As the founder and former president of the children’s advocacy group Children Now, Jim Steyer called on media executives to improve the content of children’s programming. Now, as the chairman and CEO of a new children’s multimedia company, he’s facing the ‘challenge,’ he says, of putting his money where his mouth is.
To that end, says Steyer, JP Kids has a ‘true commitment to education and children.’ An advisory board of child educators and media experts helps develop core curriculum for the company’s projects. ‘Media have extraordinary potential for good,’ says Steyer, ‘and can be extraordinary tools for teaching kids around the world.’
While Steyer says that JP Kids is entering ‘a very competitive marketplace,’ he believes the company is well poised with such staff as Liz Nealon, former senior vice president at MTV; Marc Chusid, who has worked most recently as vice president, on-air/creative director with Comedy Central; John DeNatale, senior producer of the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour; a Miranda Barry, writer and producer; Beth Barker, past president of The Software Toolworks/Mindscape; and Ann Dilworth, previously president of The Times Mirror Corporation. In total, the company employs 15 staff between its production studio in New York and executive offices in Oakland, California.
JP Kids already has a handful of projects under way. Its first effort, a family movie of the week called Harambee!, ran on PBS and Black Entertainment Television during the holiday season. Green Wilma, an animated program for kids six to 11 starring a frog in the fifth grade, is in production. DeBUNK, a teen news and information magazine, has received funding for the pilot from the National Association of Broadcasters’ Education Foundation. The company’s biggest projects, says Steyer, are Klutz-TV, a comedy show based on the 55-title book series from Klutz Press, and Yahooligans!, a venture with Yahoo! for short-form TV programming and a series, as well as tie-ins to the Internet and other media, to provide information about the World Wide Web.
Although most of its projects to date are for television, Steyer emphasizes that JP Kids is a multimedia company, and plans to create home videos, films, CD-ROMs, printed materials, games, toys and other products.
Steyer says he did not start JP Kids in anticipation of the new FCC rules, but the timing is fortuitous. ‘[The regulations are] helpful because we’re known right from the beginning as folks who bring real educational and child development expertise to the table as part of the mission of the company.’