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Most area stations meet kids' TV quota

Area families won't notice much change on television following Monday's agreement by the White House and broadcasters to adopt stricter standards for "educational" children's programs and how often stations air them.

Though the government will require broadcasters to air at least three hours of informative TV for kids a week between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., most Tampa Bay stations already do. Only WTVT-Ch. 13, the local-news intensive Fox affiliate will need to increase its allotment significantly.

"Whatever we're asked to do we'll do. We may even go above and beyond," says Channel 13's marketing director Nancy Dudenhoefer. "I don't think children's educational programing is inconsistent with what we do."

The Federal Communications Commission will vote to finalize the pact this week. Members will then redefine just what constitutes educational TV. After that, it will be up to networks and individual stations to use good judgment in determining which shows qualify, and then properly alert viewers.

Stations that fail to comply will risk losing their broadcasting license. The ruling, which enforces the 1990 Children's Television Act, does not affect cable.

"This is a terrific win for kids and families. You can turn off what's terrible on TV but you can't turn off what's not there," notes Peggy Charren, who founded Action for Children's Television 26 years ago as a lobby for quality choices for kids.

In Tampa Bay, the nation's 15th largest TV market, only 27 percent of the 1.4-million households have children under 18. Yet two of the four major network affiliates _ WFTS-Ch. 28 and WTSP-Ch. 10 _ already air three hours of children's educational programing a week. WFLA-Ch. 8 airs two, and Channel 13 offers only 90 minutes, having passed the 19-hour Fox Children's Network to WTTA-Ch. 38.

Independents WTOG-Ch. 44 and Channel 38 also air three hours of educational kids TV. WTMV-Ch. 32 airs 2{.

Though most of the stations comply with network-provided or syndicated programing _ from the Emmy-winning show Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego (Channel 38) to the quirky Bill Nye, Science Guy (Channel 8) _ some spend more to produce local kids programs. Channel 28 airs its own kids club show, David D. TV, while Channel 10 teaches teens how to make a newsmagazine on 10 Ultimate.

Unlike the controversial, action-oriented Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the "FCC-friendly" informative programs rarely cause merchandising crazes. But they can cause debate: Already, there are questions surrounding the guidelines that allow NBC to classify teen sitcoms such as Saved by the Bell educational fare.

"There's a moral to the stories," says Steve Gleason, director of programing at Channel 8. "They're trying to do it in a way that kids will watch, not in a way that Steve Gleason will watch."

"It's very easy to come up with pure, educational and uplifting programs," adds Channel 28 General Manager Jim Major. "But if the kids reject it, you haven't accomplished anything."

Another dilemma is serving the varying attention spans in the 16-year-old-and-younger group targeted under the new guidelines.

"Two-to-5-year-olds are very different from 5-to-8 and 8-to-10-year-olds," said Barbara Sobocinski, vice president of marketing and public affairs at Channel 10. "They grow so fast, it's hard to serve everyone."

Under the new guidelines, it will be up to broadcasters to defend their choices, and viewers to challenge suspicious programs. So if parents don't think Saved By the Bell really teaches, it's their duty to speak up.

"I don't want the FCC to say yes and no," Charren says. "I want the public to say it. This is democracy working."

Children's shows on local TV

Below are the programs currently deemed educational children's fare by the local affiliates and the broadcast networks.

ABC Ch. 28

+ Not Just The News (Sat., 6 a.m.): Syndicated news program aimed at children

+ Nick News (Sat., 6:30 a.m.): Syndicated version of award-winning Nickelodeon news show from Linda Elleberee's Lucky Duck Productions.

+ Wild About Animals (Sat., 7 a.m.): Syndicated animal education fare

+ Free Willy (Sat., 8:30 a.m.): Animated pro-environmental series about a boy and a three-ton whale.

+ Fudge: (Sat., 9 a.m.): Live action story of a young boy and his brother, based on the popular Judy Blume book.

+ David D. TV (Sat., 9:30 a.m.): Locally produced show starring former Fox Kids Club host David Dodd


Ch. 10

+ News for Kids (Saturdays, 6 a.m.): Syndicated news program for children

+ Feed Your Mind (Saturdays, 6:30 a.m.): CNN's news magazine for kids.

+ 10 Ultimate (Saturdays, 7:30 a.m.): News magazine for kids, produced by students from 15 area high schools

+ Beakman's World (Saturdays, Noon): CBS science program

+ National Geographic's Really Wild Animals (Saturdays, 12:30 p.m.): Live-action animal series


Ch. 8

+ Saved By the Bell: The New Class (Saturdays, 10 and 11 a.m.): Updated version of popular comedy featuring Southern California teenagers

+ California Dreams (Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.): Music-comedy series about teenage friends in a rock band

+ Bill Nye, Science Guy (Saturdays, 11:30 a.m.): Science-oriented education show


Ch. 13+

Children's educational programs airing on Ch. 13 currently:

+ Out of the Blue (Saturday, 10 a.m.): A Saved By The Bell-like teen sitcom

+ Reality Check (Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.): Kids have adventures with computers

+ In the Zone, (Saturdays, 11 a.m.): Baseball-related

Ch. 38

+ Fox educational programs now showing here that may move to Ch. 13 include: Fox Cubhouse (M-F, 8 a.m.): Bobby's World (M-F, 3:30 p.m.); Where on Earth is Carmen Sandiego (Sat., 8 a.m.); Life With Louie (Sat. 11:30 a.m.); Goosebumps (Fridays, 4:30 p.m.)

Source: Local stations. Compiled by MONICA YANT, Times TV writer