FCC addresses children’s programming obligations of digital television broadcasters
September 21, 2004
The FCC has established rules clarifying the obligation of television broadcasters to provide programming for children in a digital broadcast environment where stations are beginning to multicast multiple channels.
The Report and Order addressed TV licensees’ obligation to provide educational and informational programming for children, and requirements to protect children from exposure to excessive and inappropriate advertising. The commission noted that the rules apply to both analog and digital TV broadcasters, but it focused on the application of obligations in a digital television environment.
The new rules, which take effect after a one-year phase in, increase the amount of core programming proportionally to the increase in free video programming offered on a broadcaster’s multicast channels. Under the revised rules, broadcasters were granted flexibility in choosing whether to air core programming on a single channel or multiple channels as long as three hours per week appear on the station’s main channel.
According to the rule, subscription services are excluded from core programming. To be considered as core educational programming, the programming must be regularly scheduled. It must not be pre-empted more than 10 percent of the time; however, broadcasters may move it to a digital stream as long as it appears at the same time and its new location is promoted on the original and alternate channel. The commission also amended its rules for on-air identification of core programming for analog and digital broadcasters. Such core educational and informational programming must now be identified with an E/I symbol throughout the programming.
The commission also addressed how the Children’s Television Act of 1990 should be applied in a digital broadcast world. According to the Report and Order, commercial limits apply to all digital programming directed to children ages 12 and under, whether that it is aired on a free or pay stream.
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