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Court orders FCC to respond to Disney’s request on Children’s TV rules

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington last week ordered the FCC to file a response by Oct. 25 to the Walt Disney Co.’s petition that the court take action that could lead to postponement of new rules for children’s programming.

Disney asked that the court require FCC action by Nov. 15, or that it delay the new rules on children’s programming pending the outcome of a legal challenge.

Previously, Viacom asked the court to overturn new rules requiring more educational TV programs for children and setting tighter limits on kids’ exposure to advertising in the age.

A group of entertainment companies, including Disney and General Electric Co.’s NBC Universal, have asked the commission to postpone the rules, which were approved last year and go into effect in January 2006.

Currently, the FCC requires three hours per week of children’s programs — with commercials limited to 12 minutes per hour on weekdays and 10.5 minutes on weekends. New rules, targeting multichannel DTV, would extend the children’s programming requirements to new digital channels, something the major entertainment companies are resisting. They argue that the new channels could be useful for formats that are not conducive to kids’ shows, such as weather or news.

The rules also would limit the amount of time broadcasters can put commercial Web URLs on the screen, which the companies think would be a handicap in a digital world where people can easily hop from a TV show to a Web site. In addition, the rules would restrict broadcasters’ ability to preempt educational programming for specials such as sporting events.

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