ZOOM (1972-1978): Children’s Community and Public Television in the 1970s


1 “General Foods to Underwrite WGBH-TV’s Emmy-Winning Show,” July 28, 1976, in “Zoom’s Fifth Season” press kit (1976-77), WGBH Media Library and Archives, Brighton, MA (hereafter cited as WGBH).

2ZOOM’s Fifth Season.”

3ZOOM’s Fifth Season.”

4 See, for example, Norman S. Morris, “What’s Good about Children’s TV,” Atlantic 224 (August 1969), 67-71; Shirley de Leon, “Tuning in to the Bright and the Beautiful,” Parents’ Magazine 49, no. 10 (October 1974), 34-35, 51; Evelyn Kaye, The ACT Guide to Children’s Television: Or How to Treat TV with T.L.C. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1979).

5 George W. Woolery, Children’s Television: The First Thirty-Five Years, 1946-1981, Part II: Live, Film, and Tape Series (Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1985), 574-75. On the early reception of ZOOM, see Cyclops, “Use at last for 12-year-old minds,” Life, January 28, 1972, 18, and Cecil Smith, “Zooming In on Zoom Watchers,” Los Angeles Times, February 10, 1972, Part IV, 20.

6 Letter from mother, January 14, 1979, in !!Bring ZOOM Back!! Mail!!!! folder, box D02649, and letter from mother, April 17, 1978, envelope 18, box D02649, WGBH.

7 Christopher Sarson, phone interview with the author, October 7, 2019.

8 “Biography – Christopher Sarson,” in ZOOM facts folder, box 139820, WGBH. Within a few years, KIDS had 50,000 subscribers and had moved its operations to New York City. See “Kidnews,” Newsweek, Januarry 7, 1974, 51.

9 “Westinghouse Readies New Children’s Series,” Evening Sun (Baltimore), August 23, 1971, 19.

10 Christopher Sarson, phone interview with the author, October 8, 2021.

11 Lisa Jacobson, Raising Consumers: Children and the American Mass Market in the Early Twentieth Century (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004).

12 Barbara Coleman, “Through the Years We’ll All Be Friends: The ‘Mickey Mouse Club,’ Consumerism, and the Cultural Consensus,” Visual Resources 14, no. 3 (1999): 297-306.

13 Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, Public Television: A Program for Action (New York: Bantam, 1967).

14 On the development of public television, see Norman S. Morris, Television’s Child (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1971), 67-71; Carnegie Commission on Educational Television, Public Television; David Croteau, William Hoynes and Kevin M. Carragee, “The Political Diversity of Public Television: Polysemy, the Public Sphere, and the Conservative Critique of PBS,” Journalism & Mass Communication 157 (June 1996): 1-55; R. Stephen Craig, “Noncommercial Television,” in Margaret A. Blanchard, ed., History of the Mass Media in the United States: An Encyclopedia (New York: Routledge, 1998), 473-76. On the politics of PBS during the Nixon Administration, see, for example, John Carmody, “A Money Message for the Media: PBS Tightens Its Belt,” Washington Post, July 17, 1972, B1.

15 On the early history of Sesame Street, see Joan Ganz Cooney, “The Potential Uses of Television in Preschool Education” (New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1966); Joan Ganz Cooney and Linda Gottlieb, “Television for Preschool Children: A Proposal” (New York: Carnegie Corporation of New York, 1968); Samuel Ball and Gerry Ann Bogatz, The First Year of Sesame Street: An Evaluation (Princeton: Educational Testing Service, 1970); Walter Goodman, “Is Sesame Street Really All That Good?” Redbook 141 (Oct. 1973), 98; Gerald S. Lesser, Children and Television: Lessons From Sesame Street (New York: Random House, 1974); Richard Polsky, Getting to Sesame Street: Origins of the Children’s Television Workshop (New York: Praeger, 1974); Robert W. Morrow, Sesame Street and the Reform of Children’s Television (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006); Jennifer Mandel, “The Production of a Beloved Community: Sesame Street’s Answer to America’s Inequalities,” Journal of American Culture 29, no. 1 (2006): 3-13.

16 Estimates of the audience for The Electric Company appear in “Effectiveness of ‘The Electric Company,’” Intellect 102, no. 2355 (February 1974), 284 and in Walter J. Podrazik, The Best of the Electric Company (New York: Sesame Workshop, 2006), 15.

17 Frederick Williams and Geraldine Van Wart, Carrascolendas: Bilingual Education Through Television (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974).

18 Jeffrey S. Reznick, “‘A Noble Experiment in Human Values’: The Children’s Television Series Vegetable Soup and Its Initiative to Change the Environment for Racism in 1970s America,” Journal of Popular Film and Television 46, no. 3 (2008): 130-55.

19 “What is ZOOM?” September 2, 1971, in ZOOM Facts, WGBH.

20 On the rising controversy about children and violence on television, see Surgeon General’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Television and Social Behavior, Television and Growing Up: The Impact of Televised Violence. Report to the Surgeon General, United States Public Health Service (Washington: U. S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1972). See also Lynn Spigel, Make Room for TV: Television and the Family Ideal in Postwar America (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1992); Stephen Kline, Out of the Garden: Toys, TV, and Children’s Culture in the Age of Marketing (London: Verso, 1993); Lynn Spigel, Welcome to the Dreamhouse: Popular Media and Postwar Suburbs (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2001).

