Are We Broadcasting Diversity to Our Children? A Close Examination of the 2004-2005 Season of Children's Television in the United States
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
Dr. David S. Silverman
Assistant Professor, Communications Department, Xavier University of Louisiana