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Ad Council Awaits FCC Kids Call

The Ad Council is still waiting for a response from the FCC on a clarification of its Kids TV rules, while some kids TV advocates say the rules are already clear.

The council, which turns contributions of ad-agency brainpower and donated broadcast time into public service campaigns, sent a letter to the commission more than two months ago asking for a response.

The group said it had been told by some local broadcasters that they were not planning to air the council's PSAs in their kids shows, or would strip out associated URLs in the spots, for fear of running afoul of new kids TV guidelines that take effect Jan. 1, 2006.

Those rules expand the FCC's definition of commercial time in kids programming to include promos for non-educational TV shows and URLs for primarily commercial Web sites.

Neither expansion would seem to include public service announcements, except for perhaps a line in the new definition of commercial matter about "promotions of television programming or video programming services other than children's educational and informational programming."

In any event, the council said it was receiving enough "conflicting and potentially erroneous feedback" from the stations to warrant the request for clarification.

Specifically, the council wants to know: 1) Will all PSA's be defined as commercial matter under the new rules? 2) If PSAs are OK, must they only be child-targeted or can they also be targeted to the general population or adults? 3) Can the PSAs carry URLs for associated Web sites?

Meanwhile, the council has an ally in advocacy group Children's Media Policy Coalition, which doesn't think broadcasters should wait around for an answer from the commission.

The group, saying it was "puzzled" by the Ad Council query, argues the rules clearly do not apply to PSAs and want the National Assocaition of Broadcasters to tell its members as much.

In an Aug. 1 letter to NAB President Eddie Fritts, the group argues: "We do not understand how a reasonable, good faith interpretation of this language can be construed to encompass children’s public service announcements. As, no doubt, the NAB understands, there is no substantive basis for this overbroad interpretation."
"While our coalition appreciates the television industry’s need for accurate interpretation of FCC rules," Patti Miller of coalition partner Children Now told B&C, "this inquiry distracts us from improving the media environment for children. The Children’s Media Policy Coalition wants to ensure that children have access to public health and educational messages that PSAs provide. The bottom line is that we think the NAB can clarify this matter with its members without FCC intervention," she said.