07.28.2009 09:00 AM
Lawmakers Look at Kid Vid

Rules governing children’s television came into play last week on Capitol Hill as members of the Senate Commerce Committee considered overhauling the 20-year-old dictates.

“Our media landscape has changed dramatically during the last two decades,” said committee chairman, John Rockefeller (D-W.V.) at a Wednesday hearing on the Children’s Television Act. “So we have a challenge. How do we take these values and apply them to the very different media universe our children know today?”

Regulations currently direct full-power and Class A low-power TV stations to air at least three hours of children’s TV per week. Each station must file a form quarterly with the FCC demonstrating compliance. The content has to be at least 30 minutes, between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. on a weekly basis, with limited commercial content, to fulfill the regulation. Cable networks are exempt, something Rockefeller put on the table during the hearing.

“Does this make sense today,” Reuters quoted him saying.

John Lawson, executive vice president for Ion Media Networks, testified to the changes brought about by the digital transition. E.g., most broadcast networks are multicasting, as is Ion, which is populating one of its diginets--Quo--entirely with children’s programming.

“Since its debut in 2007, Qubo remains the only 24/7 children's television service that is distributed nationally, free, and over-the-air,” Lawson said. “Moreover, Qubo recently voluntarily adopted a set of nutritional guidelines for acceptable foods that can be advertised on air… 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.”

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said the FCC would make an assessment of children’s programming, including whether parents could locate it. -- Deborah D. McAdams

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