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MVPDs, Activists in Kids’ Custody Battle

WASHINGTON — Broadcasters and multichannel video programming distributors are trying to get more marketing flexibility in a world where online video is on the rise, and where new video competition is not subject to a host of regulations that apply to traditional TV. However, they face pushback from children’s advocates who argue that would be going in the wrong direction.

At the direction of new chairman Ajit Pai, the Federal Communications Commission voted May 18 to launch a review of all its rules and regs applying to media outlets — broadcast, cable and satellite.

That included input from broadcasters and cable operators on its rules mandating weekly quotas of educational kids shows on TV and the longstanding limits on integrating advertising into those shows.

The National Association of Broadcasters, including programmers Disney, CBS, Fox and Univision, sought more “flexibility” in meeting children’s TV requirements. They said imposing children’s-TV programming mandates on broadcast and cable when such content is readily available and not regulated on the internet should be up for reconsideration. They also want the FCC to reconsider the prohibition on including web links in kids’ shows.

Cable and broadcast outlets suggest the FCC get out of the children’s TV ad-limiting business entirely and leave that job to the Federal Trade Commission.

NCTA: The Internet & Television Association also wants the FCC to lighten up on the kids TV ad limits, which apply to cable as well as broadcast.

In response, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Center for Digital Democracy have told the FCC that kids TV rules remain a necessary check on commercialization by big media. They argue that the fact that edge providers can market to kids without consequences is no argument for leveling that playing field.

“The fact that YouTube and other internet and mobile providers ignore child development research and longstanding children’s media principles is no reason for the FCC to weaken important safeguards for the many children who watch programs on cable or broadcast television,” Angela Campbell, counsel for CCFC and CDD, told the FCC.

Pai has not signaled any response at present.

John Eggerton
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.