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FCC Seeks Comment on Kids Rules Deal

As expected, the FCC put out for comment an agreement between major media companies and children's TV activists on new DTV children's TV rules.

The FCC has stayed the effective date of those rules until it has collected input on the deal and vote either to accept it and modify its rules or reject it.

The rules affect not only DTV but analog children's broadcasts.

The FCC commissioners praised the negotiations over the compromise rules, which headed off a court challenge from both media companies and activists. Commissioner Michael Copps said that similar give and take should characterize the setting of other digital public interest obligations.

The compromise proposal clarifies responsibilities for protecting children from overcommercialization, said Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, who seconded Copps call for a similar approach on other, broader public interest obligations.

Chairman Kevin Martin called it a unique opportuntiy to come together on recommend comprehensive changes, though he also called this a model. He called it a positive step.

The National Association of Broadcasters board has voted to accept the deal.
The deal was struck in December after both sides took the rules to court--the media companies because they thought they were too restrictive, the activists because they thought they were not tough enough.

Currently the FCC has stayed enforcement of its own take on digital TV kids rules pending consideration of the agreement, which all the commissioners were briefed on, including new commissioner, Deborah Tate.

The deal, would leave in place the requirement that broadcasters air three hours of children's TV per channel in both analog and digital. That was the key issue of the coalition, says McIntyre.

In addition, the media companies agreed not to challenge limits on the display of commercial Web sites during children's programming. The groups agreed to a modified form of host selling in which the use of TV characters to sell products to kids would be confined to specific areas of a Web site if that Web address was displayed in shows that featured those characters.

The key is that there will have to be a buffer between the character and a sales pitch.

Arguably the biggest deal was on program promotion in kids shows. The FCC rules as currently constituted count any program promotion in a kids show as an advertisement, reducing the amount of paid ads that can air during the show. Under the agreement, show promos for kids shows on the same channel or educational kids shows on any channel would not count as ad time.

In addition, there would be no numerical limits, as the current rules contain, on the ability of broadcasters to preempt kids shows for live sports and other programming.

Patti Miller, VP of Children Now, one of the activist groups insturmental in the deal, was urging the public to support it. "We are hopeful that the public will recognize that the rule revisions recommended by the Children’s Media Policy Coalition and representatives from the broadcast and cable industries are of tremendous benefit to children," she said Friday.
"These rules not only serve to provide significantly more educational programming to children as broadcasters increase their programming capacity with the digital transition, but they also serve to protect children from the harmful effects of excessive advertising."