FCC Checks Off Kid Vid, Security, Public Input and Obesity

At the close of September, the FCC approved kid video rules for digital TV, created a homeland security bureau, established a task force on childhood obesity, and set forth the ground rules of its first official public hearing on media ownership.

The kid vid rules require broadcasters to run three hours of children's programming on all of their multichannels, including 24/7 weather and news feeds. The original rules established by the FCC in November 2004 had the same requirement, eliciting objections from broadcasters, some of whom run weather radar maps on their second or third digital multicast. The 2004 rules also laid out strict parameters on advertising within kid programming.

The commission stayed its 2004 order while the broadcast industry hammered out a compromise with kid TV advocates. The new FCC Report and Order on kid vid reflects that compromise, most of which applies to advertising and program preemptions.

Regarding advertising, the 2004 order held that promos for other kid shows or educational programming counted against the 10 to 12 minutes of ad time allowed in kids programming by the Children's Television Act of 1990. Under the new order, such promos are not considered advertising.

The new Report and Order also does away with the cap on the number of preemptions allowed for breaking news. Other details about the display of Web addresses and host selling were also clarified. The rules will take effect in roughly two months.

While kids are watching all of that government-mandated programming, the FCC will also be watching to see how fat they get. At the urging of lawmakers, particularly Sen. Sam Brownback (R-Kan.), the commission is participating in a joint task force to study the link between TV and childhood obesity. The group includes representatives from Disney, the Parents Television Council, the Beverly LaHaye Institute (LaHaye is founder of Concerned Women for America), and Children Now.

The task force will start meeting next year to develop a report on how kids can get off the couch and go outside.

On the public safety front, Katrina and 9/11 were catalysts in the creation of the new FCC Public Safety and Homeland Security Bureau. It will be responsible for public-safety functions that were "previously dispersed among the other bureaus and offices," according to the FCC.

The new bureau is organized into three divisions: Policy will draft, develop and administer 911/E911 and other public safety rules and regs; Communications Outreach & Operations will be responsible for coordinating the FCC's emergency response procedures; and the Communications Systems Analysis Division collect and analyze disaster data.

The FCC hits the road Tuesday, Oct. 3, with its first official public hearing on media ownership, starting at 1 p.m. Pacific Time at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. The second half of the hearing will take place at El Segundo High School in El Segundo, Calif. from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. The event is open to the public on a first-come, first serve basis.

The FCC's media ownership rules have been in legal purgatory since a federal court slapped a stay on them soon after they were adopted in 2003. The commission opened a new proceeding on the rules this last June. The rules up for review involve the number of TV stations owned by one company in a given market; the number of radio stations owned in a market; cross-ownership of radio, TV and newspapers; and the UHF discount on the national TV ownership cap, i.e., stations reaching 39 percent of the national TV audience.

Instructions for filing comments on the proceeding, Docket No. 06-121, are at http://www.fcc.gov/ownership/comments.html.