FCC Revises Children’s TV Obligations

In its public meeting today, the FCC established children’s TV programming obligations for digital TV (“DTV”) stations and, in the process, revised some of the analog children’s programming rules as well. Although the text of the Report and Order has not yet been released, the highlights of the Commission’s decision are as follows:

  • Core children’s programming will have to be identified with the symbol E/I. This requirement will apply to analog, digital, commercial and noncommercial TV stations.
  • The Commission has revised the definition of “commercial matter” to include promotion of any TV programs other than “core” children’s programming. This will greatly limit the ability of stations to promote non-core programs during children’s programming.

In other matters, the Commission adhered to its guideline requiring three hours of children’s programming per week to avoid inquiry at renewal. Where a station has multiple digital streams, the three hour guideline will apply to the main digital stream. However, if a DTV station is multicasting, the core programming requirement will increase proportionally. The station may air the additional required core programming on either the main or any other digital stream, so long as the digital stream is carried by cable and other MVPDs (multichannel video program distributors). The Commission said that preempted programming can also be moved to a different program stream so long as notice is provided, but no more than 10% of core programming can be preempted. Breaking news is exempt from this limitation. Display of web addresses in core programming will be permitted if the website is primarily noncommercial and the website is not intended to thwart the Commission’s commercial limits, which remain at 10½ minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays. The Commission is simultaneously releasing a Further Notice of Proposed Rule Making regarding treatment of children’s programming in an interactive digital world.