As the groundbreaking children’s series celebrates five decades with 150 million viewers, its producers offer The Hollywood Reporter extraordinary access to Big Bird, Cookie Monster and the minds behind one of media’s only universally loved franchises — and reveal how a $100 million-a-year mainstay nearly went out of business.
NBC/Telemundo has agreed to pay $495,000 to settle an FCC investigation into whether it fulfilled its children’s TV programming obligation — in several instances, it didn’t. (The amount of the settlement was initially incorrectly reported as in the millions of dollars).
The FCC’s 1996 requirement that stations air three hours a week of educational or informational programming was well meaning, but its later expansion to each of a station’s subchannels has proven to be overreach, rendered moot by the explosion of sources of such programming. It’s time the FCC let the diginets stick to their intended brands of programming.
When the FCC extended its three-hour weekly requirement for kidvid programming to subchannels in 2004, the NAB said, the commission promised to reconsider the move within three years, but never did. “Given technological developments, changes in how consumers access video programming and the growth in child-oriented content online and on-demand over the past two decades, the FCC should initiate this long overdue proceeding forthwith,” NAB said.
Jack Goodman says that after 20 years, it’s time to reconsider the FCC guideline effectively requiring TV stations to air three hours of educational and informational children programming each week. If it cannot be demonstrated that such programming is effective, the intrusion on broadcasters’ First Amendment rights cannot be justified.
Some new kids shows coming out now may look familiar to you. Producers are looking to the past for ideas, even if the titles predate the target audience’s birth by decades.