QUALITY FOR CHILDREN'S `PRIME-TIME' TV

Commercial television shouldn't sit back and let a handful of programs carry the children's after-school programming load. So say drafters of the ``Quality Education for Minorities (QEM)'' action plan, who want commercial TV to leap into the 3 to 5 p.m. time slot, a critical viewing period for many minority youngsters. The call is for more programs like Sesame Street, 3-2-1 Contact, and Reading Rainbow that could supplement classroom instruction and provide a much needed alternative to unsupervised play.

``Sesame Street is often carried on PBS stations, and in many of the homes we're trying to reach, it may not be the station that is watched,'' says QEM project director Shirley McBay, explaining the emphasis on commercial broadcasters.

Dr. McBay believes that TV executives could be persuaded to ignore traditional rating and revenue concerns if a convincing case can be made to advertisers about the urgency of quality children's shows.

``[L]atchkey kids ... are more likely to get into drug usage and criminal behavior,'' says McBay. ``But they're not all on the streets; some are watching TV, and we're saying, `Take advantage of that.' We're asking commercial stations to cooperate by offering educational programs.''

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