Org to open an inquiry into its children's TV rules

The FCC is poised for a revamp of its kidvid regulations — and that might not be good news for broadcasters.

FCC chairman Julius Genachowski told a Senate committee Wednesday that the commission is opening an inquiry into its children’s TV rules. Genachowski indicated the commission would consider expanding the requirement that broadcasters carry educational and informational programming for kids beyond the current minimum of three hours per week.

Genachowski was on Capitol Hill to testify at a hearing held by the Senate Commerce Committee to explore what, if any changes, Congress should make to the Children’s Television Act to reflect the exponential expansion of kid-centric media since the act was signed into law in 1990.

Broadcasters will undoubtedly chafe at any expansion of kidvid regulations. They’ve long complained that the three-hour rule imposed on local TV stations is anachronistic for today’s digital-savvy tots.

“It would be premature to consider expanding children’s TV requirement on broadcasters given the dramatic changes in the marketplace and (the growth of) alternative viewing options since 1990,” Dennis Wharton, exec veep of the National Assn. of Broadcasters, said in a statement issued Wednesday after the hearing.

In his testimony, Genachowski said he applauded the committee for taking a new look at the act, and said the commission would do likewise.

And look for the FCC to cast its view wider than broadcasting to include cable, satellite, videogames, mobile video and the Internet, which “have joined broadcast and cable television as a daily reality for millions of American families,” Genachowski said.

Among other things, the Children’s Television Act also limits the commercial time in kid-focused shows on broadcast and cable TV — to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

(John Eggerton writes for Daily Variety sister publication Broadcasting & Cable.)

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