Michael H. Levine: One Thing We Must Do Now
April 7, 2020
What is one thing you believe must be done now to improve how children and families are faring during the current crisis, specifically as it relates to the media and technology in their lives?
Rethink media and tech leadership.
Michael H. Levine is Senior Vice President of Learning and Impact for Noggin, Nickelodeon’s preschool SVOD service. Levine was previously Founding Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop and is a member of the Center’s Board.
Media and tech leaders are facing the COVID-19 crisis in a privileged position of strength. Sure, production studios, movie theaters, and theme parks are closed, but the communications pipelines powered by on-air broadcast, social media, and broadband are flowing like the Niagara Falls! At Nickelodeon, viewing across all platforms are up by high double digits since this all began, and we are rallying to ensure that the most vulnerable families have free access to the best educational and health promotion assets we have at our command.
But media and tech leaders must all do more in our leadership positions. In addition to notable efforts like those at ViacomCBS, Sesame Workshop, PBS, and others, in spirit of “collective action,” I suggest that educational media and technology firms take four steps to help our most vulnerable weather the storm just a bit more easily:
- Urge Congress and the FCC to immediately take action to ensure equitable access to broadband by expanding the Lifeline Program, which provides no and low-cost services to low-income households.
- Fund and set up free device distribution centers in urban and rural centers in conjunction with school districts and libraries. New York City and Charleston, SC have already rolled out efforts that may serve as national models, with support from Apple, Google, and others.
- Provide all educational services free-of-charge to low-income families for the duration of the crisis. Encourage musicians, artists, and entertainment personalities to use media and tech platforms for universal access.
- Support bold experimentation and new collaborations such as Wide Open School. This consortium, organized by Common Sense Media, is a “one-stop-site” for high-quality education, tech, and health organizations to deliver coherent and no-cost daily learning activities for children and youth.
The media and tech communities already have the rapt attention of nearly every parent and child. They are counting on us to do more, starting now!
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