Groups To FCC: Don’t Weaken Kids Rules

The commission is urged to “protect programming and advertising safeguards for children’s TV.”

Advocates called today on the FCC to reject an effort by major media companies to “eliminate or weaken important rules for children’s television.”

The NAB, Internet and Television Association (NCTA), CBS, Disney, Fox, Univision and others have asked the FCC to significantly reduce advertising limits on children’s programming. Industry commenters also urged the FCC to reconsider rules that require broadcasters to provide quality educational programming as part of their obligation to serve the public interest.

In comments filed today, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy called on the FCC to reject such proposals to repeal or modify the current rules. 

“The Trump Administration and the FCC should stand up for the rights of children and parents and reject this crass campaign by the broadcast lobby,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “The broadcast industry receives billions of dollars in benefits from its free use of public resources, including invaluable rights to the airwaves. It is unconscionable that TV stations and networks want to kill off one of their few remaining obligations to the public.”

In April, the FCC issued a public notice on its “Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative,” asking for suggestions about which of the FCC’s media-related rules should be modified or repealed. Media companies replied with a deregulation wish list that would allow them to use kids’ television programming to market directly to children. 

The major networks urged the FCC to relax its rules prohibiting product integration and product placement on kids’ shows, arguing that YouTube and other child-directed online services are not subject to those restrictions. Advocates responded by pointing out that internet and mobile providers are simply ignoring longstanding children’s media principles, which are based on child development, and that a lack of online regulation is not a good reason for the FCC to eliminate important safeguards for the millions of children who watch traditional TV. 


“It is extremely disappointing that broadcasters want to join the race to the bottom when it comes to exploiting children’s developmental vulnerabilities for profit,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “Media companies want to gut longstanding safeguards because young people an incredibly lucrative market for advertisers. But research demonstrates that children are particularly vulnerable to marketing and benefit from rules that require ad limits and separation of programming and commercial content.” 

Advocates also oppose a request by the Internet and Television Association to repeal an FCC rule known as the “website display rule.” The FCC adopted this rule in 2004 to prohibit advertisers from engaging in “host-selling” to children, which the transition to digital broadcasting could otherwise allow.  

Angela J. Campbell, director of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown and counsel to some of the advocates, called the effort to repeal this rule disingenuous. “The media companies say the website display rule is unnecessary because television has rarely been used to interact and target advertising to children,” she said. “But at the same time, these companies engaging in a practice known as ‘programmatic marketing,’ which offers advertisers the ability to target ads to specific viewers of cable and broadcast television programming.” 

In addition, these groups oppose efforts by media companies to be relieved of their public interest obligation to provide educational programming for children, and to produce public reports to help the FCC determine whether that programming meets the obligations laid out in the Children’s Television Act.  

“The television industry made a commitment to serve the nation’s children by providing quality educational programs,” said Professor Kathryn Montgomery of American University, who led the effort to strengthen the FCC’s rules on the Children’s Television Act. “However, broadcasters failed to live up to these minimal obligations and the FCC has been irresponsible in allowing the industry to evade one of its only remaining public interest requirements. Rather than considering elimination of these rules, the FCC (and Congress) should conduct an investigation into TV programming and advertising practices directed at children.”

The comments can be read here.


Comments (3)

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Adam Wiener says:

August 4, 2017 at 5:30 pm

What these people are saying makes me want to smash my head through a wall. I mean, are you kidding me? The rules you want to keep aren’t making kids’ over-the-air TV better! If any thing, these stupid, outdated regulations are killing it! Creative strangulation from strict censors combined with a severely damaged ability for quality kids programming (like cartoons, game shows, and other scripted programming) Have caused every producer of shows for the 2-11 crowd to jump ship to cable and internet services, and for the most part, all that’s left on free TV is bottom-of-the-barrel documentaries and “inspiring” reality shows like the stuff Litton puts out. These teen shows, besides being the type of thing more likely to get the target audience to sleep in rather than wake up, are also the same type of shilling the industry rules were meant to fight in the first place. The fact that you’re targeting an older audience doesn’t change the corporate selling-out, and claiming the companies sponsoring your crap to be better alternatives to junk food doesn’t make it any less sleazy.

    Adam Wiener says:

    August 4, 2017 at 6:05 pm

    “…a severely damaged ability for quality kids programming (like cartoons, game shows, and other scripted programming) Have caused…” What I meant to say was that the ability for kids’ show to make their budgets back has been damaged severely.

John Livingston says:

August 5, 2017 at 10:35 pm

Time to due away with E/I programming put cartoons back the only ones to do that is Sinclair with it’s Kids Click which I have caught the final hour on Saturday at noon on CW7. All the ad’s are for Chuck E Chesses, Value ad’s and that’s about which toys, Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops, Trixs, Mickey D’s Happy Meals ETC. These groups have killed it all with these outdated rules time to get rid of them.