FCC Tees Up Kids TV Dereg Options

Commissioner Michael O'Rielly appears to have the kids TV rule revamp he is pushing on track.

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai made O'Rielly point person on whether the FCC needs to continue to mandate weekly minimums of children's educational and informational programming in at least half-hour chunks given the amount of children's programming on other platforms and in less than traditional blocks of time—interstitials and other short forms, for example.

O'Rielly has suggested the mandates may have outlived their usefulness.

Related: Democratic Sens. Say Kids TV Mandate Must Stay

O'Rielly recently said he wanted to tee up proposals soon and be able to vote on final rule changes by year's end.

According to Pai, those proposals will be up for a vote—likely to simply launch a period of comment on various options—at the July 12 meeting.

Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who was instrumental in the passage of the children's TV law that the FCC's rules implement, already had some input.

“The Kid Vid rules ensure that all children, including those whose families cannot afford cable or online streaming services, have access to quality, educational content to help them thrive and grow,” he said.

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“American children of all income levels and in all zip codes should also be able to view educational television programming without being bombarded by advertisements [the rules also limit commercial time in children's programming]. I plan to closely review these proposed changes to the Kid Vid rules and will oppose any efforts to weaken them.”

In a new blog post last January, O'Rielly said the FCC should rethink what he called its "ineffective and burdensome requirements currently imposed on our nation’s broadcasters to air a certain amount of educational and informational children’s programming on a weekly basis."

The requirement stems from the FCC's implementation of Markey's 1991 Children's TV Act. In the blog, O'Rielly pointed out that the Act had not mandated, or even arguably anticipated, that the FCC would set mandatory minimums. Initially it did not, he pointed out, but the FCC adjusted that on multiple occasions under pressure from congressional Democrats, including expanding the minimum requirement to multicast channels and capping the allowable preemptions for news and live sports.

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.