Wednesday, July 22, 2015

E/I PROGRAMMING: IS IT REALLY EDUCATIONAL & INFORMATIONAL? (Uh, I know what you're thinking, but why is "Biz Kids" and "Animal Rescue" on the old TV show channel I can only get when I hook my digital antenna to my toaster oven?)

Meanwhile, in computer, no internet world...

(David flips channels in the early, early morning. Every so often, and on a strange channels, he runs into a programs that have an E/I logo in the corner. Most of these are strange kids documentary shows and some are on weird digital channels, like the old movie and classic TV channels. David scratches top of head)

Alright, what- (Frustrated sigh) what the hell's with this "E/I" thing?

(TV COMMERCIAL comes on which says "E/I lets you know that this program is both Education and Informational")

Uh-um, okay, uh, yeah I guessed that's what it meant, but...- seriously though what the hell's with the E/I? I mean, I'm by no means against education and informational programming, but have you guys seen some of these shows that have this 'E/I' label in the corner of the TV screens? Actually, you probably have, five or ten years ago when they were made and they looked like they were made 15 years ago back then, some of them. And why are they on all these strange channels? The old movie channels on the '50s TV channel that keeps replaying the same eight episodes of "Dragnet" has them. I've seen them on the religious channels! (Actually they improve those channels most of the time) I haven't seen them on the shopping and/or paid programming channels, which makes me wonder if they get a pass or if I just missed them on those channels.

Okay, I don't know if other places have an equivalent channel like this, but the 2nd digital channel on our local FOX affiliate, is a 24/7 weather channel. Not, "The Weather Channel", it's a local channel, it has a permanent 7-day forecast, the time, the temperature, rotating ads for the afternoon talk shows like on one of those billboards that switches ads every minute or so, a news crawl on the bottom that, to be honest, needs to be updated more often than it actually is, and in the top, left-corner, between commercials, it repeats the weather forecast from the last newscast. (Unless there's a significant change in the weather, I think.) No shows, no anything, just commercials in the top-left corner, which is about a quarter of the frame and all the commercials lead to the weather. And that's all it is. But, stay up late enough, or wake up early enough on Friday or Saturday or whatever day it was than the weather, and all the other crap is off, and for a moment you think, "Oh, it's a real channel now?", but no, it's showing a few hours of old, forgotten educational kids shows with the E/I logo on the screen. Forget that, generally kids aren't exactly looking for these shows to begin with, but who is sitting around watching, what is barely a channel at all, the time and weather channel basically, waiting for the kid shows in the middle of the night?! And these shows? "Biz Kids", "Animal Rescue", (Amond numerous animal shows? The "Made in Hollywood for Kids" show that's eight years old? (Scratching head) Something's not right here.

Alright, we need to look closer at this, so why is there this "E/I" thing on the screen? Well, this began in 1990 believe it or not, with something called the "Children's Television Act" which was enacted by the FCC, and it was designed originally as a way of putting more education children's programming on network televisions. Or, CLASS A television stations, which, I'm not gonna pretend I'm an expert at these classifications, I get confused myself at these, but basically a network channel that's provides actual television to everyone and not on cable. When the law was written this was, NBC, FOX, PBS, ABC and CBS, and the one or two local UHF stations that might've been around, and that was pretty much it. (And actually the classification was something else until digital, but still, the main ones that FCC has control over) And basically, it required these channels to produce three hours a week of educational and informational programming every week.

Not, a bad thing, at first, on the surface. Okay, we'll get to, what the hell is an education/informational children't show later, but in 2005, the FCC expanded this rule to digital broadcast television channels as well, those extra channels we now get for free on our digital televisions. This, is when it started to get strange.....

