Bye Bye (Big) Birdy?!

My subscription to Digg’s top stories has alerted me to the possibility that if elected, Mitt Romney wil cut funding to PBS (Public Broadcasting Service) – which is responsible for the show that taught me my ABC’s, all the way to ‘zee’… Sesame Street!  

The Public Broadcast Service has been a recurrent taret for conservative politicians in America – under fire for being a waste of money. However, educational programming on television has dwindled already and research has shown that while families of lower socio-economic status spend more time watching TV their children can benefit from increased school readiness skills and families that watch Sesame Street and other educational offerings on PBS tend to watch it together more often than noneducational network programming (Wright et al. 2001).

Losing the government subsidy will not cause PBS to disappear off the map, but it will effect the number of stations that can operate.

In America, aside from PBS, children’s educational programming exists mainly on cable TV (Disney channel, Nickelodeon etc). Their content does not hold the same educational value as PBS programs do. The cutting of funding from PBS could have a huge impact on teaching in rural areas, where educational programs are used in conjunction with traditional classroom teaching methods to maintain kids interest.

 Many of the non-educational options depict violence, glamorize slapstick behavior and contain few situations that aide in children’s cognitive development.

The situation is brighter Down Under with ACMA strictly regulating the content shown on free-to-air TV, however, we stil have a way to go with regards to producing educational programs for kids. With channels such as ABC3 dedicated solely to children’s programming and the Children’s Television Services (CTS)’s requirements that commercial television licensee’s broadcast specific hours of content aimed at children every year you would think we would be okay, but those hours are quite small in the scheme of things (“130 hours of material classified as preschool (P) and 260 hours of material classified as children’s (C)”) and little of that is educational. We have Playschool, but what else do we have that is more then just entertainment for kids?

Whilst this article does not directly relate to the Australian Media Industry, no doubt should Romney win the election and said cuts do go ahead, it will effect broadcast corporations and spark further debate about Government Funding of ABC and the rules surrounding the broadcasting of the little educational content we currently have for children on free-to-air TV.

Read the full article from Scientific American here.

See ACMA’s regulations here.