FCC Will Open Kids Deal for Comment


According to an FCC spokeswoman, the commission will not vote on the compromise kids DTV rule proposal at its March 17 meeting, but will instead open up the deal for public comment. No word on how long the comment period would be.

The commission is widely expected to eventually OK some version of the deal, which heads off lawsuits filed by both kids-TV activists and media companies. The NAB board has already voted to support the agreement.

Although the January effective date of the new rules was stayed as part of the agreement, a number of media companies agreed to start complying with its terms as of March 1.

Signed up to line up along the new rules laid down by the deal are Viacom, CBS, Disney, Fox, NBC Universal, Time Warner, Discovery, 4Kids Entertainment and the Association of National Advertisers.

The deal was struck in December after both sides took the FCC's DTV kids-TV rules to court--the media companies because they thought they were too restrictive, the activists because they thought they were not tough enough. The FCC rewrote the rules to reflect additional channels and functions in the digital age, but the rules also apply to analog TV and some to cable as well.

The deal would leave in place the requirement that broadcasters air three hours of children's TV per channel in both analog and digital. That was the key issue of the coalition, says McIntyre.

In addition, the media companies agreed not to challenge limits on the display of commercial Web sites during children's programming.

The groups agreed to a modified form of host selling in which the use of TV characters to sell products to kids would be confined to specific areas of a Web site if that Web address was displayed in shows that featured those characters.

The key is that there will have to be a buffer between the character and a sales pitch.

Arguably, the biggest deal was on program promotion in kids shows. The FCC rules as currently constituted count any program promotion in a kids show as an advertisement, reducing the amount of paid ads that can air during the show. Under the agreement, show promos for kids shows on the same channel or educational kids shows on any channel would not count as ad time.

In addition, there would be no numerical limits, as the current rules contain, on the ability of broadcasters to preempt kids shows for live sports and other programming.