Pai: FCC Will Vote to 'Update' KidVid Rules

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has signaled the FCC will vote at its July 10 meeting on an item revamping its KidVid rules, providing broadcasters more flexibility in meeting their children's educational and informational [E/I] programming requirements under the Children's TV Act.

The FCC voted last June, along partisan lines, to approve a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that would loosen or eliminate some of those KidVid rules. This would be a vote on an order to do that.

Related: Advocates Tell FCC KidVid Rules Were Not Made to Be Broken

Those rules currently require broadcasters to provide three hours per week of long-form, regularly scheduled, generally non-preemptible (or not without making it up) educational and informational children's programming on all their free programming channels, primary and multicast.

Related: Dems Tell FCC to Leave Kids TV Rules Alone

Pai called the rule "update" the headliner of a trio of media items at the meeting--the other two have to do with changes from paper to online filings.

The NPRM proposed to eliminate the requirements that mandatory children's educational and informational programming be at least a half-hour long and regularly scheduled, that it must air on a TV station's primary channel, and that TV stations must file quarterly children's TV reports—the item suggests annually is sufficient—and seeks input on other ways to streamline reporting requirements.

It also proposed to allow broadcasters to satisfy their kids programming obligations via sponsorship or other "non-broadcast" efforts.

The item also sought comment on other elements of the FCC's rules, including limitations on preemptions and "whether to update the three-hour per week processing guideline used in determining compliance with the children’s programming rules."

Pai did not say what, if anything, had changed since the NPRM.

Pai poked some fun in his reference to the kids TV item. "In recent decades, we’ve seen a monumental shift in the way young viewers access video programming, he blogged. "I’ve seen it myself in comparing my own television viewing habits as a child [the chairman included this link to 1980's Thundarr the Barbarian, clearly not an E/I program] to those of my kids today [a link to The Octonauts]. So this update of our rules is long overdue."

“I am pleased that a Report and Order revising the Commission’s Children’s Television Programming Rules, better known as Kid Vid, will be considered at the July Opening Meeting," said Commissioner Michael O'Rielly, who motormanned the review. "It’s been a long and arduous process to get to this point, and I have spent many hours working with interested parties to find an acceptable outcome. To those concerned about kids losing access to existing programming, the item provides modest reforms. At the same time, we rightfully inject thoughtful and needed flexibility to allow America’s broadcasters to respond to the modern media marketplace. While there may be a strong case for even further reforms, this item reflects sound and defensible policymaking, and I look forward to its adoption in the coming weeks.”

While the chairman said O'Rielly would talk more about what was in the item, the commissioner was out of the country, according to his office, and unavailable for comment at press time. 

Both Pai and O'Rielly have pointed to the rise in alternative video delivery systems as one reason that the kids TV rules are in need of an update.

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.