FCC Pokes Stations Over Pokemon

The FCC continues to work through its backlog of license renewals, stopping along the way to admonish stations for kids TV rule violations, particularly program-length commercials.

Recently--well the admonition was only two days ago, the violation several years back--the culprit was an ad for Buzz LightYear cereal in a Buzz LightYear show. Friday, it was a Gameboy ad in a Pokemon show.

The FCC says that the appearance of any character in both a commercial and a show--so-called host selling--turns the entire show into a program-length commercial and a defacto violation of the limits on commercials in kids shows--10.5 hours on weekends, 12 minutes on weekdays.

WATL Atlanta and KSHV Shreveport, La., were both admonished--an official reprimand--for a Sept. 24, 2002, ad for a Gameboy Advance E-Reader that briefly flashed a Pokemon card during a broadcast of The WB show Pokemon. KSHV said it was only for 1.04 seconds and was not verbally identified as Pokemon, in fact only showing the "mon" in a fan of cards.

The FCC said that brevity notwithstanding, the rule was the rule, and this rule against program-length commercials was  of particular interest to Congress--the FCC's boss--so the commission treated any violation as serious.

Sounds like that means that any WB affiliate that ran that Sept. 24, 2002, show can expect an admonition when their licenses come up for renewal.

The FCC took no action on kids ad overages, the maximum violation only 75 seconds, at four other Alabama stations, saying they were "isolated and inadvertent." That is a somewhat curious explanation since, in the Buzz Lightyear admonition two days earlier for the host-selling-prompted ad overages, the Media Bureau in rejecting the ignorance defense, said the commission "has repeatedly rejected inadvertence as a basis for excusing violations of the  children’s television commercial limits."

As with its recent kids TV reprimands, the FCC made no mention of the status of the license renewals. The license expiration dates on the Alabama stations are April 1, 2005.

John Eggerton

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.