Children's TV activist Peggy Charren dies at 86

AP News
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Posted: Jan 23, 2015 1:56 PM

BOSTON (AP) — Peggy Charren, the founder of Action for Children's Television who waged a decades-long fight to improve the quality of children's programming, has died. She was 86.

Charren, who had vascular dementia, died Thursday at a nursing home in Dedham, according to Sugarman-Sinai Memorial Chapel in Providence, Rhode Island.

Charren founded Action for Children's Television in 1968 because she was so frustrated by the poor quality of programming — which she called "wall-to-wall monster cartoons" — available to her daughters.

The group's first meeting involved just a few friends in her Newton living room.

But the grassroots organization grew to thousands of members, working with the Federal Communications Commission to establish a children's television division and lobbying the National Association of Broadcasters to adopt voluntary guidelines for children's programming.

ACT lobbied Congress, helping get the Children's Television Act passed in 1990. The act established programming standards, including advertising limits.

ACT disbanded in 1992, but Charren continued to lobby until retirement in 2005.

Throughout her work, she was proud of her commitment to the First Amendment, noting she never sought censorship of any programming.

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, a longtime friend and political ally, told The Boston Globe that Charren was "the principal defender of children's television in America" and "a conscience sitting on the shoulder of every commercial broadcaster."

For her work, Charren was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995, the nation's highest civilian honor.

"She took on the giants of the commercial television industry in the 1970s and brought about substantive programming and legislative changes that bettered the lives of millions," said Jonathan Abbott, president of CEO of Boston public television station WGBH. Charren is a former trustee of the station.

Charren's efforts are felt to this day.

"Peggy Charren was TV's first true kids' advocate and someone who we profoundly respected," children's cable station Nickelodeon said in a statement. "She was a pioneer who transformed the TV landscape to serve kids with high quality programming. Her legacy is one that we will always honor and uphold."

Charren is survived by her husband, Stanley, two daughters, six grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

Funeral services are scheduled for Sunday at Sugarman-Sinai Memorial Chapel, followed by burial in Lincoln Park Cemetery.