"ABANDONED IN THE WASTELAND: Children, Television, and the First Amendment" by Newton N. & Craig L. LaMay Minow

"ABANDONED IN THE WASTELAND: Children, Television, and the First Amendment"

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A rousing if slightly canned diatribe against commercial children's television, by a former FCC chairman and broadcasting executive. In 1961, Minow made headlines by chiding broadcasters for turning TV into a ""vast wasteland."" Here he -- and his prot‚g‚, journalist LaMay, who graciously allows Minow the first-person singular throughout -- deplores the ""vaster"" wasteland of child-accessible TV, which sends ""salesmen, animated assault artists, and leering talk-show hosts"" into the living rooms of neglected kids for hours a day. Protecting children from such ""toxic"" programming is manifestly in the public interest, the authors contend; therefore, broadcasters should not be allowed to hide behind the First Amendment's free-speech guarantee. Minow (Presidential Television, 1973) and LaMay vigorously argue for the enforcement of the toothless Children's TV Act of 1990, which provided for time limits on commercials and mandated airing of educational shows. They write convincingly of the need for follow-up measures, such as an antitrust exemption for broadcasters to enable them to coordinate the scheduling of such shows. They also make a strong case for the ""v-chip,"" a computer chip that would allow parents to screen out unsuitable programs. But the authors are on shaky ground when they discuss actual TV shows. For example, they fail to see that Sesame Street's merchandising teaches preschoolers to link program and product, thereby setting the stage for program-length merchandising like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. The authors naively assume that older children would be sated by a strict diet of shows that transmit values, offer scant support for their assertion that comic-book karate on TV makes kids violent, and concede that regulations eliminating TV violence ""may indeed capture Hamlet."" You get the feeling the authors don't watch kids who watch TV, but their eloquent defense of public television comes at a crucial time.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Hill & Wang