Children's Programming and Advertising

Fines of $20,000 for violations of the obligations to prepare and file Children’s Television Reports have been flowing out from the FCC as it works its way through license renewal applications filed by television stations over the last year. We wrote about a number of these fines here, when the first wave of fines was issued by the FCC, mostly dealing with Class A TV stations. In the last two weeks, the fines have continued, with a few targeting full power television stations, and many others hitting Class A stations. In several cases, the fines reached $20,000, and included fines not only for the failure to file the reports with the FCC on a timely basis, but also the late placement of the reports into the station’s public file, and the failure to report the deficiencies in compliance on the license renewal forms. There were new cases involving Class A television stations and, as with the last batch of these cases, the Commission made clear that the licensees could give up their Class A status to avoid the proposed fines – not mentioning that, if they did so, they would also be giving up their status as primary station licensees, meaning that they would be secondary to any new full power TV construction (for a new station or a modification of an existing station) and would also lose any protection that they otherwise would have in the repacking of the television band in the upcoming incentive auctions that will sell part of the current TV spectrum to wireless users for wireless broadband uses.

The cases decided in the last two weeks include a $20,000 proposed fine to a full-power station in Louisiana that did not timely file 18 Form 398 Reports during the license term ($17,000 for the late filings and $3000 for not reporting the late filings in the renewal application). In another case involving a proposed $20,000 fine, a Georgia Class A station had failed to timely file 20 Form 398 Reports, and also did not complete 15 Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and place those reports in its public file on a timely basis. With the online public file, compliance with the Quarterly Issues Programs list requirement can be monitored by the FCC, even though such reports are not filed at the FCC. A third $20,000 fine was given to a Class A station that was late with 25 children’s television reports, and failed to identify the failures on the renewal, even though the FCC had inquired about the status of 7 of those reports before the renewal was submitted, and the licensee had admitted its failures to comply with the rules. $10,000 of the fine was attributed to the late-filed public file documents, $7000 to the late-filing of the Form 398s, and $3000 to the failure to admit the violations in the license renewal. 


Continue Reading More Big FCC Fines for Children’s Television Violations

July has many FCC obligations for broadcasters, both regularly scheduled and unique to 2013. There are the normal obligations, like the Quarterly Issues Programs lists, that need to be in the public file of all broadcast stations, radio and TV, commercial and noncommercial, by July 10. Quarterly Children’s television reports are also due to

In at least 7 decisions released last week, the FCC fined TV stations between $3000 and $18,000 for failure to timely file Form 398 Children’s Television Reports – reporting on the programming broadcast by the stations to address the educational and informational needs of children. In these cases, the fines were not for failing to file the reports at all, but instead for the failure to timely file the reports. All but one of the cases involved Class A television stations, which, as we’ve written before, are being subject to very strict scrutiny as the FCC looks to find some willing to give up their protected status before the upcoming incentive auctions (Class A stations being protected from being bumped off the air by new users – but subject to all the rules applicable to full power stations). In each of the cases involving Class A stations, the FCC has offered to forget the fines for noncompliance, if the station gives up its Class A status and becomes an LPTV station, which has no protections.  If the station gives up its protected status, it will have no rights to receive compensation if it gives up its channel in the incentive auction, or if it is forced to change channels in the repacking of TV channels after that auction. 

These cases all stem from the FCC review of the license renewal of the station. With the obligation to file a Form 398 only two weeks away – the quarterly report being due on July 10 – TV stations, especially stations that have not yet filed their renewals, need to pay attention now to make sure that they don’t miss the upcoming deadline.  With public files now online, the FCC late-filing becomes more visible, and with the television renewal cycle in full swing, many TV stations are either now or soon to be under the scrutiny of the FCC. So meeting these obligations becomes important – as the failures can be costly. And, as set forth below, any time that there are multiple late filings – late by more than 10 days (which the FCC note that it might excuse as de minimis) – a fine is likely.


Continue Reading FCC Fines of Up to $18,000 Proposed for 7 TV Stations For Failure To Timely File Children’s Television Reports – The Big Renewal Issue for TV Stations?

