On Jan. 29, in a lengthy blog post, Republican FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly made it abundantly clear that the Federal government’s requirement, on a weekly basis, for TV stations to air educational and informational programming targeting children is “outdated.”
Today, he formally accepted the request of FCC Chairman Ajit Pai to lead the agency’s review of what he calls “the stringent requirements the FCC imposes on our nation’s
broadcasters to air a certain amount of educational and informational children’s
programming on a weekly basis.”
That’s the so-called “Kid Vid” rule, which dates to 1990. By statute, over the objection of President George H.W. Bush, the 101st Congress passed the Children’s Television Act. This states that “as part of their obligation to serve the public interest, television station operators and licensees should provide programming that serves the special needs of children.”
Much has changed in the way of consumption of children’s video programming since 1990. More importantly, much had changed with respect to the Act through the 1990s. At first, no minimum requirement was established; key House Democrats made it clear that Congress was not directing the FCC to set a minimum quantification standard. Nevertheless, one was created and affirmed in 1996, with three hours of such programming per week required to guarantee renewal of a broadcast license.
O’Rielly believes these rules no longer make sense, given the abundance of programming available on noncommercial TV stations (which the Trump Administration proposes in its FY 2019 Federal budget no longer receive funding from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting), and from cable TV channels and OTT services (for households with the socioeconomic means to receive these services).
In the blog post, O’Rielly argued, “There is scant evidence to indicate that children’s programming on broadcast stations has improved. There is also no scientific proof that the Kid Vid requirements specifically have led to developmental benefits for children … For the multitude of reasons provided, it is high time the Commission consider whether the Kid Vid rules are still necessary. At the very least, there are substantial portions of these rules that can be rolled back or reconsidered. I hope as the Commission continues down its media modernization path, this rule will be part of the equation.”
With that, O’Rielly on Feb. 13 signaled that, as the Commission is currently undergoing a comprehensive proceeding to modernize its media regulations, “Kid Vid is due for such an examination within the bounds of the law.”
O’Rielly’s goal in reviewing the Kid Vid rules is “to understand whether the rules the
Commission imposed on broadcasters to carry out the Children’s Television Act … still make sense in today’s media marketplace and whether these rules enhance or hamper the family broadcast experience.”
O’Rielly invited all parties including family group representatives and evangelical organizations, with which he has already “had some good dialogue,” to share their viewpoints on this topic.