FCC commissioners line up behind children’s television requirements
WASHINGTON, D.C.–Following the recent announcements of commissioners James Quello and Rachelle Chong that they support some mandatory requirement for children’s educational programming, the Federal Communications Commission is moving closer to requiring a minimum of three hours per week for all television licensees.
Quello’s and Chong’s announcements come on the heels of a letter sent by Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) to FCC Chairman Reed Hundt signed by 220 House members who support the three-hour requirement. President Clinton has voiced his support for a three-hour requirement and will hold a summit meeting with broadcasters in July to discuss children’s programming.
Hundt has been reviewing ways to enforce the educational programming aspects of the Children’s Television Act of 1990 since becoming chairman. The act calls on stations to serve the educational and informational needs of children, but does not set an hourly requirement for such programming.
Currently, the FCC is considering making license renewals contingent on broadcasting educational programming. Quello’s plan would give every television broadcaster a three-year license extension, based on the station’s pledge to air educational programming. The FCC would then review the station’s compliance with the act at the end of the three-year period.
Chong has proposed a plan to establish a “safe harbor” that would set three hours as the level that would suffice for purposes of license renewal. Under this plan, broadcasters would receive points on their license renewal applications for airing a certain amount of children’s programming. A station that aired three hours would receive three points, while a station that aired fewer than that could gain additional points through alternate efforts, such as underwriting educational programming or airing public service announcements.
Hundt and Commissioner Susan Ness have long favored a three-hour requirement, while Quello and Chong have previously opposed a numerical quota, preferring to let the stations decide for themselves how much educational programming to air.