FCC fines stations over violations of Children’s Television Act
WASHINGTON, D.C.–The Federal Communications Commission in late January fined four broadcasters for airing too many commercials during children’s programming on eight occasions. WTTG-TV in Washington, D.C., was fined $10,000 for eight infractions, and three Virginia stations were fined between $10,000 and $15,000.
The commission said that the stations’ actions violated guidelines developed under the Children’s Television Act of 1990. On weekends, broadcasters are required to limit commercials to 10.5 minutes of each hour during children’s programming. The limit is extended to 12 minutes on weekdays.
Between August 1992 and April 1996, the Washington, D.C. station exceeded the time limits by between 30 and 90 seconds on five occasions. The other three infringements occurred when the station aired program-length advertisements, in which a character of a show in progress appears in a commercial to sell a product. The FCC told the stations that limiting programming which confuses children as to what is an advertisement and what is the actual program was Congress’ primary concern in passing the act.
All of the stations’ violations were reported to the commission by the stations in response to questions on license renewal applications. WTTG blamed the violations on inadvertence and human error.
Although the FCC does not frequently monitor station’s practices on commercial time, the stations are expected to state whether they have violated commercial overtime when seeking license renewal. All of the stations that were fined were granted license renewal by the FCC, and have until late February to appeal the fines.
The Virginia stations and their fines were: WDRG in Danville ($10,000), WGNT in Portsmouth ($14,000) and WAMB in Richmond ($15,000). (Letters of Apparent Liability, Jan. 30, 1997)