‘Educational’ TV Falls Short, Study Says

Nov 12, 2008  •  Post A Comment

How educational are children’s educational TV shows on commercial channels? Not very, suggests a new study by Children’s Now, which finds that only 1 in 8 programs listed by TV stations as “educational/informational” in fact offer education of “high quality.”
Children Now says the study shows that about two of the eight programs are “minimally educational” and the rest are in between. It also says that based on its previous studies, the amount of “high quality” programming has declined in recent years.
The group, which focuses on children’s issues, is suggesting the study raises “serious doubts about broadcasters’ commitments to the nation’s children.”
The study was unveiled today at a Washington event and it focused on the three hours a week of educational/informational content for children that the nation’s TV stations are required to deliver.
The study was done by three researchers, Barbara J. Wilson and Kristin L. Drogos at the University of Illinois and by Dale Kunkel at the University of Arizona and sought to rate the educational/information programs on TV stations based on five factors.
The factors included the clarity of the message presentation, how often the lesson was repeated, how engaging or absorbing the lesson was, how connected the lesson was to real world tasks and finally to what extent learning the lesson resulted in a reward or positive reinforcement during the programming. The study analyzed 90 programs aired in 2007-2008.
According to the study, 23% of the programs were minimally educational; 63% were moderately educational and 13% were high quality. In a study the same group did in 1997 to 1998, 23% of the programs were of minimal quality, 63% of moderate quality and 13% of high quality. PBS shows received a much higher score.
The study was unveiled today at a Washington event that included a speech by Federal Communications Commission member Jonathan Adelstein.
In a statement, the National Association of Broadcasters said the study failed to include digital multicast channels programmed by broadcasters, including ION Media Network’s qubo Channel, a digital broadcast channel that boasts around-the-clock children’s educational programming.
“Local broadcasters have a deep commitment to serving children, whether it be through educational programming, public service announcements focusing on children’s issues, or our voluntary AMBER Alert initiative that has rescued hundreds of kidnapped children,” said NAB executive VP Dennis Wharton.
“We’re pleased that Children Now acknowledges that all children’s educational programming on broadcast television has educational value, and that more than three-quarters of the shows are either ‘moderately’ or ‘highly’ educational. As we transition to all-digital broadcasting, these efforts will only be strengthened by a rule that would prohibit cable and satellite TV operators from removing free multicast programming like ION’s 24/7 qubo Channel from their program line-up.”
(Editor: Baumann. Updated at 12:18 p.m. ET to add last three paragraphs.)


  1. Funny, I was thinking on the same exact lines, while watching some cartoons. Seems that nay animation exhibits that “e/i” bug, in the upper right corner of the screen.
    I was watching several shows that were just entertainment. Therefore, If “e/i” means “entertaining” and “indulgent”, that would fit, better than making it “E/I” as “educational/informational”. Note that some teenybopper shows on NBC and ABC do not have a bit of educational or informational material, yet display the bug.
    The FCC needs to set up limits on what is “e/i” and each show should be rated as E/I or not, just like the TV and movie ratings.

  2. I dare anyone to show me the E/I content of “Dino Squad” or “Sushi Pack”, two programs billed as having E/I content on CBS.

  3. “Open thine eyes that I might see….” – hello – we’re living in a world with a bizillion channels, video games, internet, DVDs, entertainment options. Show me the highest quality “educational” kids program and then find a kid that will watch it. Do the people running these groups have kids? Admiral intentions by all of us kiddie watchdogs, but we have to get real. Unless it is sugar coated, they will not watch E/I content. There are too many far more entertaining choices in their lives competing for their attention. If the critics say the current crop of E/I shows don’t have enough educational value, take a look at the ratings. The kids aren’t even watching the sugary coated E/I programs. We need to get real and understand the world our kids live in today.

  4. With survey results like this for broadcast TV, cable companies should be ramping up their promotional efforts regarding the amount of educational programming they continue to provide to viewers (Cable in the Classroom, CIC Magazine, “BrainFuel TV” TV show, etc…)

  5. Wasn’t it this idiotic law that ruin children’s television on broadcast television? With no Canadian equivalent, and the reduction of quality in the US, pretty much all private Canadian stations have discontinued airing kids TV at all.

  6. To “Reality Check”:
    PBS had five of the top ten weekday programs among kids 2-5 in July:
    3 SUPER WHY! 4.6
    6 DRAGON TALES 4.1
    9 SESAME STREET 3.3 (which has also won more Emmy awards than any other show in the history of television)
    So I guess PBS — with its admirable intentions — has found at least five educational shows that children will watch.

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