Action for Children's Television

Action for Children's Television

Action for Children's Television (ACT) was founded by Peggy Charren in Newton, Massachusetts in 1968 as a grassroots organization dedicated to improving the quality of television programming offered to children. Although concerned about "commercial abuses targeted to children," ACT took a stance, in Charren's words, "violently opposed to censorship." At its height, ACT included 20,000 volunteer members and an operational budget of up to a half a million dollars. It was disbanded in 1992.


Early targets

ACT's first target was Boston station WHDH's "Romper Room", a children's show focused on the promotion of its branded line of toys to its viewers. Threatened with referral to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), WHDH scaled back the host's role in pitching the program's products ("host-selling").


In 1970, ACT petitioned the FCC to ban advertising from children's programming. In subsequent years, it sought a more limited prohibition, eliminating commercials for specific categories of products. In 1971, ACT challenged the promotion of vitamins to children. "One-third of the commercials were for vitamin pills, even though the bottles said, 'Keep out of reach of children' because an overdose could put them in a coma," said Charren. Responding to ATC's campaign, vitamin-makers voluntarily withdrew their advertising.

In 1973, responding to concerns raised by ACT, the National Association of Broadcasters adopted a revised code limiting commercial time in children's programming to twelve minutes per hour. Additionally, the hosts of children's television programs were prohibited from appearing in commercials aimed at children.

In 1977, ACT, together with the Center for Science in the Public Interest, petitioned the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to ban television advertising targeted at children too young to understand the concept of selling, and to ban advertising for high-sugar foods to older children as well.


In the 1980s, ACT criticized television programs that featured popular toys such as "" and "He-Man", saying that they "blur the distinction between program content and commercial speech." It also opposed the proposed introduction of Channel One News, a television news show featuring advertiser-based programming, into the schools, an effort which met with only limited success.

ACT brought many cases before the courts, including "Action for Children's Television v. FCC, 821 F.2d 741 (D.C. Cir. 1987)," an often cited case in media law.

ACT's efforts culminated in the passage of the Children's Television Act of 1990, establishing formal guidelines for children's programming, including rules governing advertising, content and quantity. In 1992, Charren disbanded ACT, declaring that the organization had met its objectives.


Some small producerswho? of children's programming have blamed ACT for the cancellation of locally produced children's programs, due to lost revenue following the restrictions on "host-selling". []

External links

* [ ACT article in the Gale Encyclopedia of Childhood and Adolescence]
* [ ACT at the Museum of Broadcast Communications]

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