FCC Must Respond To Disney Rules Challenge


The D.C. Court of Appeals has asked the FCC to respond to Disney's request that the commission weigh in on various complaints about its new kids TV rules before it implements them Jan. 1.

The company had asked the court Tuesday to force the FCC by Nov. 15 to rule on Disney and others' petitions to change the kids regs, or alternatively to enjoin the FCC from enforcing them until the commission did reply.

Instead, the court gave the FCC until Oct. 25 to respond to the Disney court petition, then gave Disney until Nov. 1 to respond.

"We believe the new kids TV and Web site rules should not become effective until the substantial legal and fairness issues have been addressed by the FCC, by ruling on the pending Petitions For Reconsideration, and/or by review in Court," said ABC in a statement.

While saying it remains "steadfastly dedicated to providing creative, entertaining and compelling programming that enriches the lives of children," Disney says the kids rules as written would cause "irreparable harm to its First Amendment rights, as well as unrecoverable economic losses."

The rules include counting promos for non-educational shows against limits on commercials. They would also prevent shows from including Web links to products pitched by their characters.

Disney says it would have to make major modifications to its business in order to comply, then would have to undo those if the FCC ultimately decides to change the rules per the petitions it has yet to rule on.

The rules were issued in fall 2004. Disney, Viacom and others asked the FCC to reconsider them.

Both the United Church of Christ Office of Communications and Viacom last week withdrew their FCC petitions for review of the rules, asking separate federal courts instead to throw them out or remand them as arbitrary and capricious.

Viacom argued that the rules should be vacated entirely because they exceed the commission's authority, are unconstitutional, violate administrative procedures, and are "otherwise contrary to law." It sought review from the deregulatory-minded D. C. circuit.

By contrast, the United Church of Christ took the rules to court because they did not go far enough, including the lack of a total ban on interactive advertising and issues with the preemptions of kids programming the rules allow. The church sought review in the sixth circuit, whose jurisdiction includes Ohio, where the church has its headquarters. --John M Higgins contributed to this report.