FCC Adopts Kids DTV

At its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, the FCC adopted a Report and Order for kid-oriented content on DTV. According to the order, broadcasters will have to provide three hours of children's educational programming on digital channels, just as they do now in analog. In a multicast environment, the "order increas
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At its regular monthly meeting on Thursday, the FCC adopted a Report and Order for kid-oriented content on DTV. According to the order, broadcasters will have to provide three hours of children's educational programming on digital channels, just as they do now in analog.

In a multicast environment, the "order increases the amount of the core programming... proportionally to the increase in free video programming offered by the broadcaster on multicast channels," according to the FCC news release announcing the order, which had not yet been released.

Then it seems to contradict itself by saying that "revised guideline provides flexibility to broadcasters that multicast by permitting them the choice whether to air core programming on a single or multiple channels, provided that at least three hours per week are shown on their main channel." So the release does not make clear whether or not each multicast channel must carry at least three hours of children's educational programming.

It does say that only programming on "non-subscription" channels will fulfill the kids-content requirement. To qualify as core kid content, programs must be regularly scheduled and not pre-empted more than 10 percent of the time.

New nits include requiring an on-air identifier, i.e., an E/I symbol, to be displayed throughout the program, ostensibly to make it easier for parents to figure out what is considered kids educational programming and what is not. PBS is not exempt.

The same commercial restrictions that apply in analog broadcasting will also apply to DTV. Display of Internet addresses will also be limited to program-related material.

There will be a one-year phase-in period for the new rules.

All five commissioners voted for the order, each congratulating their wisdom in separate statements.

NAB President Eddie Fritts said issuing multicasting programming requirements without must-carry in place was counterproductive.

"NAB recognizes that providing children's educational programming is one of many ways that a television broadcaster fulfills its public interest obligation. However, it is unfortunate the FCC would adopt new digital television mandates before completing its reconsideration of whether cable operators are required to actually pass through that programming to viewers," Fritts said in the statement. "The hard reality is this: Absent a strong DTV multicast carriage rule for cable, there will be less incentive for broadcasters to create new educational shows for children and other public interest programming. NAB urges the commission to fulfill the intent of Congress and ensure that cable operators allow all free DTV broadcast programming flow to consumers."

Meanwhile, the FCC also launched a Web site aimed at kids, at http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/kidszone/, with a chubby cartoon cat mascot named "Broadband," graphics reminiscent of the illustrations of a certain FCC Media Bureau chief, and arresting content sure to topple the reign of Harry Potter.

Take this gem on cell phone numbers:

"Last year, the FCC passed some rules, called Wireless Local Number Portability, that allows you, your friends and family to change wireless telephone companies and still keep the same number."

The Kidzone Web site does not carry the E/I symbol.