NAB, Some Members Diverge Over Kids Rules

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There is something of a digital divide between NAB and some of its members over the issue of proposed rules for kids programming in the digital era, and even before.

As advertised, a number of broadcasters--Allbritton, Media General, McGraw-Hill, LIN Television, Meredith, and Smith Media--asked the FCC to exempt public interest digital multicast channels from the requirement that a broadcaster carry three hours of informational or educational programming for every multicast channel.

They call it a "critically important revision" that the FCC "not impose additional core programming requirements on digital multicast channels that offer educational, informational, and/or public interest programming." Their argument is that the FCC is just substituting its public interest programming--kids--for theirs, and that the move to preempt their programming for FCC-mandated kids shows is "unnecessary, unwarranted, and imprudent."

The groups call the provision a "serious threat to the continued operation of existing multicast channels."

By contrast, while NAB in its comments said it was "concerned that the three-hour per full-time multicast requirements may discourage many broadcasters fomr deploying specialized channels, especially at small stations," it said it does not oppose it "because it affords a modicum of flexibility to broadcasters to repurpose educational and informational children's programming on multicast channels."

The rule allows a TV station to aggregate the kids shows on one or more channels so that, though a digital weather channel would trigger the three-hour requirement, for instance, the kids shows could air on the core channel or another channel programmed by the station.

Generally speaking, all the commenters were supportive of the baseline kids-rule compromise struck by several networks and kids TV activists, including CBS, NBC, Nickelodeon, Time Warner, and NAB.

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