E-Reader Strikes Again

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I know, this will be read as heresy in the children’s TV activist community, but I wonder if the FCC isn’t overenforcing the children’s TV ad limits, at least in terms of one particular ad.

I have watched station after station get hit with fines, the victims of the letters "MON," seen for about a second on a partially obscured Pokemon card in an ad for a GameBoy that does not mention Pokemon or otherwise show the character.

The FCC just hit WPIX with a $15,000 fine, $5,000 above the benchmark due to the "seriousness" of the offense said the FCC, for airing the ad five times, which turned those five shows into program-length commercials and turned the station into a willful and repeated" violator in the FCC’s eyes.

I have not seen the specific ads, but here is one E-Reader ad where the cards are hardly even distinguishable. The FCC doesn’t dispute the description of the character reference as fleeting and partially obscured.

The FCC has wide discretion in punishing Kids rule violations, everywhere from no action to admonishment to a small fine. There is a law on the books that was violated, in this case I would argue in the letter rather than the spirit, so I wouldn’t argue with taking some action.

An admonition would seem the most reasonable punishment, which is an official reprimand. Then stronger punishment for a real repeat offense. Doing the same thing five times, but inadvertently, is not, I think, what is meant by a repeat offender. I would say "willful" is a pretty big stretch, too.

Fleeting and inadvertent cussing may be out of the FCC’s reach for now, but fleeting Pokemons (Pokemen?, Pokepeople) is clearly another story.

But hey, maybe it’s just me.

By John Eggerton

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