Parents Television Council: FCC Needs to Reset Kids TV Rule Review

The Parents Television Council says that if the FCC's KidVid rules and underlying Children's Television Act statue may be unconstitutional, as FCC commissioner Michael O'Rielly said could be the case, then to try and tweak it makes as much sense as "debating the arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic. 

PTC was responding to a report in Broadcasting & Cable.

"[M]any legal scholars have argued quite convincingly that the rules, and perhaps the underlying statute, are content-based restrictions not narrowly tailored to further a compelling governmental interest, and therefore run afoul of the First Amendment," O'Rielly said at the Media Institute's Free Speech America Gala Wednesday Night (Oct. 24). 

"Those fighting high and mighty against any changes to Kid Vid may want to reconsider their approach, lest they end up with the rules being struck down altogether on First Amendment grounds," he said. 

Related: KidVid Advocates Tell FCC Rules Weren't Made to be Broken

PTC president Tim Winter says they still believe that the law and its implementing rules are a "reasonable contractual consideration for FCC licensees to use the public airwaves," and that they would indeed pass constitutional muster. But if not, he says broadcasters should just let the courts decide. 

Broadcasters aren't challenging the FCC's authority to impose the rules, or the overall mandate of 156 hours of educational/informational programming per years, just how, when and where they can air it, in what increments, and how they can monetize that programming.

Meanwhile, it says any FCC consideration of the KidVid rule changes in the FCC"s June Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) that have been proposed demands a process that goes beyond the scope of the NPRM.

Related: PTC Says FCC Has Not Addressed Fundamental KidVid Questions

“In our formal Reply Comment (on the NPRM), we called for the KidVid NPRM process to cease; and for the FCC instead to ‘engage in a more thorough, deliberative, comprehensive and strategic review process, including public hearings.’ In light of the constitutional concerns publicly expressed last night by Commissioner O’Rielly, the FCC has no choice but to do exactly what we have called for,” said Winter.

The FCC is proposing 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 stations 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 proposes to allow broadcasters to satisfy their kids programming obligations via sponsorship efforts or other "non-broadcast" efforts. 

The item also seeks comment on other elements of its 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."

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.