Kids Promo Limits Would Hurt Cable
By David W. Kleeman -- Broadcasting & Cable, 6/12/2005 8:00:00 PM
Remember the schoolyard taunt “I could beat you with one hand tied behind my back”? That, in effect, is what the FCC is asking cable channels designed for children to do by proposing that on-air promos for non-educational programming count as commercials. That means, for example, if Nickelodeon runs a promo for just-plain-fun SpongeBob SquarePants, that would count as a commercial, the number of which is limited by law.
The clause is important for broadcast channels that have largely surrendered to the shifting children's media market. The three-hour “educational/informational” (E/I) mandate for broadcasters (not cable) was intended as a “floor,” but few broadcasters offer children more. As a result, promos for non-E/I shows would substantially dilute their overall effort.
Many of the FCC's draft rules for children's digital television make sense, especially those that would ensure E/I obligations aren't diluted when broadcasters begin to multicast. This proposal, however, will inhibit TV's overall service to young people.
It is worth noting that Kids' WB did go beyond the broadcast minimum, offering a daily entertainment block until recently. The WB admitted that it was folded in part because the proposed promo restrictions would tip an already precarious financial balance.
It makes little sense to apply such handcuffs to children's cable channels, which give young people the same variety that adults expect from television. Rather than surrender, the cable services are trying to build environments suited to young people's habits, interests and needs. Kids may come for amusement, but if they find a channel authentic and trustworthy, they'll pay attention to its substantive initiatives, like Nickelodeon's “Worldwide Day of Play” or Cartoon Network's “Get Animated.”
Preschool blocks like Nick Jr., Noggin, Ready Set Learn, and the coming Tickle U and Sprout are wholly educational and limited in commercials. Although the E/I obligation doesn't cover cable, these blocks have surpassed three hours by Monday noon.
Counting non-E/I program promos as commercial matter would substantially unbalance cable channels that are trying to give children a schedule diverse in content and style. Moreover, since cable channels are not even covered by the E/I rule, who would determine which promos qualify for non-commercial status?
The advocates' coalition supporting the new FCC rules cites old research in defending promotion limitations. Their economic assessment of children's-TV advertising predates not only the Children's Television Act but niche cable channels, the Internet and even VCRs.
If the goal is to ensure that E/I commitments aren't eroded, then it is important to chart trends since the passage of the Children's Television Act. With the arrival since 1990 of Nick Jr., Noggin, Discovery Kids, Starz Encore's WAM, and Disney as a non-premium service, it seems apparent that high-quality education and entertainment have learned to coexist. That is no reason to be complacent, but it is vital that the FCC, advocates and industry protect diverse and sustainable services even as they bolster educational TV.
No related content found.
No Top Articles
Digital Rapids provides market-leading software and hardware solutions, technology and expertise for transforming live and on-demand video to reach wider audiences on the latest viewing platforms more efficiently, more effectively and more profitably. Empowering applications from..more