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Children’s TV Pioneer Peggy Charren, an APPC Honoree, Dies at 86

Children’s television activist Peggy Charren, whose work vastly improved children’s programming and gained recognition that included the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the inaugural Annenberg Public Policy Center award for distinguished lifetime contribution to children’s television, died Jan. 22 at her home outside Boston. She was 86.

Peggy Charren and Amy Jordan

Charren founded Action for Children’s Television in the living room of her Newton, Mass., home in 1968, beginning a campaign to improve children’s programming that resulted in passage of the Children’s Television Act in 1990. That act required networks to air educational shows for children and limit the number of commercials. (Read the Boston Globe’s obituary here. and the New York Times’s here)

“Peggy was instrumental in bringing academics together with policy makers and television creators to talk about improving the media landscape for children,” said Amy Jordan, associate director of the Annenberg Public Policy Center and director of APPC’s Media and the Developing Child area.  “Her tireless advocacy led to the passage of the Children’s Television Act of 1990 and a marked increase in broadcasters’ educational offerings.”

LeVar Burton, host and co-executive producer of "Reading Rainbow," and Peggy Charren, co-founder of Action for Children's Television. Burton was honored with the 1999 APPC Award for Distinguished Contribution to Children and Television.
LeVar Burton, host and co-executive producer of “Reading Rainbow” with Peggy Charren. Burton was honored by APPC in 1999 for his contribution to children’s television.

In 1996, Charren was honored with the inaugural Annenberg Public Policy Center Award for Distinguished Lifetime Contribution to Children’s Television. APPC director Kathleen Hall Jamieson, in presenting the award, called Charren “the godmother of children’s television.” Charren was the keynote speaker at the policy center’s first annual Conference on Children and Television, which also featured remarks by Vice President Al Gore and Rep. Ed Markey (D., Mass.), author of the Children’s Television Act. Markey described her to Broadcasting & Cable magazine as “both conscience and choir for children’s television.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, “Parents across America owe a debt of gratitude to Peggy, who singlehandedly turned the vast wasteland that was children’s television programming in the 1960’s and 1970’s into the plethora of educational, informational and entertaining programming families enjoy today.”


The APPC community mourns her loss.