O'Rielly Warns Broadcasters Not to Abuse KidVid Flexibility

FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly has provided a word of friendly warning to broadcasters not to abuse the new flexibility the FCC has given then over scheduling educational and informational programming, not that he expects them to.

That came in a speech last week to the Arkansas Broadcasters Association.

O'Rielly oversaw the deregulatory item, which was approved by the commission earlier this month.

"[A]s local broadcasters, you know your communities better than anyone else, and you are best suited to determine whether airing a local parade or high school sports game or other public affairs program better meets the ideal of localism than prepackaged, off-the-shelf kids’ shows."

But he also acknowledged there was opportunity for lesser actors to take advantage of their newfound freedoms.

"[T]he industry should be on notice: if bad actors blow through the restraints that are still in place or exploit the increased flexibility by broadcasting an infinite amount of infomercials, the next time the rules are updated, critics of your industry will surely be aggressive in swinging the pendulum back the other direction."

He asked his audience to be on the lookout for such actors and self-police. "I trust you to do the right thing to make sure those willing to gamble with broadcasters’ reputations are preemptively admonished."

The KidVid Report & Order (R&O) preserves the three-hour-per-week mandate for E/I programming, but allows a third of that to be aired on a multicast channel, rather than on the primary channel, as the rules had required. It also makes it easier to preempt kids programming for those aforementioned locally produced parades or sports.

The R&O also gives broadcasters an extra hour (from 7 a.m.-10 p.m. to 6 a.m.-10 p.m.) in which E/I programming satisfies the three-hours-per-week requirement and gives broadcasters the ability to count a "limited" amount of non-regularly scheduled weekly programming toward the requirement, though still requiring the "majority" of that programming to be regularly scheduled weekly. It also allows for a "limited" amount of short-form programming--PSAs, interstitials--but most still required to be at least a half hour.

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.