Agreement could end impasse over children’s programming

An agreement between major television networks and children’s advocates could break the impasse over new DTV programming requirements set by the FCC.

The new children’s TV requirements set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2006, have met resistance from broadcasters. Among the new rules, is a requirement that would tightly restrict child program preemptions, a limit that would cause problems for broadcasters wanting to carry live sports during the day hours on weekends.

According to an outline of the agreement, there will be no specific numerical limit on the ability of broadcasters to preempt and reschedule children’s programming in order to bring viewers other programming of particular interest to their community, such as live sports programming from another time zone.

While the children’s advocacy groups had to give up on a 10 percent limit for preemptions, getting the networks to agree to voluntarily adhere to the agreement by March 2006, even if the FCC doesn’t act, and winning other concessions made the deal attractive, Patti Miller, Children Now's vice president, told Reuters.

The FCC still has to postpone implementation of the rules and rewrite them to conform to the agreement. If that happens, the networks will drop their lawsuit seeking to overturn the regulations.

The agreement leaves in place the FCC’s multicasting guideline as originally written. To meet the guideline, broadcasters must air three hours a week of children’s educational programming per channel that they air.

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