. As you can tell I too like everybody else at the platform Khurana for years because those are my major gripes and their my major gripes. Because I care about the kids and I care about the fact that television has no vested interest in helping young people grow up to be mature adults. Because if we grew
up to be mature adults we would put television out of business. Dr. Dorothy Broaddrick speaking at the seventh national symposium of Action for Children's Television in Washington D.C.. In our next broadcast one week from today we will hear a short statement from actor president piggy Charron and then a talk by Mr. Charles du Ferris the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission. Our third broadcast will highlight the remarks of Mr. Nicholas Johnson a former FCC commissioner and now president of National Citizens Committee for broadcasting. And those of topper Karoo president of Rainbow Television Workshop in Boston and the creator of the public broadcasting television program Mr. Johnson will be speaking in response to Mr. Farris and Mr. Karu will speak to the issue of role models for minorities
on television. And finally we will conclude the series on July 26 with Mr. Jeff Greenfield the author of television the first 50 years and with Mr. David Sontag's vice president for prime time television of 20th Century Fox productions in Hollywood. This is been a presentation of taped coverage of the seventh national symposium of Action for Children's Television produced at WGBH in Boston by Nancy Weiss our engineer for this production was Margo Garrison. This is WGBH Boston a member of the Eastern Public Radio Network.
- Public Affairs
- A.C.T. Symposium
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Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
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- Chicago: “Public Affairs; A.C.T. Symposium,” 1978-05-10, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed November 28, 2023, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-06sxm1q1.
- MLA: “Public Affairs; A.C.T. Symposium.” 1978-05-10. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. November 28, 2023. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-06sxm1q1>.
- APA: Public Affairs; A.C.T. Symposium. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-15-06sxm1q1