The FCC on Thursday released a 38-page fact sheet that outlines some of its proposed changes for the FCC’s Children’s TV programming rules.
Among the suggested changes: Core Programming should be at least 30 minutes in length, and regularly scheduled weekly programming can be eliminated. Further, an annual filing of FCC Form 398, rather than quarterly, is proposed.
That’s just the tip of the iceberg in an long-awaited scheme drafted by Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, and backed by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai. In their views, the rules no longer reflect the marketplace. Thanks to VOD choices, YouTube, noncommercial TV, OTT and cable TV channels, there’s a plethora of children’s programming available.
Detractors, mainly Democrats, argue that not all Americans share the same access to this content, largely due to socioeconomic differences. Multicultural consumers, in particular, could be negatively impacted.
In a Fact Sheet distributed late Thursday (6/22), the FCC explained, “The video programming landscape has changed significantly since the children’s programming rules were first adopted more than 20 years ago, with a wide variety of children’s programming now available through numerous outlets. The modifications proposed in the Notice are designed to provide broadcasters greater flexibility in fulfilling their children’s programming obligations in light of these changes, while preserving access to children’s programming for households that rely on over-the-air television and do not have access to the proliferation of programming options on non-broadcast platforms.”
Among the other things the notice will do:
• Seek comment on whether to expand the timeframe when Core Programming can be aired.
• Tentatively conclude that noncommercial stations should no longer be required to identify Core Programming with the “E/I” symbol, and seek comment on whether to continue to require commercial stations to identify Core Programming with the “E/I” symbol.
• Seek comment on whether to retain the requirement that broadcasters provide information identifying children’s programming to publishers of program guides.
• Seek comment on whether to modify the three-hour per week safe harbor processing guideline for determining compliance with the children’s programming rules.
• Seek comment on the creation of a framework under which broadcasters could satisfy their children’s programming obligations by relying in part on special sponsorship efforts and/or special non-broadcast efforts, and propose to allow Media Bureau staff, rather than the full Commission, to approve the renewal applications of licensees relying on such special efforts.
• Propose to allow multicasting stations to choose on which of their free over-the-air streams to air their required Core Programming hours and tentatively conclude that the additional Core Programming guideline applicable to multicasting stations should be eliminated.
• Seek comment on whether the policies governing the preemption of children’s programming should be revised or whether other rule changes proposed in the Notice would provide broadcasters sufficient flexibility to schedule their Core Programming so as to avoid the need for pre-emptions.