FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is spearheading a review of the FCC’s children’s television requirements that he hopes to launch in the summer and complete by year’s end.
O’Rielly: The Kids Rules Aren’t Alright
LAS VEGAS — FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly said today that he expects the FCC to launch a rulemaking this summer to reform the FCC children’s TV rules and to wrap up the proceeding by the end of the year.
In January, on his FCC blog, O’Rielly questioned the continue need for the rules as now written. They require TV stations to air three hours of children’s programming in the form of 30-minute shows each week between 7 and 10 a.m. and they also regulate how and when the shows can be preempted.
Following the post, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai blessed the reform initiative and anointed O’Rielly to take the lead in it.
Speaking at a breakfast at the NAB Show sponsored by the Garvey, Schubert, Barer law firm, O’Rielly said he needs to speak to Pai about the thrust of the rulemaking, but that he expects it to be more than simply a call for reform ideas. “I intend it to be more directive.”
One idea he threw out was replacing the three-hour rules with a requirement for a children’s multicasting channel.
But O’Rielly did not have any definite proposals.
Right now, he said, his goal is to “further understand the market and determine if each requirement has produced the benefits to our nation’s children and families and examining these rules to see if they have resulted in any unintended consequences.
“Can we breathe some flexibility into our rules and make them more dynamic and responsive to the needs of kids? For example, studies show that children have shorter attention spans … but our rules only count programming that is 30 minutes in length.”
Lack of flexibility may be choking off other public service programming, he said. He said that he received a call from an Ohio broadcaster who said his plans for a Saturday morning news program were “derailed” by the need to make way for children’s programming.
It’s time for reform, O’Rielly said. With the growth of cable and advent of the internet, he said, the media landscape has changed significantly since 1990 when the Children’s Television Act became law and 1996 when the FCC imposed a series of kidvid obligations on broadcasters.
The NAB and several individual broadcasters have already told the FCC what reforms they would like to see the agency make in a general FCC proceeding aimed at identifying and eliminating unnecessary rules of any kind.
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