×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

FCC Set to Propose Easing of Children’s Television Rules

WASHINGTON — The FCC on Thursday will take the first step toward easing a set of rules that requires the amount and type of children’s programming broadcasters must provide to maintain their licenses — but the changes have already raised concerns among parents groups.

The rules date to the 1990s, and were put in place after decades of advocacy from parents groups who were frustrated at a landscape of cartoons and live-action shows that were overly commercialized or too full of violence and bluster. But since children increasingly watch on demand or on an array of other platforms, some FCC commissioners say that the restrictions are outdated.

“Not only are they unnecessary, but after over two decades of experience with the 1996 enhanced regulations, there is scant evidence to indicate that children’s programming on broadcast stations has improved,” Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, the chief proponent of the revisions, wrote in a blog post earlier this year.

For much of the 1970s and ’80s, kid vid advocates, led by Peggy Charren of Action for Children’s Television, pushed for requirements on broadcasters to improve their fare for children.

The activism culminated in the passage of the Children’s Television Act of 1990, which mandated restrictions on the amount of time that broadcasters could devote to advertising during children’s programming, and that stations serve the educational and informational needs of kids.

The FCC in 1996 adopted a specific requirement that stations air at least three hours a week of educational or informational children’s programming or face challenges to their license renewals.

O’Reilly said that these requirements no longer make much sense at a time when so many kids are watching on demand, from places like Netflix and Disney Junior, and as an array of other outlets provide an ample amount of educational programming, like the 24-hour channel PBS Kids.

He wrote that “it is hard to conclude anything other than the market for children’s programming is booming.”

“With today’s dynamic media marketplace there are very little, if any, additional benefits provided by the Kid Vid rules,” he wrote.

He also argued that some of the rules — that programs be 30 minutes or more, and that they be regularly scheduled — actually diminished the incentive for broadcasters to develop such programming as “Schoolhouse Rock,” which were presented as interstitials, and the “ABC Afterschool Specials.” The proposal would eliminate those requirements.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai also seems to agree. He wrote that “as the father of two young children, I know firsthand that the way kids watch video programming these days is very different than when I was growing up. But our children’s television rules haven’t kept up with the times.”

The FCC’s action on Thursday would put the proposal to relax some of the requirements up for public comment.

Action for Children’s Television disbanded in 1992, but other watchdog groups are already expressing concerns that the restrictions will go too far in freeing commercial broadcasters from their educational obligations.

The Parents Television Council’s Tim Winter said in a statement that while the rules need to be modernized, “We cannot help but notice that the document reads like a ‘wish-granting factory’ for the broadcast industry. Each and every bullet point proffers a potential benefit to broadcasters.”

He said the commission “should identify and define the programming needs of children and families; seek input from parents; consider expert testimony from the scientific and education community; and listen to those I’ve spoken to in the programming community who want to produce high-quality E/I content but have been sidelined by broadcasters who anticipate a weakened KidVid obligation.”

A number of other groups, including Common Sense Media and the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, say that the FCC proposal “makes numerous ‘tentative conclusions’ based on no evidence.” Among other things, they say the FCC fails to consider that by reducing educational and informational programming on broadcast television, it could also reduce such shows on Amazon, Netflix, and YouTube, which post kid vid that originates over the airwaves.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who was the House author of the 1990 Children’s Television Act, is urging that the rules be preserved. He has scheduled a press conference for Wednesday.

Proponents of the changes say that stations will still face a mandate to provide children’s programming, but they will have greater flexibility in meeting their obligations. Another proposal is for broadcasters to be able to meet their mandate by relying in part on “special sponsorship” and non-broadcast efforts. O’Rielly noted that “children are just as likely to view content on an iPad as a television set and apps designed for children can be just as informational and educational as programming.”

Among those pushing for the changes are Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, along with representatives of other conservative groups like Americans for Prosperity and ALEC Action.

“Easing these regulations does not mean the end of children’s broadcast programming; rather, it enables broadcasters to enhance the quality of children’s programming to match their competitors,” they wrote in an FCC filing.

More Politics

  • James Marsden attends the 2019 MOCA

    New Abortion Ban Laws Take Center Stage at MOCA Gala

    Forty years ago in Los Angeles, the decision to invest millions in a museum dedicated exclusively to contemporary art — not to mention its formerly desolate downtown location, where the vibe was more apocalyptic than artsy — was a risky proposition. But now that the city’s cultural heart has shifted south of Hollywood, it seems [...]

  • Spectators watch the 2019 Eurovision Song

    U.S. Music Industry Delegation Convenes in Tel Aviv for Eurovision

    This past weekend, squeezed between a string of Eurovision Song Contest parties, Tel Aviv’s posh Norman hotel played host to an intimate, invite-only dinner of music industry delegates from the United States. The rooftop-set event was designed as a highlight on the itinerary of the Creative Community for Peace (CCFP) weeklong trip to Israel. CCFP, [...]

  • Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment,

    Robert De Niro Calls for Impeachment, Imprisonment for Trump, Says Maybe Al Pacino Should Lead Instead

    Robert De Niro honored Al Pacino, his longtime friend and four-time collaborator (with Martin Scorsese’s upcoming film “The Irishman” marking their latest pairing), at the American Icon Awards, and then called for a different type of tribute for President Donald Trump — “impeachment and imprisonment.” “You didn’t think you were going to completely get away without [...]

  • CEO of T-Mobile John Legere (L)

    FCC Chairman Backs T-Mobile, Sprint Merger With New Conditions

    FCC Chairman Ajit Pai gave a thumbs-up to T-Mobile and Sprint’s proposed $26 billion merger, after the companies committed to enhanced 5G buildout commitments and agreed to spin off Sprint’s Boost Mobile. T-Mobile and Sprint first announced their plans to merge in April 2018, looking to combine forces to take on industry leaders AT&T and [...]

  • Billie Eilish and Debbie Harry

    Billie Eilish, Blondie's Debbie Harry Attack Abortion Ban

    Songwriting took a backseat to politics for the female honorees at Thursday night’s ASCAP Pop Music Awards at the Beverly Hilton. America’s rapidly spreading anti-abortion movement in states such as Alabama, Georgia and, most recently, Missouri — and resulting legal battles that could lead the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade — had veteran [...]

  • The Spectator Magazine Summer Party at

    Trump Pardons Former Media Mogul Conrad Black

    President Donald Trump has issued a full pardon for Conrad Black, a former media mogul who was convicted on counts of wire fraud and obstruction of justice and who also wrote a biography that praised the president last year. According to a lengthy post on Black’s website, Trump called Black and told him personally of [...]

  • Trump CNN

    White House Asks Users to Report Alleged Social Media Censorship

    Doubling down on the idea that conservative views are being censored on social media, the White House launched a web form Wednesday afternoon that asks users to report any actions taken against them on platforms like Facebook and Twitter because of their political views. “Social media platforms should advance freedom of speech,” the White House [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content