This week’s news cycle brought the unhappy revelation that the Saturday morning cartoons, a rite of passage for most Americans older than 30, are now officially a thing of the past.
Whether you began your weekends with Scooby Doo (and his unfortunate nephew, Scrappy) or the Super Friends (“Wonder twin powers… ACTIVATE!”) or the Smurfs, many American homes between the 60s and the 90s had the kids waking up before mom and dad so they could have a good marathon session of mindless television to unwind from a frenzied week of school.
Now, thanks to the federal government, the Saturday morning cartoon is a thing of the past. Now kids are more likely to see a marathon of infomercials for exercise equipment or age-defying potions than they are a Warner Brothers extravaganza.
In the mid-90s, the Federal Communications Commission mandated broadcast networks to limit advertising of foods and products (usually sugary cereals and toys) that specifically targeted kids watching during the cartoon time.
Thanks to an outdated notion called “market economics” (a concept completely alien to the all-knowing FCC, apparently) networks realized that the restrictions on advertising meant the Saturday mornings would be less profitable for ABC, NBC, FOX and CBS. What did the networks do? Shockingly, they looked for programming that was not subject to the advertising regulation so they could make money. You know, because they’re a business.