Many of the revisions to the FCC’s Children’s Television rules become effective on September 16 (as we wrote here), though there are portions of the revised rules whose implementation will be delayed pending approval by the Office of Management and Budget under the Paperwork Reduction Act. The FCC earlier this week released a Public Notice detailing which provisions will become effective on September 16. That notice also discusses how stations should report on their educational and informational programming directed to children on their next Quarterly Children’s Television Report, due to be filed at the FCC by October 10.
As we noted in our earlier article on the effective date, many of the new rules, including the following, will go into effect on September 16: (1) allowing “core programming” (i.e., the programs which meet the educational and informational programming requirements) to air starting at 6 AM (instead of 7 AM under the current rules); (2) eliminating the obligation to air additional core programming for each multicast channel operated by a station; (3) allowing some core programming to air on multicast streams instead of the main program channel; (4) allowing some short-form programming to substitute for core programming of at least 30 minutes; and (5) allowing more flexibility in the preemption of children’s programs. Not going into effect for now are rules relating to changes in the notifications to program guides, rules relating to public notice of preemptions and “second homes” of preempted programs, and the elimination of the need for noncommercial TV stations to display the E/I symbol in children’s programs. Also awaiting OMB approval and thus not yet effective are the rules changing the FCC reporting requirements from a quarterly obligation to an annual one. Yesterday’s public notice addressed how stations are supposed to complete their Quarterly Reports in this interim period.
For the Quarterly Children’s Television Programming Report due to be filed at the FCC by October 10, stations will report on their performance under the old rules through September 15. Programming aired after September 15 will be addressed on the station’s new Annual Report to be filed in January 2020. Thus, the amount of average core programming per week reported in the October filing will be averaged over the 11 weeks that the old rules were in place. The broadcaster will not need to respond to the Form’s question about children’s programming that it plans to air in the future, a requirement that has been eliminated.
For the period after September 15 through the end of the year, the broadcaster will report on its performance on the first Annual Children’s Television Report which will be due no later than January 30, 2020. A station’s programming obligations will be computed based on the pro rata share of the year after the effective date of the new rules. The FCC expects the new form to be approved by OMB before the form needs to be filed. Watch for a public notice about the approval of the new form and the instructions for filing in January.
It is interesting that these instructions on the new rules were issued one day before significant fines were imposed on two stations that had not complied with the old rules during the last renewal term (see the FCC decisions here and here). We will write more about those cases tomorrow.