FCC to weigh in on b’cast kidvid battle

Sports skeds waiting on sidelines

WASHINGTON — As broadcasters enter their second year under a mandate to air at least three hours of educational kidvid each week, the FCC still has not sent a clear signal on the sensitive issue of preempting Saturday morning educational fare for sports.

For the past two weeks, several high-level Federal Communications Commission staffers have taken turns editing a letter to the webs that gives the networks permission to preempt some educational shows as long as they are rescheduled to air at another time. The letter is widely anticipated because it will be the first official pronouncement in almost a year on the networks’ attempts to meet the FCC’s educational mandate.

Commissioner Susan Ness is pushing for stronger language in the letter, which was originally drafted by staffers of the FCC’s Mass Media Bureau. Ness’ staff wants to use the letter to point out that some of the major webs have not made good on their promise to promote educational kidvid programming during primetime and have fallen short when it comes to rescheduling shows that have been preempted for sports.

Although Ness’ staff has refused to single out specific networks, kidvid advocates have noted that NBC is the industry leader when it comes to preemptions. CBS has also taken heat from advocates for failing to do an adequate job of promoting its kids’ lineup.

On the other side of the fence are the offices of commissioners Michael Powell and Harold Furchtgott-Roth, who back the Mass Media Bureau’s inclination to issue a letter without singling out networks for poor performance during the last year. An aide to Furchtgott-Roth noted that it is not the FCC’s role to micromanage the web’s schedules or promotional campaigns.

Staffers had hoped to resolve their differences this week, but it now looks that it may be at least another week before networks get any official guidance from the FCC on their kidvid schedule.

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