FCC mulls crackdown on ads during kidvid

'Age inappropriate' promos to be studied

WASHINGTON — If the TV industry thought it was safe from the furor over the ferocious FTC report, think again.

Thursday the FCC put forth a proposal to limit advertising during children’s programming. Specifically, the Federal Communications Commission will study whether broadcasters should be allowed to carry promo spots for “age inappropriate” broadcasts, cable shows or movies.

“There is no higher obligation and no greater task. I urge everyone to examine our obligations and to write the chapter that ensures our children are the winners in the new digital era,” FCC commissioner Gloria Tristani said.

As an industry, television weathered fairly well the storm unleashed Monday when the Federal Trade Commission released its report charging that the movie, music and vidgame industries aggressively sell violence to kids. In general, the report concluded that the networks have fairly solid standards for children and the advertising of violent material.

But many in Washington have made much of a portion of the FTC report stating that the movie industry routinely buys ad time for R-rated movies on shows popular with kids under 17. The programs cited included “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” “Xena: Warrior Princess” and World Wrestling Federation programs.

Entertainment execs point out that most of the viewers for these shows are over 17 years old.

Thursday’s action by the FCC wasn’t the org’s only plan of attack in the matter. Next month, it will hold a hearing concerning the impact on children of sexually explicit and violent programming.

FCC chairman William Kennard said such issues are a critical area of study as broadcasters move into the digital era, with innumerable channels and an ever-expanding roster of programming.

“I look forward to a robust debate,” Kennard said.

Obligations to children

Overall, the policies being studied by the FCC are couched as part of the eventual extension to digital broadcasters of the obligation to carry children’s programming. Some of the items — such as any limits on advertising — could impact all broadcasters, however.

The FCC also will study the suggestion that children’s programming carry ratings from independent sources, such as public interest groups. Also, it will take comment on a requirement that broadcasters do more to promote children’s programming during prime-time.

Another proposal would prohibit direct Internet links to commercial sites, a move FCC commissioner Harold Furchtgott-Roth said could possibly be unconstitutional.

As part of the same study on the obligation of digital TV broadcasters to provide educational and informational programming to children, the FCC will study whether it should increase the present requirement of three hours per week of children’s programming.

The study also will examine whether such obligations should apply both to free and pay program streams.

Digital delays

National Assn. of Broadcasters prez-CEO Edward O. Fritts expressed frustration that the FCC would be studying digital TV when the agency has made the transition from analog to digital more difficult by not acting on several critical, separate issues.

“Today’s FCC proposal to add additional regulation to a service still in the embryo is regrettable,” Fritts said.

In related action, the FCC extended and expanded the requirement that broadcasters file reports on their educational and public interest programming. Such reports will now have to be filed quarterly.

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