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'Informal' Kids Rules Kick in March 1

March 1 is the date broadcasters have agreed to come into compliance with a compromise on new kids rules struck with kids TV activists.

Signed up to line up along the new lines laid down by the deal are Viacom, CBS, Disney, Fox, NBC Universal, Time Warner, Discovery, 4Kids Entertainment, and the Association of National Advertisers.

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.

There is a confidential settlement terms that suggest the rules don't take effect until the FCC OK's the deal, but that is apparently not the case.

Acccording to Gloria Tristani, executive director of the Office of Communication of the United Church of Christ and a leader on the activist side of the table, the parties have agreed that the compromise rules will kick in, whether or not the FCC has put its official imprimatur on them by that date.

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, which both sides say they have presented to the FCC, 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. Under the rules, scheduled to kick in Jan. 1, those displays would count toward the ad limits in kids 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.