core children's program

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.
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In anticipation of its July 10 open meeting, the FCC last week released its draft Order making changes to its rules requiring television stations to broadcast specific amounts of educational and informational programming directed to children.  The current rules require that stations air an average of three hours of such programming every week for every channel of programming they broadcast.  The current rules also impose all sorts of restrictions on programming for it to be considered “Core Programming” that can be counted toward meeting the three-hour per channel obligation.  The draft Order, if adopted at the July meeting, would ease some of the restrictions and, perhaps most importantly, eliminate the requirement that, for each multicast channel, three hours of unique educational programming directed to children be broadcast.

The Commission surveyed the current TV marketplace and found that, in the 15 years since it adopted the requirement that there be 3 hours of programming per multicast channel, much more educational and informational programming for children has become available – through public broadcasting and through new programming sources, including those delivered online.  Providing those three extra hours of educational and informational programming imposed significant cost burdens on broadcasters (even a weather radar channel carried with it a three-hour children’s programming obligation) for seemingly little benefit given the availability of so much other kids’ programming elsewhere.  The FCC draft Order also would change some of the specific requirements for station’s primary video channel.
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There was lots of news out of the FCC yesterday that will give us issues to write about for weeks to come. Here are some highlights. At its open meeting, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on potentially reforming the children’s television rules – including a review as to whether the current requirement that regularly scheduled programs of 30 minutes in length are the only means to meet the obligation to broadcast 3 hours of educational and informational children’s programming each week for each stream of free over-the-air programming broadcast by a station without facing heightened FCC scrutiny. The rulemaking will also look at whether all kid’s programming obligations could be met by broadcasts on a single multicast stream or through other efforts. The FCC Press Release on the action is here, and and the text of the notice is here.

On EAS, the FCC took actions to strengthen the reliability of the EAS system by allowing real EAS tones to be used in PSAs to promote the system, subject to certain safeguards, and to allow for testing of the EAS system using “live codes” with appropriate warnings and disclaimers. The order also requires the reporting of false emergency messages that may be sent out. The FCC Press Release on that item is here, and we will post a link to the full text when it is available.
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The FCC announced a Consent Decree with a New Jersey TV station where the licensee agreed to make a $17,500 payment to the US Treasury for failing to identify “core” educational and informational programming directed to children with the required “E/I” symbol on the programming itself. This programming was, according to the consent decree, run

On Friday, the FCC announced a consent decree for violations of the requirements that TV stations provide at least three weekly hours of CORE programming addressing the educational and informational needs of children. The operator of eight TV and Class A TV stations in the southeast US agreed to make a $90,000 “voluntary contribution” to the Federal government and to adopt new practices to insure future compliance with the CORE programming requirements. The FCC had held up the license renewals of many of its stations as the licensee had claimed reruns of one-time programs as fulfilling the CORE requirements. As explained in the FCC’s Order, the FCC does not consider such programming to meet the requirements of the children’s television rules.

Under the rules, the FCC has the following requirements for CORE programming meeting the educational and informational (“E/I” in the language used by the FCC) needs of children:

(1) serving the E/I needs of children ages 16 and under is a significant purpose of the programming;

(2) the program is to be aired between the hours of 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m.;

(3) the program is a regularly-scheduled weekly program;

(4) the program must be at least 30 minutes in length;

(5) the program is identified as being specifically designed to educate and inform children through the on-screen display of the E/I symbol throughout the program;

(6) the educational objective and the target child audience are specified in writing in the licensee’s Children’s Television Programming Report; and

(7) the licensee must provide instructions for listing the program as E/I, including an indication of the age group for which the program is intended, to publishers of TV program guides.

In this case, the licensee was deemed to have violated criteria number 3 above – as its programming was not “regularly scheduled.”
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In a decision released yesterday, the FCC renewed the licenses of three TV stations held by large broadcast groups, rejecting Petitions to Deny filed by a citizen’s organization arguing that the children’s educational and informational programming run by these stations was not sufficiently educational or informational to meet the requirement that stations run three hours per week of educational and informational programing. The licensees were able to present evidence that these programs where developed with expert guidance to insure that they in fact presented valuable messages to children and, based on that evidence (plus the fact that the challenged programing had been replaced by other non-challenged programming), the renewals were granted. However, the FCC warned stations to be careful in their assessments of the educational nature of children’s programs, as the FCC can sanction stations where that judgment is not deemed to be reasonable.

Every television station has an obligation to present an average of at least three hours per week of educational and informational programming directed to children who are 16 or under. That three hour requirement attaches to each programming stream broadcast by the station (including each digital subchannel – though the obligation can be met if all of the educational and informational programming is done on the main program stream of the station – so a news and weather subchannel does not need to do educational and informational programming if the main program channel does 6 weekly hours of such programming). Such programing is to be designed to serve the “cognitive/intellectual or social/emotional needs” of children. Obviously, what meets those needs can be a matter of debate.
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