Where Are TV Complaints From Kids?


A prominent kids TV activist group wants to know what happened to its children's TV ad complaints.

The United Church of Christ (UCC) Office of Communications said Tuesday it has written FCC Chairman Kevin Martin to seek the status of four petitions it filed over the past two years to deny license renewals to four stations it alleges violated kids TV ad rules.

The first two petitions, against WPXW (Paxson) and WDCA (Fox), both Washington, were filed-in conjunction with the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), in September 2004, the other two, against Univision's WGHS and Raycom's WUAB Cleveland, were filed in August 2005.

They argue that the station's FCC-friendly kid shows do not fit the bill. The shows at issue are Miracle Pets, Ace Lightning, Stargate: Infinity, Sabrina, and Complices al Rescate. The complaint against Univision's WGHS is the first for the UCC against a Spanish-language station.

The FCC requires stations to air at least three hours per week of educational and informational programming, but does not have a mechanism to actively monitor compliance, essentially leaving it up to the stations present and defend, if necessary, their compliant programming.

"Children in Virginia, Washington D.C., Cleveland, and throughout the United States have been deprived of the protection enacted by Congress in the Children’s Television Act," wrote CDD Counsel Angela J. Campbell. "I urge you to consider these matters as soon as possible. "

The group points out that the FCC has resolved numerous kids TV ad violations at other stations in the interim-those have ranged from no actions to proposed fines.

“In the absence of Commission action, broadcasters will continue to air programming that denies children the educational opportunities Congress envisioned,” Campbell wrote. “Taking action to promote positive programming for children would be in keeping with the Commission’s present focus on protecting our children from indecent content.”

The stations have been fighting the petitions.

In a filing with the FCC in October, for example, Raycom countered in its FCC filing that the complaint was simply the UCC trying to replace the station's programming choices with its own.

WUAB said that the show "was specifically designed by a nationally recognized educational expert with the significant purpose of educating and informing children, as required by the Act and the Commission."

"The producers provided WUAB with a detailed curriculum statement that described the program’s mission, concepts, approach, and educational or informational goal of each episode. The expert certified that the program complied with the Act and the Commission’s rules."

WUAB and many other stations count on Sabrina distributor DIC Entertainment, which supplies what it markets as an academic-vetted, FCC-friendly category of "edutainment" shows to hundreds of TV stations.

DIC Chairman Andy Heyward has repeatedly defended his shows from critics who suggest they do not meet the FCC's definition of educational or informational.