Okay, so basically, any channel that is a somewhat legitimate broadcast channel on regular television, in order to keep their broadcast licenses, and now that means they're associated digital channels, they also have to provide three hours of educational programming, unless there's enough programming on the network channel to compensate for the other digital channels. Which mean, basically, PBS doesn't have to apply, 'cause they air 40-60hours a week of E/I programming, so, Create can just re-air as many "Joy of Painting" reruns they want. (Which I would've thought would've also been an E/I show, but, we'll get to that other problem with this.)

So, the main network can produce some shows, or what some of them used to do was air some of cable's kid shows, but these other channels, they barely have programming to begin with, so they go and buy, whatever the cheapest thing to air is, and put it on, early Saturday mornings or whenever. Basically, useless, wasteful programming.

And that's  the other thing, this is what happened to Saturday Morning cartoons btw, and for that matter, some network channels used to have kids programming daily, in the mornings and the afternoons! (Yeah, remember when "Afterschool specials" were actually specials that aired after school!) Now, to some of these channels credits, some are trying to find inventive and creative ways to circumvent this, or in some cases, fit these E/I shows into their regular programming, albeit, sometimes suspiciously. MeTV, a classic TV channel, has somehow figured out a way to call "Saved By the Bell" an E/I show, eh, that's a little fishy. Kids' show, okay, educational? Eh....,, but they're not alone. This is also one of the reasons why shows like "Degrassi" and "Edgemont" found cult following in America, through airings as an E/I program. One channel apparently got away with airing reruns of "Little House on the Prairie" claiming that the show taught kids what life was like in the Pioneer days. Hmm...., well, again, we'll get to some of these things in a minute.

There's also this other curious rule that started, because of, and I'm not making this up believe it or not, because of "Pokemon" and Eggo Waffles. Yeah, I couldn't believe this either, but apparently, "Pokemon" includes references to certain real-life products, including Eggo and Fruit of the Loom, and some of their other more famous affiliated products, and basically, E/I shows can't have product tie-in advertisement, at least, not as blatantly. It's a little sketchy here, but on top of the limited amount of advertising, in general an E/I show's allowed to have, it can't be a show that's sole intention of existing is as an advertising agent for other products. This eliminates more than you'd think. Bye, "Power Rangers", Bye, "...Ninja Turtles", bye,-, oh, c'mon, "The Care Bears" aren't educational now? Oh, they are? Oh-kay, what about "Thomas the Tank Engine"? Oh, it is? Uh, but isn't that? Oh, he is. How about-, oh nevermind, you get the idea. You're not to be selling to kids, it's teaching to kids, I guess. I think.

So, what does qualify as E/I? Well, (Annoyed sigh) Okay, here's the FCC standard at what is an E/I program:

A. Serves the educational and information needs of children as a significant purpose.
B. Is at least 30 minutes in length
C. Is aired between the hours of 7:00am and 10:00pm.
D. Is a regularly scheduled weekly program
E. Is identified as specifically designed to education and inform children by the display of the symbol, E/I on the television screen throughout the program.

Seven a.m., three in the morning, feels the same to me but other than that, serves the education and informational needs of children as a significant purpose? Well, you can clearly see the loopholes in the "significant purpose" base, but.... (frustrated sigh) here's the-, alright, let's cut the bullshit here on this, here's what really pissing me off about this E/I thing:


I'm serious here, what isn't educational to some degree? Okay, most of these arbitrary shows are terrible and I'm annoyed that they were made or that they're still being aired, but A. The networks that can afford it, it can also find/put out quality E/I programming that isn't just crap. There's gotta be stuff that's insightful and education that's isn't pandering to kids, which is mostly at best, disingenuous, but, forget all that, kids don't just watch kids shows, you know? And you know what else, they shouldn't.

You see, this is the real problem with the E/I logo, because a bunch of idiot parents out there who secretly know that television is the greatest education tool ever invented and are worried that god forbid their kids learn anything other that what you'd learn on "Sesame Street". Well, alright, parents, answer me this, why isn't "Jeopardy!" an E/I show? Or "Wheel of Fortune" for that matter? No, they aren't aimed towards kids, but significant purpose of educating and informing, um, yeah, that's up there. Just because it's not aimed for kids doesn't mean that a show isn't a perfectly good show that's educational and informative for kids.

