FCC revises children’s TV obligations

The FCC last week adopted revised and clarified rules spelling out the obligations of broadcasters regarding children’s programming in a DTV world.

The commission first visited the issue in November 2004 when it adopted an order applying to DTV broadcasters choosing to multicast. That order raised the three-hour core educational programming benchmark for children’s programming proportional to the increase in free video programming via multicast channels.

The 2004 rules also barred showing Internet addresses during children’s shows unless the Web site met a four-prong test limiting commercial material on the site. The rules also prohibited broadcasters from displaying website addresses during both children’s programs and commercials appearing in those programs if the website uses host selling.

The rules also capped the percentage of core children’s programming that could be pre-empted and redefined commercial material to include promos for other children’s shows unless those shows are educational.

Last week’s commission action responded to petitions to reconsider the 2004 Order from children’s groups and the broadcast community.

Modifications to and clarifications of the 2004 rules include:

  • The Web site rule. The new rule applies only when Internet addresses are displayed during program material or during promotional material not counted as commercial time. Additionally, if an Internet address for a Web site that does not meet the four-prong test is displayed during a promotion, in addition to counting against the commercial time limits, the promotion will be clearly separated from programming material.

  • The host-selling rule. The order permits the sale of merchandise featuring a program-related character in parts of the Web site that are sufficiently separated from the program itself to mitigate the impact of host selling.

  • The promotions rule. The order provides additional flexibility for broadcasters and cable operators regarding “commercial matter.”

  • The preemption rule. The order eliminates the cap on the number of preemptions and returns to a case-by-case approach.

  • The multicasting rule. The order clarifies the limit on the repeat of core programs under the digital processing guideline adopted in 2004.

  • The order clarifies that certain public service announcements, which are not commercial matter, are not subject to the restriction regarding the display of Web site addresses. It also clarifies that station identifications and emergency announcements are not subject to the Web site rules.

For more information, visit: http://hraunfoss.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-06-143A1.doc.