THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESS BRIEFING BY JOHN EMERSON, DEPUTY DIRECTOR OF INTERGOVERNMENTAL AFFAIRS
The Briefing Room
1:06 P.M. EDT
MS. GLYNN: We've got a whole series of briefers today, beginning with John Emerson, who is the Deputy Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and Deputy Assistant to the President. He's going to talk to you about the Children's TV Summit for Monday.
After that, Secretary of Energy Hazel O'Leary and Jack Gibbons, the Director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy will be here to answer your questions about the President's event later. And then Bob Bell, the Senior Director for Defense Policy and Arms Control at the NSC on CTBT.
But John Emerson first.
MR. EMERSON: We're doing Monday morning the White House Conference on Children's Television. This will be from 9:30 a.m. to noon in the East Room. The whole thing will be open.
Basically in terms of the flow of this, the v-chip and the White House conference with the media executives on TV ratings that we did in February were about giving parents the power to choose. What this conference is about is giving them better choices when it comes to educational and children's television programming.
The structure will be a U-shaped table with all the participants around the table. And the President, the Vice President, the First Lady and Mrs. Gore will all be participating.
We will commence with introductory remarks from the President. We'll then move into a panel discussion on the importance of television as a positive force in child development. And the First Lady will moderate that session. And we'll have some experts talk about their research in that area.
The third agenda item will be models of success in children's educational programming. And Mrs. Gore will moderate that session. And then finally, overcoming barriers to producing more and better children's television. One of the items that came up at the media conference we did was people said, well, we can produce this stuff, but kids just don't watch it. So we will address that. And the Vice President will moderate that fourth and final segment of this.
Some of the participants basically include industry representatives, advocates, experts and some advertisers are, just in no particular order: Jamie Kellner, who is Chairman of Warner Brothers Network and was actually the first person who created the Fox Television Network; David Britt of the Children's Television Workshop -- and they're the people that do Sesame Street, for instance; LeVar Burton, who has a show on PBS called The Reading Rainbow that is quite excellent; Rich Frank of the TV Academy; Eddie Fritts of the National Association of Broadcasters; Mr. Rogers -- don't know whether he'll be wearing a sweater or not; Jerry Laybourne of ABC, who was the initial -- or President of Nickelodeon when that got started. She is now at ABC and oversees the Disney Channel and all those efforts. Linda Ellerbee; Herb Scannell of Nickelodeon; Gred Meidel, who heads MCA TV; Newt Minow, who was FCC chair when Kennedy was President; Jeff Bewkes, President of HBO; Peggy Charren, who is probably the best-known advocate of more and better children's programming; Erv Duggan of PBS; Kathleen Hall Jamieson from the University of Pennsylvania School of Communications; Judith McHale from the Discovery Channel; and Margaret Loesch, who heads up Fox Children's Television Network. That's a representative group. There will probably be about 45 people in all participating.
Q Are you disappointed that the networks are sending lower ranking people this time, as compared to the v-chip?
MR. EMERSON: No, as a matter of fact, this is a different kind of conference. And what we said to both the networks and the studios was -- we called them up, described what our objectives were and what the conference is going to be about, and basically gave them the option of sending whomever they thought was the most appropriate. ABC, for instance, made the decision that Jerry Laybourne, given her vast experience in this area, was the most appropriate person. We're fine with that.
Q Well, they say that -- the networks say that they're going to make no commitments at this, and they don't have to because it's not required by law like the v-chip. So what do you expect out of this?
MR. EMERSON: Well, first of all, in terms of -- those are issues that are being dealt with at the FCC and not here. As I said, what this is about is talking about how we can increase and improve the choices that parents have when it comes to television programming for their kids. And when you get together a group like this -- I don't think this has ever happened before, where you have the people who are involved in creating the shows, many of the people from the networks who are involved in either deciding what's going to be aired or also in creating the shows, with some of the experts and also the advocates, to talk about -- talk about basically how to improve children's television, I don't think that's ever happened before.
And so -- well, hopefully what will come out of this is certainly a heightened awareness on the part of all participants and better and more children's TV.
Q To follow up on that, what authority does the President of the United States have to insist that private broadcasters change or modify their -- the content of their programming?
MR. EMERSON: Again, that's not -- that's not what we're talking about here. I think you better talk to lawyers, folks at the FCC about those kinds of questions. This is about bringing people who are -- this is -- the presidency is bully pulpit, bringing the players in the entertainment industry who are involved in children's programming together to talk about what works and how we can get more of it.
Q And what are you hoping is going to come out of this -- going to be the eventual result somewhere down the road? I mean, all of these people are not unaware of what each other is doing. The nets know what the activist groups are doing and so on. There's not a huge amount of ignorance there. What do you think that this is going to result in down the road? What's going to eventually result from it?
MR. EMERSON: Again, as with the rating system, which is -- in fact yesterday, there was a big meeting here in Washington of the ratings committee, or ratings group, that Jack Valenti is leading. As with the rating system, this isn't something that's going to happen overnight. But clearly I think the presidential attention that's being brought to this issue and to the importance of improving children's television and educational programming has in one instance led to the ratings system, the v-chip giving parents the power to choose. And it is our hope that ultimately this attention, this spotlight, this focus, bringing the players together will lead to more and better children's television in the months to come.
Q By law, like the v-chip or voluntarily?
MR. EMERSON: Again, I mean, this is about -- this is about a voluntary meeting.
Q More and better children's television voluntarily, though. You don't want a law requiring --
MR. EMERSON: Again, I'm not -- I'm the conference guy. Talk to the FCC folks about what they can and can't do.
Q Well, that's not FCC -- what does the President of the United States want?
MR. EMERSON: Well, he'll talk about that on Monday.
Q The President has twice in the last week talked about how he watches the Sci-Fi channel. Anybody invited from that?
MR. EMERSON: I don't think we have anybody from the Sci-Fi channel. Maybe Jack can speak to that in a couple of minutes.
Q John, I may have missed it -- exactly what role does the President play physically in this thing?
MR. EMERSON: He will open it up. He will, obviously be -- and I think we've all been through a number of these conferences -- economic conferences, for instance and the last media conference. I mean, he will be an active participant in the discussion. And he will wrap up each, as we go through the three substantive areas, he will wrap those up and then transition into the next area.
Q John, so you're ruling out any announcement regarding industry view on the three-hour requirement on Monday, that that will not happen?
MR. EMERSON: To be honest with you, I don't whether that will or will not happen.
THE PRESS: Thank you.
END 1:17 P.M. EDT