Barbara Kreisman, Chief, Video Division of the Media Bureau has issued an admonishment to WYOW-TV (ABC, CW), Eagle River, Wisconsin for failure to comply with the commercial limits in children’s programming. Said Kreisman:
“This letter refers to your license renewal application for WYOW(TV) and hereby admonishes the Station for its failure to comply with the limits on commercial matter in children’s programming.
In the Children’s Television Act of 1990, Congress directed the Commission to adopt rules, inter alia, limiting the number of minutes of commercial matter that television stations may air during children’s programming, and to consider in its review of television license renewals the extent to which the licensee has complied with such commercial limits. Pursuant to this statutory mandate, the Commission adopted Section 73.670 of the Rules, 47 C.F.R. § 73.670, which limits the amount of commercial matter which may be aired during children’s programming to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.
On August 1, 2013, you filed the above-referenced license renewal application for the Station. In response to Section IV, Question 5 of that application, you attached an exhibit which included an email memorandum from the CW Network to affiliates which reported that, on December 23, 2006, the Station aired a commercial (for Post Cereal’s Cocoa Pebbles) during the “Xiaolin Showdown” program that contained glimpses of characters from the program on the screen. The appearance is described as “small, fleeting, and confined to a small area of the picture.” The memorandum stated that the CW Network’s technology used to review children’s commercials prior to air proved inadequate. The memorandum describes this commercial as “an apparent violation of the FCC’s children’s advertising rules.”
From the memorandum provided by the network describing the commercial, it appears that this incident is an example of “host-selling,” which involves program-related characters promoting any product during the program in question and is a practice that the Commission has denounced because it takes unfair advantage of the trust that children place in such characters. In
this regard, the Commission has stated that ‘host-selling encompasses any character endorsement – not just direct vocal appeals – that has the effect of confusing a child viewer from distinguishing between program and non-program material.’
You argue that the images did not appear during the commercial portion of the spot but during a portion of the material promoting a contest, relying on WDBD License Corp. as support for the proposition that this did not represent a violation of the commercial limits requirements.
We disagree, and agree with the network’s memorandum and other CW Network affiliates that this commercial violated the commercial limits requirements. We do not believe that there is a clear distinction between the commercial and promotional portions of the spot. Moreover, unlike in WDBD License Corp., the images of characters here did not merely identify the product prize in
a free contest.
The fact that the commercial was inserted into the program by the Station’s television network does not relieve the Licensee of responsibility for the violation.
Although we consider any violation of our rules limiting the amount of commercial matter in children’s programming to be significant, the violation described in your renewal application appears to have been an isolated occurrence. Although we do not rule out more severe sanctions for a violation of this nature in the future, we have determined that an admonition is appropriate at this time. Therefore, based upon the facts and circumstances before us, we ADMONISH you for
this violation of the children’s television commercial limits rule and policies described in the Station’s renewal application. We remind you that the Commission expects all commercial television licensees to comply with the limits on commercial matter in children’s programming.”
RBR-TVBR observation: The good news is there will be no fine. Other CW affiliates got the same letter and this serves as a warning. When it comes to kids’ programming, the rules are different for advertising and product integration. WYOW was very smart in emailing the notice from The CW, rather than hiding it.