On Friday, the Commission formally began a rule making proceeding regarding children and electronic media.  Aware of the vast opportunities, but also the potential risks inherent in today’s (and tomorrow’s) electronic media, the Commission is seeking to gather information about the extent to which children are using media today, the benefits and risks of the various

2009 – a new year, and a whole new cycle of regulatory requirements.  We wrote last week about the potential for changes in regulations that may be forthcoming but, like death and taxes, there are certain regulatory dates each year that broadcasters need to note and certain deadlines that must be met.  Those dates

In several decisions released on Friday (here, here and here), the FCC fined Class A TV stations for not meeting their obligations under the Children’s Television Rules to notify their viewers about the location of their public file containing information about the educational and informational programming they broadcast directed to children

In several recent speeches and press releases, FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein has challenged the FCC to do more in the regulation of children’s programming.  In a recent Press Release, the Commissioner outlined proposals including the following:

  • Improve the V-Chip and other program blocking technologies
  • Improve ratings information for television programming – including potentially having third parties review programming for its suitability to children as opposed to the television programmers themselves doing the ratings
  • In the context of a proceeding on Embedded Advertising that has been rumored for quite some time, look at how such advertising is used in children’s programming
  • Restrict interactive advertising directed at children.
  • Convene a summit to explore these issues

In addition to these proposal, the Commissioner gave a recent speech to the Media Institute in which he expanded on these ideas, and also lengthened this agenda to include further Commission action to define and restrict violent programming.  He also expressed his regrets over the recent decision overturning the FCC’s fines for fleeting expletives and urged that action be taken to overturn this decision (see our post here on the FCC’s appeal of that decision).  And in yet another recent speech, he emphasized the proceeding on Interactive advertising in children’s programming, remarking on how the Commission has a pending proceeding that has been pending and unresolved for several years.  He cited the Commission’s tentative conclusion to ban such ads, as broadcasters form a "portal" for children’s entrance to the Internet.  While the Commissioner expressed that the FCC had little jurisdiction to do much on the Internet itself (but see our recent post as asking whether the FCC may soon get more power over the Internet), he felt that restrictions on the links to the Internet from television programs would be useful in protecting children. 


Continue Reading The Regulation of TV Programming for Children – Embedded and Interactive Advertising, Violence, and Ratings

A reminder to all radio and television broadcast stations, both commercial and noncommercial, that Quarterly Issues Programs Lists reporting on the important issues facing the stations’ communities, and the programs aired in the months of July, August, and September dealing with those issues must be prepared and placed in the stations’ public inspection file

On Friday, the FCC showed released two decisions – both dealing with a handful of inadvertent violations of the Commission’s rules on advertising directed to children. In one case, a licensee admitted in its license renewal application 4 violations of the rules and was fined $8,000. In another, the licensee admitted 8 violations, received no fine at all, instead being only admonished for its errors. Why the difference?

The FCC justified the difference in treatment based on the nature of the violations.  In reality, the station that did not receive any fine actually broadcast more commercial material in excess of the limits on the amount of advertising permitted in children’s program than did the station that was fined. The reason – “program length commercials.” These are instances where, in a commercial message, a character from the surrounding program appears. In that situation, the FCC considers the entire program as a commercial, and thus the violation is considered much more serious than a mere overage in the time limits on commercial material in children’s programs. The station that received the fine had 3 program length commercials, while the station that was not fined simply ran more commercial matter than permitted by the rules – and did not have any program length commercials. But are these distinctions really justified?


Continue Reading Plan Your Inadvertent Errors Carefully – A Fine for Children’s Television Violations May be at Stake

This article is no longer available. For more information on this topic, see FCC Deadlines in January – Quarterly Issues Programs Lists, Children’s Program Reports, Comments on TV Online Public File and Public Interest Obligation Proposals, FM Window and More

Three of the FCC Commissioners have responded to the Congressional inquiry about the Commission’s rules regarding junk food advertising about which we wrote here.  This inquiry was initiated by Congressman Ed Markey, Chairman of the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet. The Congressman’s letter had urged the FCC to move quickly to implement rules limiting the advertising of unhealthy food aired during broadcasting directed to children.  The Commissioners’ responses uniformly indicate the potential for regulation, depending in part on the outcome of the activities of the industry Task Force formed at the initiation of, and with the participation by, the FCC and Congress. See our reports on the formation of the Task Force, here.  The Commissioners all note that should the Task Force fail to conclude that the industry has achieved satisfactory results through self-regulation, FCC proceedings might be required to insure that children are not unduly exposed to junk food advertisements. 

Two commissioners, Chairman Martin and Commissioner Tate, responded jointly, and indicated that the FCC could explore regulation of unhealthy food, perhaps looking at guidelines adopted in other countries as a model for US regulation.  These Commissioners’ statement even address the issue of regulating children’s programming on cable television networks, where they claim that there is much exposure to ads for junk food.  These statements make clear that this is not just an issue for the broadcast industry.


Continue Reading Commission Responds to Congressional Inquiry on Children’s Junk Food Ads

In one of those "from the depths of history" moments, the FCC on Friday released a Public Notice asking that the record be refreshed as to whether television stations that program a substantial amount of home shopping programming operate in the public interest, and whether they are entitled to must-carry status on cable systems.  In