×

FCC Revises Children’s Programming Rules for Broadcasters

The FCC on Wednesday voted to revise some of the obligations that broadcast TV stations have to carry informational and educational programming for children.

The changes, adopted on a 3-2 vote, reflect the push by broadcasters to loosen the obligations established under the landmark Children’s Television Act in 1990, which established a detailed set of regulations that broadcasters have to comply with in order to retain their licenses from the FCC. The FCC also issued a notice of proposed rulemaking to study other adjustments — what FCC described as effort to “modernize” — to the rules.

The changes implemented on Wednesday include expanding by one hour the time periods in which stations can run programs that comply with CTA rules. Stations can now carry educational/informational programming as early as 6 a.m., rather than 7 a.m., through 10 p.m.

TV stations under the CTA are obligated to run 156 hours a year of educational and informational (E/I) programming. Under the rule changes, stations are allowed to carry up to 52 hours a year of E/I programming in the form of specials or short-form content rather than ongoing series. Stations can also shift up to 13 hours of programming per quarter onto a multicast stream rather than their primary broadcast channel.

Broadcasters applauded FCC chairman Ajit Pai for championing the revisions as overdue recognition of the vast changes in the programming marketplace, thanks to the fragmentation of viewing across hundreds of channels. Broadcasters feel the CTA rules are out of date in a world where so many young viewers watch niche cable channels and on-demand programming. The obligation to carry low-rated children’s programming has economic consequences at a time when stations are already dealing with shrinking profit margins.

“NAB thanks the FCC for modernizing its kidvid rules to allow broadcasters to better serve children and communities,” the National Assn. of Broadcasters said in a statement. “Chairman Pai and Commissioner (Michael) O’Rielly deserve enormous credit for championing common-sense regulations designed for the way children and families consume video in the 21st century.”

The commission said it will begin further study of proposed changes to allow broadcasters to satisfy their kidvid obligations through “efforts to sponsor children’s programming aired on other in-market stations,” the FCC said.

FCC commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Geoffrey Starks voted against the rule changes. Rosenworcel said the lack of affordable access to pay TV and broadband service for some viewers means that broadcast TV remains a vital and primary source of news and entertainment for many families.

“Shame on us for deciding that (the changing marketplace) has rendered children’s television policies obsolete. Shame on us for using this as an excuse to cut children’s television and make it harder for parents to find safe content on the screen,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “That’s what we do here. Today the FCC decides that we can cut these policies because in the internet age they are no longer needed. Nothing could be further than the truth.”

(Pictured: FCC chairman Ajit Pai)

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Hugh Laurie

    Hugh Laurie to Star in New BBC Thriller 'Roadkill' by David Hare

    Hugh Laurie, the Golden Globe-winning star of “House” and “The Night Manager,” will play a beleaguered politician in a new four-part thriller for the BBC, “Roadkill,” from acclaimed playwright and screenwriter David Hare. The series is being produced by The Forge (“Collateral”). Laurie stars as Peter Laurence, a charismatic Conservative Party government minister who remains [...]

  • Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth WarrenSecond 2020

    ABC News Sets Moderators, Rules for Third Democratic Debate

    ABC News has announced the moderators for the third Democratic debate, as well as the qualification rules. The debate will be held on Thursday, Sept. 12, and will spill over to Friday, Sept. 13 if more than 10 candidates qualify. The moderating team will consist of chief anchor George Stephanopoulos, “World News Tonight” anchor and [...]

  • James Corden Paul McCartney Carpool Karaoke

    James Corden Got a Little Help From Paul McCartney on His Drive to the Emmys

    Saying “Baby, I could drive your car” has proven to be a very good strategy for James Corden — never more so than when he put Paul McCartney into the highly sought passenger seat. The primetime special “Carpool Karaoke: When Corden Met McCartney, Live From Liverpool” is a contender in five Emmy categories this year, [...]

  • Starz Logo

    Starz Orders Horror Comedy Pilot 'Shining Vale'

    Starz has put out a pilot order for “Shining Vale,” a horror comedy which hails from “Divorce” creator Sharon Horgan and “Trial & Error” co-creator Jeff Astrof. The prospective series is about a dysfunctional family that moves from the city to a small town into a house in which terrible atrocities have taken place. But no one [...]

  • Bethenny Frankel at the showtime Emmy

    Bethenny Frankel to Exit 'Real Housewives of New York' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Bethenny Frankel is stepping away from the “Real Housewives” franchise. Variety has learned exclusively that Frankel is poised to exit Bravo’s “The Real Housewives of New York” ahead of its upcoming twelfth season. Frankel first joined the acclaimed reality series back when it premiered back in 2008 before exiting the series in 2010 during the [...]

  • Dolly Parton

    BBC Commissions Dolly Parton Feature Documentary

    The BBC has commissioned a feature length documentary about country music legend Dolly Parton, it announced Wednesday. The documentary, tentatively titled “Dolly’s Country” will air on BBC Two this fall as part of a season of programs dedicated to country music. The broadcaster announced earlier in the day that it had acquired Ken Burns’ upcoming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content