You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Kid Crusader

NAME: Peggy Charren

DESCRIPTION: The grande dame of kidvid.

WHATTHEY’RE SAYING: Her quixotic FCC program-quotas fight may get quashed.

No one had reason to revel more than Peggy Charren when Congress passed a 1990 law requiring TV stations to meet the educational needs of kids.

After trolling Capitol Hill 22 years for such a law, the spunky kidvid crusader called it quits. She turned the lights out at the Newton, Mass.-based Action for Children’s Television and retired to become a full-time grandmother.

“I thought the press would stop calling me, ” says Charren, who admits to being something of a media ham. “My tombstone will probably say: ‘ She was a good soundbite.'”

Charren’s fears of being ignored never materialized, particularly not since broadcasters still claim shows such as “Biker Mice From Mars” and “America’s Funniest Home Videos” are suitably educational to warrant Federal Communications Commission license renewal.

The 67-year-old Charren has returned to the fray, morphing from Grandma to gadfly in support of FCC chairman Reed Hundt’s bid to force stations to air three hours a week of educational shows for moppets.

Charren’s activist streak may come from her uncle, Sidney Buchman, a Hollywood screenwriter whose credits include “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” Buchman ascended to VP of Columbia Pictures under Harry Cohn before being targeted during the McCarthy witchhunts of the 1950s. Charren says proudly that Uncle Sidney moved to London rather than rat on Communist sympathizers in Hollywood.

While raising two daughters and running children’s book fairs in suburban Boston in the mid-1960s, Charren grew distressed at the dearth of suitable programming for kids. In 1968, she formed ACT – a self-described “wispy, underfunded consumer group” – and began taking aim at the “greedy grinches” in the broadcast industry.

Jeff Chester, who along with Kathryn Montgomery has assumed the kidvid activist mantle in D.C. as co-founders of the Center for Media Education, says Charren “gives broadcasters headaches, but she gets things done. Without Peggy, there would be no rules protecting kids from broadcasters.”

Charren says censorship has never been part of her agenda. Her goal, she says, was merely to force broadcasters to meet their public interest obligations to kids. “Self-regulation will never work. Either you make strong laws and follow them, or there will always be manipulation of children, ” says Charren.

Broadcasters responded to ACT’s pleas in the 1970s, but Charren claims “the bottom fell out” when deregulation guru Mark Fowler became chairman of the FCC during the Reagan administration. Suddenly, programs such as “Captain Kangaroo” were being replaced by program-length toy commercials.

With Reagan and Fowler gone, Charren scored her biggest coup ever – passage of Rep. Ed Markey’s 1990 Children’s Television Act.

Now Charren has her eye on the big enchilada: Hundt’s three-hour-per-week kidvid quota plan. The FCC vote is shaping up as a 3-2 loss for Hundt, who’s been vilified by broadcasters and Republicans on Capitol Hill for pressing the proposal.

Predictably, Charren rises to Hundt’s defense. “There’s something sick about hammering an FCC commissioner who’s standing up for children, ” she says. Charren says she’s hopeful the FCC vote goes her way. “It helps to be an optimist when you’re a child advocate.”

More Scene

  • Ron HowardBreakthrough Prize, Arrivals, NASA Ames

    Ron Howard Talks New Luciano Pavarotti Documentary

    If one is an anomaly, two are a coincidence and three are a trend, then Ron Howard might strictly become a music documentarian after “Pavarotti” hits theaters. The documentary about the world-famous Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti comes on the heels of Howard’s “The Beatles: Eight Days a Week” and “Made in America,” a look at [...]

  • Cara Delevingne poses for photographers upon

    Cara Delevingne to Be Honored With Hero Award at Trevor Project New York Gala

    The Trevor Project will honor Cara Delevingne with the Hero Award at its upcoming TrevorLIVE New York gala. Delevingne has supported The Trevor Project‘s efforts to end LGBTQ youth suicide rates, in addition to using her platform to speak out about mental health issues, women’s rights and animal conservation. On screen, she has acted in [...]

  • Kristen Stewart'JT LeRoy' Film Premiere, Arrivals,

    Kristen Stewart: 'Charlie's Angels' Reboot Is 'Woke' but Still 'Funny and Weird'

    “Charlie’s Angels” has made the jump to 2019. Kristen Stewart, who stars in the Elizabeth Banks-directed reboot as one of the Angels, says the classic ’70s franchise has been updated to modern times without losing its pulpy action. “At one point I think we said it was woke and grounded, and everyone was like, ‘Wait, [...]

  • Robert De Niro

    Robert De Niro Slams Trump Administration at Tribeca Opening Night

    The 18th annual Tribeca Film Festival opened with Roger Ross Williams’ documentary “The Apollo” at the iconic uptown venue which performers and Harlem community members call “home.” “You can feel the history, the echo of the entertainers,” Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro said in a speech before the film. “In this administration, during [...]

  • Lilli Cooper Tootsie

    How the 'Tootsie' Musical Was Updated for the #MeToo Era

    Turning the beloved 1982 comedy “Tootsie” into a 21st century musical already seemed like a challenge when work on the adaptation began back in 2016. Then the #MeToo movement revved up — and the writers knew they couldn’t tell Dorothy’s story for a modern audience without it. “It’s different than it was when the movie [...]

  • Ralph Fiennes attends a special screening

    Ralph Fiennes on Directing Rudolf Nureyev Biopic: 'It's Been a Very, Very Long Road'

    Ralph Fiennes celebrated his latest directorial outing, “The White Crow,” on Monday night in New York City. The Sony Pictures Classics film tells the story of legendary dancer Rudolf Nureyev. “It’s been a very, very long road. We were mad. We were mad to take on this subject of Rudolf Nureyev. Mad. Completely mad,” Fiennes [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content