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Kids Activists Rally for Rules

Children's TV activists will gather on Capitol Hill Tuesday, Oct. 25, to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the Children's TV Act.

The act set limits and ground rules for advertising in kids programs. It also established mandatory minimums of educational/informational (E/I) children's programming (three hours per week).

The rules were revamped last fall to define their application to broadcasters' new digital channels, as well as to add some new restrictions applying to technologies, like Web links and interactive programming, that were not addressed in the initial rules.

Groups including Children Now and the United Church of Christ (UCC) will be there to rally support for those rules, which are being challenged by broadcasters in the wake of their recrafting for digital broadcasting.

Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), who spearheaded the act's passage in tandem with longtime children's TV activist Peggy Charren, will be on hand to lend his support, along with former FCC Commissioner Gloria Tristani, now executive director, office of communications, of the UCC.

Her office has been active in challenging stations on their definition of educational and informational kids programming. The UCC has also challenged the FCC's kids rules in court, saying they aren't restrictive enough.

Viacom and Disney have also challenged the rules, saying they impinge on speech and are unworkable, among other complaints.

Disney's top D.C. lobbyist, Preston Padden, points out that children's TV activists were the first to break off talks with the networks about the rules and first to take the rules to court.

"The industry supported the Children's Television Act" first time around, he said. "They worked perfectly well for more than a decade before they were radically expanded by rules adopted a year ago."That expansion included restrictions on Web links and defining as ad time promos for other shows, if those shows were not informational or educational. The WB, for one, said that part of the reason it scrapped its weekday kids block was that the new rules would no longer allow stations to promote WB prime time programming in the block without having to cut back ad inventory.A D.C. appeals court has given the FCC until Tuesday to weigh in on Disney's writ of mandamus asking the D.C. Circuit to force a decison on the challenges to the rules, which take effect Jan. 1.