Ralph Nader and Commercial Alert sent letters today to the presidents
of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) and the Children's Television
Workshop (CTW) asking their organizations to withdraw from a marketing
conference on how to target preschoolers with commercial advertising.
The letter to CTW President Gary Knell follows.
Dear Mr. Knell:
On March 13-14, 2000, the Institute for International Research is
sponsoring a marketing conference in New York City called "Play-Time,
Snack-Time, Tot-Time: Targeting Preschoolers and Their Parents."
The purpose of this conference is to advise advertisers on how to worm
their way into the psyches of young children. The sponsors are not
interested in the mental or emotional development of children, but
rather in making them nag their parents for products.
According to conference literature, staff of the Children's Television
Workshop (CTW) is scheduled to appear on workshops and panels. The
purpose of this conference is contrary to the stated aims of CTW and of
the public broadcasting stations on which its productions appear.
It would be a betrayal of your audience of thousands of vulnerable and
unsuspecting children, for CTW to participate in this conference, and we
ask you not to do so.
This conference is a form of commercial child molestation. Its purpose
is to teach corporate marketers how to "create brand recognition and
consumer loyalty" in children as young as two years of age. It seeks to
manipulate innocent and impressionable toddlers for commercial gain.
Among the "tot experts" scheduled to teach "toddler marketing"
executives at the conference are Susan Royer, Vice President of Sesame
Street Research, and Rosemarie T. Truglio, Vice President of Research
Strategy, Children's Television Workshop.
If the Children's Television Workshop actually believes its own
"commitment to the betterment of children," it cannot possibly assist
corporate advertisers in their efforts to get children to nag their
parents, sow intra-family strife, or sell junk food to American children
who already suffer skyrocketing levels of childhood obesity, etc.
There was a time when parents respected the Children's Television
Workshop because it produced Sesame Street, which taught and provided
entertainment for children for more than a generation. It is
increasingly clear that CTW has lost its public philosophy, that it has
drifted into abetting corporations that exploit children.
CTW must decide whether it will work for the "betterment of children"
or promote the enrichment of corporations that prey upon children.
Which will you choose?