FCC adopts children’s TV requirement
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Following an agreement between President Clinton and several network executives that broadcasters would air three weekly hours of educational television or risk the denial of a broadcast license renewal, the Federal Communications Commission in early August adopted rules that strengthen the implementation of the Children’s Television Act of 1990.
Under the new rules, educational or “core” programming is redefined as regularly scheduled programming of “at least 30 minutes, aired between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.” that is designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children. Commercial stations will be required to keep quarterly reports in their public files showing that they have met these requirements. They must also file these reports with the FCC annually, for a trial period of three years. Stations also will be required to provide information to television program guide publishers that identifies particular shows as part of their “core” programming.
In an apparent attempt to head off challenges to the plan, the FCC announced that these requirements are consistent with the First Amendment because they are narrowly tailored to achieve a compelling government interest.
According to the FCC, the guidelines will ensure that renewal applications are fairly and efficiently processed. In the application, broadcasters will be required to demonstrate that they have either aired the required three hours, or aired a package of different types of programming that demonstrates a level of commitment to educating children that is equivalent to actually airing three hours of programming.
Stations meeting the requirements will have their renewals automatically approved by commission staff. Those that do not meet the criteria will have their applications referred directly to the full Commission, where they will be required to demonstrate compliance prior to license renewal. (FCC 96-335)