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July 22, 2009

Prepared Testimony of John Lawson Before Senate Commerce Committee

WASHINGTON -- ION Media Networks Executive Vice President John Lawson, member of the NAB Television Board of Directors, is scheduled to testify today before the Senate Commerce Committee in a hearing entitled "Rethinking the Children's Television Act for a Digital Media Age."

A transcript of Mr. Lawson's oral testimony, as prepared, follows:

Chairman Rockefeller, Ranking Member Hutchison and members of the committee, thank you very much for having me here to discuss broadcasters' continuing dedication to children's television and the groundbreaking efforts made by ION Media in this area. My name is John Lawson, and I am executive vice president of ION Media Networks, the nation's largest broadcast television group. I testify today in my role as a member of the TV Board of Directors of the National Association of Broadcasters, and more importantly, as a parent, with my wife, Nan, to my twin sons, Jackson and Thaddeus, who are here today.

While testifying before the Senate Commerce Committee, John Lawson, executive vice president of ION Media Networks, shows off ION's 24/7 children's educational channel, qubo, broadcast live to his mobile phone.

To make it certain, ION and local television stations across the country share Congress' goal of promoting quality educational and informational children's programming. I don't think it's lost on anyone that children are a precious resource and we must provide them with the tools to allow them to succeed. To this point, local broadcasters remain the foundation in communities across the country as the leading source of news, safety information, culture, education, entertainment and sports.

As we look at the Children's Television Act almost 20 years after enactment, a number of issues surface. First, local broadcasters continue to provide high-quality, diverse educational and informational programming to meet the needs of these young viewers, and with DTV we're doing even more. Thanks to the efforts of Chairman Rockefeller and the leadership of this committee, full-power broadcasters have now successfully transitioned to all-digital broadcasting. On June 12, America became the first large country in the world to complete the transition to DTV and millions of households across the country are now enjoying dramatically better pictures and sound as well as new platforms for children's programming.

For example, ION airs three digital multicast streams that include Qubo, a fulltime kids channel that fills the gap between preschool and "tween" channels. We also broadcast ION Life, a channel dedicated to active living, as well as our main service, ION Television. Broadcasters are also preparing to deploy mobile DTV that would allow anyone with an enabled cell phone or laptop to receive free television wherever they go. As I demonstrated to some on this Committee, this cell phone I have here today picks up a crystal clear signal, in this case Qubo from our local ION station, and allows viewers to watch free television whenever they want. Just like you turn on your TV today at home and watch live local broadcast TV, you can soon turn on your mobile device and have the same experience.

Since its debut in 2007, Qubo remains the only 24/7 children's television service that is distributed nationally, free, and over-the-air. This groundbreaking bilingual destination for children features programs that focus on literacy, values and healthy lifestyles and celebrates the unlimited possibilities of a child's imagination. Moreover, Qubo recently voluntarily adopted a set of nutritional guidelines for acceptable foods that can be advertised on air. Qubo has been called the "gold standard" in the media's efforts to combat childhood obesity, and we commend Senator Brownback and others for their work in this area. We hope these efforts send a strong message to parents, policymakers and business partners about our dedication to the wellness of America's kids. At this time, however, we hope this Committee will examine and support ways to encourage distribution for broadcasters like ION who are attempting to provide positive media alternatives for children and families.

As recognized in today's hearing, parents have abundant additional choices - beyond the services provided by the nation's commercial broadcast stations - of programming that is specifically designed to meet children's unique needs. Children access media through a number of devices and services including cable and satellite, DVDs, videos, and game systems, not to mention an endless amount of information on the Internet. And of course in any discussion of children's television, we must make special mention of the efforts of our noncommercial educational stations, which have enriched the lives of American children for years. And I'm honored to be on this panel with my friend, Gary Knell.

As we sit here today, broadcasters are looking ahead to the next 20 years of children's television. First and foremost, we remain committed to providing quality children's educational and informational programming that serves the public interest. At the same, we also must remain vigilant against content that is not suitable for young children. In this regard we must utilize technologies and the most effective tool of all, parental control. Broadcasters also recognize the leadership of Senator Pryor in this area and agree on the importance of continued innovation.

In conclusion, broadcasters look forward to working with this committee as it re-examines the Children's Television Act. Broadcasters' valued commitment to children is not limited to three hours a week. As many of you know, and as highlighted in my written testimony, broadcasters work every day to serve their local communities. Again, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about this important subject, and I look forward to answering any questions you may have.


About NAB
The National Association of Broadcasters is the premier advocacy association for America's broadcasters. As the voice of more than 8,300 radio and television stations, NAB advances their interests in legislative, regulatory and public affairs. Through advocacy, education and innovation, NAB enables broadcasters to best serve their communities, strengthen their businesses and seize new opportunities in the digital age. Learn more at


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