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Special Report: Tune In to Kids and Family: A Cable TV Initiative: Kudos for the initiative but try living with FCC rulings

More than 75 cable channels have banded together for one week to pledge prime-time hours to the first Tune In to Kids and Family initiative, an event they hope will prove that cable is a family-friendly place...
March 1, 1997

More than 75 cable channels have banded together for one week to pledge prime-time hours to the first Tune In to Kids and Family initiative, an event they hope will prove that cable is a family-friendly place

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The reaction of television networks to cable’s Tune In to Kids and Family initiative has been positive overall. Many insiders echo the view of Fox Kids Networks Worldwide’s chairman and CEO, Margaret L’esch, that it’s ‘a smart strategy on their part. What is an issue for me is the implication that we’re not for kids and family. I think that what they’re saying without saying it is, ‘we’re family, but [the networks] are not.”

L’esch points out that cable’s commitment to family programming is inherently different than the broadcast networks. ‘Cable has been in an enviable position in that they have not had to adhere to the guidelines and regulations of commercial broadcast television.’

L’esch adds that the programs dubbed ‘family-friendly’ on cable might not pass muster on the networks. ‘It’s always baffled me that critics and Washington could so admonish commercial television and say nothing about some of the programming on cable.’

‘It’s definitely a fact that the networks are burdened by all these regulations,’ notes Robby London, DIC Entertainment’s senior vice president, creative affairs. London says providers of children’s entertainment product are aware of cable’s programming edge. ‘It’s not fair because cable is free to put on whatever programs kids want to watch, rather than the obligation the networks have to air programs that the FCC thinks they should be watching,’ he says. ‘It’s a fair criticism of the situation to say that it is an unlevel playing field.’

Even though he’s struck by this inequity, London is quick to praise cable for the spirit of the initiative. ‘This is something I really feel strongly about, having been in children’s television for the last five years,’ London notes. ‘Children’s television has been bashed for its ‘unconscionable programming.’ Most of us know that we make a lot of programming that never gets media attention some great, great programs.’

Los Angeles Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg feels that if cable is trying to address an image problem by undertaking this initiative, they’re misguided. ‘I don’t think it’s true that the public perceives cable as being Playboy and R-rated movies.’

Rosenberg argues that cable defies easy labeling, because of its wide range of offerings. ‘Cable, whatever its failings and it has lots of failings is rather diverse. You just can’t say, ‘cable,’ because you’re talking about ESPN and you’re talking about HBO.’

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