Written by: Tom Rieland
Date: September 11, 2009

We were thrilled to have a visit yesterday with the new COO of PBS, Michael Jones and Senior VP Joyce Herring. They toured our facilities and we had sessions with our managers and senior staff. Given what we heard, there will be a new strategic plan for PBS shortly and it may change the organization remarkably. I also wanted to post the following written by PBS President Paula Kerger and extremely relevant to children and the digital media world:

By Paula Kerger, president and CEO of PBS:

Keeping pace with the digital revolution is no easy task. Policymakers must come to grips with the impact of sweeping and fast-paced technological changes on a daunting array of issues. On the vital issue of children’s education, it appears that this Congress has begun to take up the challenge.
Recently the Senate Commerce Committee and Julius Genachowski, the new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, took an important first step in reviewing the state of the Children’s Television Act in the digital age.
Passed in 1990, the act was designed to assure the creation and distribution of quality educational programming for the medium’s youngest viewers. The act mandated that broadcasters offer a minimum of three hours of educational and informational children’s programming per week.
The law addressed advertising limits on children’s programming as well, with the intent of reducing commercialization in programming.
In addressing the need to modernize the legislation, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) framed the issue: “Our media landscape has changed dramatically during the last two decades … How do we take these values and apply them to the very different media universe our children know today?”
Rockefeller cited a digital world where the TV screen is fusing with the computer screen, where cable channels have multiplied and young people view programming over mobile phones.
In testifying before Congress, Chairman Genachowski was clear: “Guarding against inappropriate marketing to children is as vital as it was 20 years ago.”
We need to establish new policies to ensure that commercial and marketing interests do not take precedence over the welfare of our children. The imperative is to monitor the tidal wave of content that has become available on cable, satellite, mobile devices, video games and the Internet.
PBS will continue to play its role as both a standard-bearer and innovator in children’s programming. At present, more than 350 PBS stations offer a minimum of 35 hours per week of free educational and informational offerings for kids.
Educational media can make a difference. A new study ascertained that watching the PBS series “SUPERWHY!” helped children with poor reading ability improve their literacy skills to match those of children with more resources. Children from low-income families who watched as few as two episodes of the series scored 46 percent higher on standardized tests than those who did not watch the program.
The challenge here is much more than bringing the Children’s Television Act into the 21st century. It is to maintain the intent and spirit of the original legislation: to put the interests of children first.