WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Federal Communications Commission is considering several proposals which would change broadcasters’ obligations to children’s programming.
The commissioners voted 5-0 in early April to release for public comment the proposed rules which would expand on the Children’s Television Act, a 1990 law designed to increase children’s educational programming.
Among the options before the FCC is a regulation requiring broadcasters to air three to five hours of kids’ programming each week. The proposal would allow broadcasters to trade all but one hour of their children’s TV obligation to other stations, commercial or public, in their market. The station trading its programming obligations would be responsible for promoting them.
Another proposal would set up a “safe harbor” where stations meeting a minimum number of hours of children’s programming would receive automatic license renewals, while those failing to meet the requirements could be subject to an FCC investigation before receiving a license renewal.
The 1990 act requires television broadcasters to air programs that educate and inform children, but does not say how many hours of such programming must be shown. The FCC determines at license renewal time whether a station has met its obligations.
Some of the commissioners are openly against the proposed rules. “Quantitative program standards are a First Amendment time bomb,” Commissioner James Quello told the Associated Press.
Another idea before the FCC is to provide more information to the public about the content and scheduling of children’s shows. The information would be given to publishers of television programming schedules.
The commissioners also are looking at strengthening the definition of educational programming to mean programming which is aimed at children under 16, is at least 15 minutes long and airs between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.
A final proposal would hold off changing FCC rules until it conducts a study of compliance with the Children’s Television Act.
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