Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly has made it clear that the Commission’s rules pertaining to children’s programming on broadcast TV stations are in need of serious changes — or an outright deletion.
“Unfortunately, the Commission’s rules, while well intentioned, have not worked in delivering high quality content for children,” he said during an April 20 keynote speech to conservative think tank and heavy FCC influencer AEI, the American Enterprise Institute.
Until now the Parents Television Council has been silent on O’Rielly’s push for “Kid Vid” modernization. Today (5/1) the PTC spoke up, and it is concerned.
One of O’Rielly’s biggest quests this spring has been to change the nation’s broadcast requirements for children’s television programming.
He’s brought up the topic on multiple occasions, most recently at the AEI. There, he said, “At its core, the Commission found a market failure in the delivery of children’s programming and responded by trying to create a market through regulations. And, as is often the case when government tries to create a market, this endeavor failed spectacularly.”
Data presented to O’Rielly on the combined viewership of all four networks shows, he says, “a 99% decline in children viewership ages 2 to 11 on Saturday mornings.”
It is his wish that the FCC this summer “tee-up a rulemaking,” based on his recommendations, that will “explore ways to breathe flexibility into our rules,” he said.
What does the PTC think of any effort to greatly modify the nation’s “Kid Vid Rules,” which impose minimum educational and information programming guidelines on television broadcasters?
PTC President Tim Winter applauds O’Rielly’s leadership in reviewing broadcast rules that no longer may be necessary. “But,” he warned, “let’s not throw the baby out with the deregulatory water.”
As the airwaves are a public asset valued at over half a trillion dollars, “Broadcasters use our airwaves for free, as long as their use ‘serves the public interest,'” he said. “While numerous video platforms are indeed available to children today, economically disadvantaged families still rely heavily on broadcasting. Requiring a TV station to air educational programming three out of 168 hours per week seems a modest price for free use of a half-trillion-dollar asset.”
That said, a review of the FCC’s “Kid Vid” rules isn’t up for debate. “A review of the rules is absolutely in order and we should simplify them for the times,” Winter believes.
However, he adds, “An honest review might demand more, not fewer, hours of educational TV. If broadcasters find their public interest obligation to be so burdensome, perhaps Americans should ask them instead to pay fair market value for our airwaves.”
In a blog post published May 1, Winter continued, “The reality, and the sole reason why there is any conversation at all about ‘Kid Vid’ rules, is that broadcasters would prefer to make more money by running something else instead of E/I programming for children. A sampling of early-morning weekend programming in Los Angeles suggests that stations would replace educational/informational shows with paid programming that touts the removal of unwanted body hair, or the benefits of membership in the automobile club, or a car wax that can undergo 50 car washes and still bead water, or expert tips on buying and selling real estate with no money down.
“What is that slot worth? Based upon my research in Los Angeles (the No. 2 U.S. market), a 30-second commercial at 7am on a Saturday morning sells for about $70-$80, net of sales commission. With 12-16 commercial avails to sell during the show, that means a 30-minute program could fetch about $1,000 in revenue for a local TV station in the L.A. market. Smaller markets would fetch less, perhaps just pennies on the dollar; but at least it provides a metric for comparison.”
He concludes, “Perhaps any change to the ‘Kid Vid’ rules would include a requirement for broadcasters to air original local programming. But broadcasters would likely object to this requirement due to the high cost to produce it and the relatively low revenue values at that time of day. It is cheaper and easier to run infomercials, and that is the likely outcome if ‘Kid Vid’ rules are weakened.”
What are your thoughts on “Kid Vid” rules and how they impact your TV station? Offer your comments below!