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Univision Agrees To Pay $24M To Settle Kids TV Complaint

According to an FCC source, Spanish-language TV station owner Univision has agreed to pay $24 million and agree to abide by a set of FCC-established conditions for two years to settle complaints its educational children's programming was not educational.

The move clears the way for the FCC to vote on the transfer of control of Univision's licenses.

An investor group led by TV kids programming vet Haim Saban is buying the stations

, but the licenses could not be transferred with complaints pending against the stations.

The consent decree covers all the children's TV complaints filed against the company, which were found to be on 24 stations over 116 weeks. Also as part of the deal, Univision has agreed to what is described as a "two year compliance program," one element of which is an advisory board to consult on the educational value of its programs, according to the source.
Word of the deal was first reported by The New York Times Feb. 24.

At issue are a couple of programs, including a youth-targeted telenovella, that Univision contended qualified as educational kids shows and kids activist groups said did not..

The United Church of Christ and the National Hispanic Media Coalition filed complaints against Univision for its telenovella Complices al Rescate,UCC's first complaint against a Spanish-language station, and another show, then UCC wrote FCC Chairman Kevin Martin last September to ask why there had been no action on various complaints it had filed against Univision and other station owners for kids TV violations.

The FCC has fined broadcasters a few thousand dollars for kids TV reporting violations or exceeding the ad limits in kids shows, but broadcasters are essentially on the honor system for meeting the educational requirement. They had to put an E/I (eduational/informational) bug on the shows and file a report with the FCC, but the commission has no screening process for the shows.

UCC has filed numerous complaints challenging the educational designation for a host of shows, often asking that the licenses be pulled.

Per new FCC digital TV rules, broadcasters now have to program an average of three hours of educational kids shows on each of their free DTV mulicast channels as well as their primary analog channel.

Patti Miller, VP of Children Now, applauded the news. "Children Now is very pleased by the FCC’s decision to prioritize the interests of children," she said in a statement. "When it comes to providing educational programming to kids, broadcasters have fallen down on the job. They have a public interest obligation to provide educational programming to children in return for the free use of the public’s airwaves. From claiming The Flintstones teaches children about history to claiming that Complices al Rescate teaches children about friendship, broadcasters have been egregious in some of their claims about what constitutes children’s educational programming."

A Univision spokeswoman had not returned a call at press time.

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.