I mean, you know there's posters and t-shirts that say things like, "Everything I ever needed to know I learned from "Star Trek" or whatever, and then in small text they list all the amazing moral, knowledge and life lessons from these shows. Yeah, it's a cute joke, but dammit they're not wrong, most of those. (I don't believe anyone learned shit from "Pokemon", but whatever) And now that I'm thinking about it, why isn't "Star Trek" E/I? I'm definitely more of a "The Next Generation" guy then the original, but yeah, "Star Trek" is educational and for kids. Everything is, and kids wouldn't learn much if they just watched these supposedly E/I shows. I learned about the Justice system watching "Law & Order", I learned how news shows worked watching "Murphy Brown" and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show", I learned that I shouldn't do things that would make me end up on "The Jerry Springer Show" by watching "The Jerry Springer Show', I learned that Dolores rhymed with a female body part on "Seinfeld", I learne dsports by, well, by watching sports.

Hell, I learned about the news of the world by watching the news. And that's another thing, why do kids news shows suck! That's essentially what a lot of these E/I shows are, basically stories reported by kids, and that's -eh, do these shows know that kids see the adult versions of news stories? (And there's a long history too of adult shows, just having a kids version. Hell, I saw one show recently that was "The Dog Whisperer with Cesar Milan: The Family Edition" recently. I don't know what's on the adult version, but I'd be seriously worried about what's happening to those dogs now.) That's not to say that there can't be good versions of kids news shows, I remember when I was young, one of my favorite Saturday morning shows was "Not Just News", which now that I think about it, not only did some decent stories and profiles, but it was kind of a predecessor of "The Daily Show..." the way they made fun of the news every like, like when Dan Quayle misspelled "Potato". But, besides that obscure reference, I grew up with Linda Ellerbee. And yeah, apparently she's still with Nickelodeon and producing top quality news specials and shows. It was real news, and it wasn't for kids, but it was, to kids, and it was presented to us, seriously. It was legitimate news and it was a big deal. I remember the smoking special with President Clinton and the AIDS special with Magic Johnson, things were talked about and confronted head-on and not thumbed around. Not everything needs to be in a glossy box for kids to see them.

Those are basically the two types these shows come in, not trying at all, even if a network could afford to, or stuff that sorta is educational but treats kids like fucking morons and worse than that, isn't entertaining to everyone, much less kids.

I mean, this is listed as an E/I program:

I mean, there's not trying and then there's not trying; what kid's gonna sit down and pay attention to that, and yes, that link, is in fact a show that's listed as E/I.

I mean, the intentions are admirable, but E/I is pretty useless when you get down to it. You can kinda make an argument that it made sense when there was only a few channels, but in this digital age, it's an extra strain on channels that are still being formed, plus, the E/I thing is a ridiculous standard anyway. Some things on TV are more educational than others, sure, but it's what you get out of what you watch firstly, but if you have to have an educational aspect to a kids program, fine, but how about it be good before anything else? Besides, I've never had to be told that something's educational or informational, it already was. Kids are naturally inquisitive, or at least they should be, and they'll soak up a lot more than people realize. Hell, adults soak up a lot more than we realize too.

Look, it's hardly the worst crime the FCC commits, this E/I thing, but it's a meaningless labels. The Shows with the E?I may or may not be good, mostly it's an annoyance that handicaps networks and stations pointlessly. It's part of the reason why they've given up on children's television and let cable take over it, and they don't even need to create/air E/I programming. Trust me, there are talented people out there who are willing to, and want to create good programming for kids that's educational and informational; you don't really need to require that the networks air them although more than that, you don't need to label it, and frankly, whether it's got the E/I or not, doesn't mean it's automatically E/I, and just because something doesn't have it, doesn't mean your kids, or anyone else can't learn stuff from it.

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