Fox Plans Separate Channels for Boys, Girls: Experts Fear Return of Gender Stereotypes

Article excerpt

Boys and girls are so different, some television executives say, that even TV programs should be tailored to their gender.

When Fox Family Channels and Fox Kids Network announced the founding of Boyz and Girlz channels in October, some child advocates cried foul. Children, they say, would be stereotyped into gender roles.

"I worry that they will be reinforcing the stereotypes we have worked so hard to overcome," says Pamela O'Brien, assistant professor of media and public relations at George Washington University.

"I worry that [the channels] will be sexist. The boys will have all the fun and the girls will be housewives," says Peggy Charren, children's activist and founder of the now disbanded Action for Children's Television advocacy group. Mrs. Charren calls the idea for girls' and boys' channels "generally a dumb idea."

"While there will always be girl stories and boy stories, the stories that we love tend to be appropriate for both sexes," she says.

Children's television "should be diverse, like a good library," she adds. If a library had as many shortcomings as children's television does, she said, "we would fire the librarian."

"That we need such programming says that what is on television is not sufficient, that kids aren't getting what they need," says David Sadker, an American University professor who specializes in nonsexist child rearing. However, "I worry about factionalism in America. Instead of using television to bring us together in race and gender relations, it seems [we are being] separated."

But Rich Cronin, president and CEO of Fox, says, "We will not stereotype in any way." He says the main goal of the channels, which will debut next fall, is to "super serve" boys and girls.

"We have targeted branded entertainment cable channels such as MTV and CNN that superserve the music and news audiences, but no one has superserved the boys and girls audiences," Mr. Cronin says.

Programming has not been finalized. However, Mr. Cronin says, "the Boyz channel will celebrate the great things about being a boy and the Girlz channel will celebrate the great things about being a girl." The channels will target two- to 14-year-olds during the day. After dark, parents will be targeted with parenting tips.

Taking the lead from focus groups consisting of boys and girls, the channels will air what the children want to see from original and acquired programming in the Fox Family Worldwide Library, as well as other sources. …