Are We Broadcasting Diversity to Our Children? A Close Examination of the 2004-2005 Season of Children's Television in the United States

Dr. David S. Silverman
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Broadcast networks in the United States have come under increasing scrutiny for television programming that casts few (if any) people of minority backgrounds, and fewer programs that discuss race or diversity in general. These same networks provide very little in the way of programming specifically designed for children. As studies have shown that children strongly identify with and mimic television programming, so too might they mimic racism by omission in the mass media. To counter this, television networks were strongly urged to significantly increase minority representation in their programming. Throughout the 1980's, as studies showed that children are more susceptible to the influences of television, the United States passed the Children's Television Act of 1990 to deal with the growth in both violence and commercialization of children's broadcast television. One of the stipulations of the Act requires that each television broadcaster provide a minimum of three hours of programming per week to serve "the educational or informational needs of children" as part of their licensing. This paper will closely examine the 2004-2005 children's television season as broadcast by the six television networks in the United States (ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, WB, and UPN) in order to study if these programs fulfil the goals of the Children's Television Act of 1990 with respect to increasing diversity representation. Through examining both the casts (principle, guest stars, and extras) of these programs for minority representation, as well as the storylines for issues that deal with diversity, race, or geopolitical understanding, it is our intention to determine what our children are watching this year so that we can understand how they may view the world around them.

Keywords: Diversity, Race, Ethnicity, Television, Broadcasting Regulations, FCC, "Kid Vid", Cultivation Theory, Content Analysis
Stream: Representations: Media, Communications, Arts, Literature
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Dr. David S. Silverman

Assistant Professor, Communications Department, Xavier University of Louisiana

David S. Silverman was born June 19, 1969, in Manhasset, New York. He attended public schools in Florida, Indiana, Illinois, and Missouri, earning his high school diploma as Salutatorian of Metro High School in St. Louis, Missouri. After attending engineering school for two years at Boston University, he went on to earn a B. A. in English from Florida State University in Tallahassee, Florida (1992) and an M. A. in English Studies from Illinois State University at Normal, Illinois (1994). Following a six-year career as a technical writer in Denver, Colorado, he returned to Missouri to earn his Ph. D. in Communication from the University of Missouri-Columbia (2004). He is presently married to Olga Rogalska, formerly of Riga, Latvia. He joined the faculty at Xavier University of Louisiana as an Assistant Professor of Communications in the fall of 2004.

Ref: D05P0016