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ChildrenNow Asks FCC to Put Teeth in Tentative Kids Ad Conclusions

Representatives of Kids advocacy group
Children Now met with a top aide to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski and others
this week to press the commission to take a stand against imbedded advertising
and product placement in children's programming.

According to an ex parte filing by the group,
Jeff McIntyre, director of national media policy for Children Now and their
attorneys met with Genachowski senior counselor Josh Gottheimer and several
bureau staffers.

In addition to asking them to explicitly ban
interactive kids advertising, they also said the FCC should "carefully
review whether broadcast licensees and cable operators are complying with the
requirements of the Children's Television Act (CTA)" in terms of
commercial limits (cable) and educational programming (broadcast TV).

The FCC tentatively concluded back in 2004
that children's TV shows should not have interactive links to advertising
unless parents have opted into such interactivity.

At the time, the commission said it would be
premature to make that tentative conclusion into a rule because there was not
much direct connectivity between TV and the 'net.

Children Now argues that with programming
being offered on multiple platforms, it is time for the FCC to get ahead of the
curve -- the group concedes that it is "not aware" of any commercial
interactivity in any kids programming. But they argue it is just a matter of
time given burgeoning interactivity elsewhere. "In the absence of clear
and enforceable restrictions, children's programmers are likely to start using
many of the interactive marketing techniques now being used in programs
intended for teen or general audiences," they told the commission.

They point out, for instance, that Nickelodeon
has a Dora the Explorer Facebook page,
even though Facebook users have to be over 12. Facebook is currently exploring
ways to open the site officially to kids, with their parents' permission.

Children Now also wants the commission to
clarify that FCC ad policies apply to video on demand and prohibit product
placement in kids shows.

The FCC has already said it thought product
placement would run afoul of rules that require commercial and program content
to be clearly separated in kids shows, but also has sought comment on whether
that should be made explicit. Children Now says it is time to do so.

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.