Showbiz summit aims to raise kidvid quality

Writers given three guidelines

Children’s advocates and showbiz execs agreed Thursday to help TV writers take on the baddies of kidvid: Bullies, violence and the stereotyping of minorities.

The commitment came at a two-day confab “Children’s Media Summit: Developing Guidelines for Creative Professionals,” which brought together reps from studios and networks, the Parent Teachers Assn. and the Writers Guild. The aim was to devise a plan of action for television writers aimed to tone down “unhealthy images” on the TV screen. The meeting also sought to revise a 1994 code for children’s programming.

“The wave of school violence recently has increased a national interest in kid’s programming,” said Laurie Trotta, executive director of Mediascope, one of the event’s sponsors. “We now have a reasonable set of guidelines for the creative community, not just for television, that will be used to create quality children’s programming.”

One attendee pointed out that maintaining kids’ interest while creating quality programming isn’t easy.

“There’s a constant push-and-pull in Hollywood between the need for good storytelling and the responsibility toward the community,” said Andy Heyward, prexy and CEO of DIC, which hosted the event in Burbank. “We are now reaching a consensus about what kind of values the children’s media should be instilling in our children, especially with the convergence of digital media.”

The attendees settled on three areas that should be addressed by writers: the character and values of the cast, portrayals of violence and diversity and stereotypes. Each of these elements has a substantial role in influencing viewers, according to Trotta. Once the guideline document is completed, it will offer alternatives to network programmers and producers about how to write for children.

“The biggest thing to come out of this conference its the acknowledgment by various people at the networks and studios and organizations outside of Hollywood that everyone involved in this summit is thinking of ways to handle these sensitive issues and concerns about kids programming,” said Roland Poindexter, VP and head of programming at Fox Kids. “It helps to know that in the course of storytelling, there may be a way to send the right kinds of messages in our programs while being able to portray the matter holistically.”

In 1994, DIC Entertainment, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National PTA and the UCLA School of Education first convened in order to “eliminate inappropriate content and gratuitous violence in children’s programming.” The result was the creation of a code for children’s programming that contained voluntary guidelines.