THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
OPENING REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT AT CHILDREN'S TELEVISION CONFERENCE
The East Room
10:00 A.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Thank you. Good morning. We're delighted to see all of you here for this historic meeting. A lot of you have come a long way, some of you on the red-eye, and I appreciate the efforts you've made to be here.
We're here for a clear purpose: to improve and expand educational television for our children. The ability of the United States to make the 21st century the age of greatest possibility in our nation's history depends in no small measure on our ability to build strong families today; to help our parents to succeed not only in the workplace, but in their most important job, raising good, well-educated, well-balanced, successful children.
That is why we have worked so hard to give our families more control over one of the most influential forces in our nation, television. As all of you know better than I, it is now a major part of our national landscape. A typical child watches 25,000 hours of television before his or her 18th birthday. Preschoolers watch 28 hours of television a week, and at least during the Olympics, so do Presidents.
We have dedicated ourselves to giving parents the power to screen out television they believe their children should not see. That's what the V-chip was all about. I was proud to sign the telecommunications law with the V-chip requirement to give parents the ability to stop programming that they think is inappropriate for their young children to see.
You in the entertainment industry have certainly been doing your part. Meeting here in the White House five months ago, you volunteered to rate shows for content. You came together as responsible, corporate citizens to give America's families an early-warning system. Parents who use the V-chip will now be able to block objectionable shows before it's too late.
Together these initiatives constitute an invaluable arsenal for America's parents. And I'd also like to point out that this is a challenge being met in the appropriate way by people working together and coming together, not fighting and drifting apart.
But that is only half the battle. As Americans we have to define ourselves not simply by what we stand against, but more importantly by what we stand for. Now, we have the opportunity to use the airwaves for something positive -- educational programming as great as our kids. Television can be a strong and positive force. It can help children to learn. It can reinforce rather than undermine the values we work so hard to teach our children, showing children every day what it means to share, to respect themselves and others, to take responsibility for their actions, to have sympathy with others who have difficulties, even to recognize that "it's not easy being green."
This morning I would like to hear from you about what we can do to broaden the range of quality educational programming for children. I hope we can focus on three specific issues. First, I'd like to talk about the new research that shows how kids can learn valuable lessons from TV over the course of their young lifetimes. Second, I'd like to find out more about what good shows look like. Third, I'd like us to talk about how we can break down the barriers to the development and production of quality educational programming for children.
Before we begin, I would like to make an announcement. For the past year I've been calling upon the Federal Communications Commission to require broadcasters to air a minimum of three hours of genuine educational programming a week -- three hours a week, 180 minutes a week, about 2.5 percent of the entire schedule. Such a requirement would halt a steep and troubling decline.
As recently as the early '80s, the three major networks aired several hours more than that of children's educational and informational shows. But by 1990, they were down to two hours a week or less than two hours a week. The number is inching up now, but we must do more. The airwaves that broadcasters use, after all, belong to all of us. And in exchange for their use, broadcasters are required to serve the public interest. I cannot imagine anything that serves the public interest more than seeing to it that we give our children at least three hours of educational television a week.
That's why it gives me great pleasure to announce that the four major networks, the National Association of Broadcasters, and some of the leading advocates for educational television have come together to join me in supporting a new proposal to require broadcasters to air three hours of quality educational programming a week.
This proposal fulfills the promise of the Children's Television Act -- that television should serve the educational and informational needs of our young people. It gives broadcasters flexibility in how to meet those needs. And it says to America's parents, you are not alone; we are all committed to working with you to see that educational programming for your children makes the grade.
I urge the FCC to adopt this proposal, to make the three-hour rule the law of the land. Television can build up young lives rather than tear them down.
I'd like to say a particular word of thanks to Congressman Ed Markey for his work on this issue, and a very special word of appreciation to the Vice President for his tireless efforts, along with Greg Simon, to bring about this agreement. I thank them very, very much. Today we can work to imagine television as a force for good, to imagine what television for children would look like if it resembled what we imagined it was when we were children or when you first got started in this business.
In recent days, as families have gathered to watch the Olympics, we have all been reminded about the good that television can bring into our homes, how it can bring us together, how it can inspire and educate us. This should be our standard. I'm anxious now to get to work.
And I'd like to invite three people to come up here for some comments of their own about the agreement that has been reached: Eddie Fritts, the president of the National Association of Broadcasters; Les Moonves, the president of CBS Entertainment; Peggy Charren, the founder of Action for Children's Television.
END 10:06 A.M. EDT