October is a very important month in the regulatory world, and broadcasters need to be aware of the regulatory deadlines that have already arisen this month, or which will come up in the next few days. This week, TV Newscheck published our latest summary of the state of many of the most significant legal issues facing TV broadcasters at the FCC and in Congress. In looking at the list, it is clear that this month is particularly important for broadcasters. For instance, this is the month that most TV stations outside of the Top 50 markets will first have to deal with the online public file – having to post their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists and Children’s Television reports on their sites. The FCC this week issued a Public Notice of increased functionality of the online public file, partially to handle these obligations. Of course, radio stations also need to have their Quarterly Issues Programs Lists in their paper public file this week – as the lack of these lists is source of many of the fines that are issued during the license renewal process.

Also this month is the start of the obligation for Internet captioning of any programming that had previously aired with captions on TV. The obligation applies to any full TV program that was captioned when broadcast over-the-air after September 30 and is then posted in full on the Internet. The FCC just issued a reminder about this obligation, emphasizing its importance.


Continue Reading Early October Regulatory Requirements – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Children’s TV Reports, Captioning of Internet Programs, Noncommercial Ownership Reports, EEO and Renewal Obligations

Yesterday, the FCC issued fines totaling $52,000 against four Class A television stations for belatedly filing their FCC Form 398 Children’s Television Programming Reports. The stations, each of which had missed at least a couple of years’ worth of Children’s Reports, were also fined for failing to timely place the reports in their public

The FCC has released 16 Show Cause Orders threatening to deprive a number of low power television (LPTV) stations of their Class A status for failure to file Children’s Television Programming Reports.  These orders appear to be implementing a long-rumored get-tough policy on Class A TV stations, as the FCC prepares to clear portions of the TV spectrum to auction it for use by wireless broadband providers, in accordance with the authorizing legislation we wrote about last week. Class A stations are protected from interference like full power TV stations, while other LPTV licensees can be displaced from their current channels by new primary users – potentially including future wireless broadband auction winners. Therefore, if these Class A stations are downgraded to LPTV status, the FCC could displace them as needed for spectrum auctions.  If they retain their Class A status, they are protected like full-power TV stations, and the FCC must attempt to replicate their coverage in any repacking of the spectrum that may occur.

These 16 Show Cause Orders all have essentially the same set of facts as this one.  Specifically, all of the stations failed to file multiple Children’s Television Programming Reports and failed to respond to FCC letters cautioning the stations that failure to file these reports could result in loss of Class A status.  As the FCC notes in all of the Show Cause Orders, Class A licensees are required to comply with many full power TV requirements, including the need to maintain a main studio and a public inspection file, to comply with children’s programming requirements, political programming requirements, station identification requirements and Emergency Alert System rules. Failure to comply with any of these requirements could result in loss of Class A status.


Continue Reading Failure to File Children’s Programming Reports Could Cause Loss of Class A Status for LPTV Stations

In addition to the normal FCC deadlines for routine filings, January brings the deadline for comments in a number of FCC proceedings, and a filing window for new FM applications.  For TV stations, the Commission recently extended to January 17 the Reply Comment deadline on its proposals (summarized here) for an online public inspection file

If your station engages in children’s programming and maintains a website or web page directed to children under the age of 13, this case may be of interest to you. 

The operator of a website called Skid-e-Kids, a self-described “Facebook and MySpace for kids,” has learned that it is not enough merely to have a privacy policy that requires parental consent prior to obtaining personal information online from children under the age of 13. Such website operators must actually abide by that policy as well. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reinforced that lesson via an enforcement action and settlement with the company this week.

Skid-e-Kids (skidekids.com) advertises itself as “Safe, Fun and very educational.” Their target group is children ages 7-14. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (COPPA) and corresponding FTC rule require parental consent before children under the age of 13 can be requested or required to provide personal information online.

Skid-e-Kids had a Privacy Policy that “requires child users to provide a parent’s valid email address in order to register on the website.” In practice, however, that was not the case. Children were required to provide a birth date, gender, user name, password and email address prior to using the website. Once that information was provided, the child was automatically registered on the website. Worse still, Skid-e-Kids did not even request a parent’s email address and made no attempt to notify parents or obtain parental consent.


Continue Reading FTC Consent Decree Reinforces Need for Websites Aimed at Kids to Comply with COPPA

The end of September marks the close of the Third Quarter of 2011, which brings two quarterly filing obligations for broadcast stations.  The first obligation is that by October 10 all radio and television stations, both commercial and noncommercial, must prepare and place in their public inspection file Quarterly Issues Programs Lists reporting on the important