21 Naeemah Clark, “The Birth of an Advocacy Group: The First Six Years of Action for Children’s Television” Journalism History 30, no. 2 (Summer 2004), 67. On ACT, see also Evelyn Sarson, ed., Action for Children’s Television: The First National Symposium on the Effect on Children of Television Programming and Advertising (New York: Avon Books, 1971); Smith, “Zooming In on Zoom Watchers,” Part IV, 20; “News,” Library Journal 99 (May 15, 1974), 1426; William F. Fore, “FCC Cops Out on Children’s TV” Christian Century 91 (November 20, 1974): 1084-85; Heather Hendershot, “Action for (and against) Children's Television: ‘Militant Mothers’ and the Tactics of Television Reform” in Hendershot, Saturday Morning Censors: Television Regulation before the V-Chip (Durham: Duke University Press, 1998), 61-94; Morrow, Sesame Street and the Reform of Children’s Television. A similar West Coast parental advocacy group, Committee on Children’s Television, was founded in San Francisco and began publishing reports on local television shows by 1971.

22 See, for example, Smith, “Zooming In on Zoom Watchers,” Part IV, 20.

23 Ponchitta Pierce, “A Child’s Guide to Television,” McCalls XCVII, no. 12 (1971), 48; Smith, “Zooming In on Zoom Watchers,” Part IV, 20.

24 Kristin Joyce, “ZOOM – Youthful Imagination Makes Popular TV Show,” Christian Science Monitor, December 20, 1972, 10.

25 Carol Kramer, “ZOOM Is for Sharing,” Chicago Tribune, August 19, 1973, O7.

26 Pam Benson, ZOOMers Revisited: Where Are They Now? (Boston: WGBH Educational Foundation, 1998), 20.

27 Benson, ZOOMers Revisited, 48.

28 Robert McLean, “New ZOOM Starts with a Boom,” Boston Globe, November 9, 1974, 15.

29 Benson, ZOOMers Revisited, 16.

30 Joyce, “ZOOM – youthful imagination,” 10.

31 Bill Fripp, “The TV show for kids by kids,” Boston Globe, 15 Jan. 1972, 10.

32 Folder 206, WGBH.

33 Tony Kahn, “Welcome to the Mail” January 10, 1975, in “ZOOM facts,” WGBH.

34 S. W. “Kim.” in folder 7/11, box D02649, WGBH.

35 L.W. to ZOOM, envelope 18, WGBH.

36 J. B. to ZOOM, “Complimentary letters,” envelope 19, box D02649, WGBH.

37 Arnold Zeitlin, “Children of ‘Zoom’ Lead Protected Television Lives,” Austin American Statesman, December 25, 1977, 19.

38 James MacGregor, “When Is Moon Broke? Want an Apple Split? The Kids Love ‘Zoom,’” Wall Street Journal, May 21, 1973, 1, 20.

39 J. L. to ZOOM, Giggles folder, box D02649, WGBH.

40 M. G. to ZOOM, Giggles folder, box D02649, WGBH.

41 J. G. to ZOOM, Feedback”folder, box D02649, WGBH.

42 Christopher Sarson, “Audience Reactions to ZOOM Pilot, September 16, 1971,” in ZOOM Facts, WGBH.

43 Letter from D. K., Feedback folder, Complimentary letters, box D02649, WGBH.

44 “Dear ZOOMviewer,” Mail 1975 folder, WGBH.

45 Benson, ZOOMers Revisited, 21.

46 Joyce, “ZOOM – youthful imagination.”

47 Benson, ZOOMers Revisited, 36.

48 M. H. to ZOOM, 1978, Complimentary letters folder, envelope 19, WGBH.

49ZOOM” (n.d.), ZOOM Facts, WGBH. See also Karen Everhart Bedford, “Zoom, zoom, zooma-zoom: Kid-Power Comeback for New Generation,” Current, March 17, 1997, accessed October 26, 2021, https://current.org/wp-content/uploads/archive-site/ch/ch705.html

50 Letters in photograph collection, WGBH.

51 Cyclops, “Children’s Hour,” Newsweek, Februarry 26, 1973, 57.

52 D. S. to ZOOM, and G. G. to ZOOM, second box, WGBH.

53 “Raising Children in Modern America,” 1975 publicity kit, 1976-77 season, WGBH.

54 Teri Buskey, “Thoughts on ZOOM’s 40th Reunion,” March 9, 2015, WGBH Alumni website, accessed October 26, 2021, http://wgbhalumni.org/2012/08/17/zooms-40th-reunion/

55 M. C. to ZOOM, 1978, Complimentary letters, envelope 19, WGBH.

56 John Kifner, “White Pupils’ Rolls Drop a Third in Boston Busing,” New York Times December 15, 1975, 1. See also Anthony Lukas, Common Ground: A Turbulent Decade in the Lives of Three American Families (New York: Vintage, 1986); Ronald P. Formisano, Boston Against Busing: Race, Class, and Ethnicity in the 1960s and 1970s (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2004); Matthew F. Delmont, Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016).

57 Newsletter 3, no. 4, November 1973, ZOOM facts, WGBH.

58 A. P. to ZOOM, August 31, 1978, envelope 10, box D02649, WGBH.

59 Zeitlin, “Children of ‘Zoom’ Lead Protected Television Lives,” 19.

60 Benson, ZOOMers Revisited, 52-53.

61 Benson, ZOOMers Revisited, 26.