Children's TV Requirement May Change After Plea by Broadcasters

(Bloomberg) -- Regulators will consider changing requirements for TV stations to carry children’s programming after broadcasters asked for relief from the rules, which were set before the internet offered a proliferation of video for youths.

The Federal Communications Commission will begin to review rules on children’s programming at its July 12 meeting, agency Chairman Ajit Pai, an appointee of President Donald Trump, said in a blog post Wednesday. Changes wouldn’t be final until a second vote that has yet to be scheduled.

Pai didn’t offer details and said the effort is to be led by FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, a member of the agency’s Republican majority, who in April told an audience of lawyers that questions include how to “breathe some flexibility into our rules to make them more dynamic and responsive to the needs of kids.”

O’Rielly said in those remarks said that broadcasters’ share of children’s video viewing has dropped 99 percent, “and yet, the commission imposes requirements on broadcasters” including the obligation to present three hours weekly of regularly scheduled programming between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

In an earlier blog post O’Rielly criticized what he called “ineffective and burdensome requirements” surrounding children’s programming.

Broadcasters have asked for flexibility.

‘Different Generation’

The rules were written for “a different generation of children living in a very different media landscape” at a time when broadcast television was the primary means to deliver programming, Nickelodeon owner Viacom Inc. said in a filing last year. “Children’s programming rules have not evolved with the market.”

For instance, a rule restricting on-screen display of website addresses during children’s programming needs a fresh look, as does a rule barring program hosts from delivering commercials during children’s shows, Viacom said.

“Children increasingly are watching both educational and entertainment video programming on alternative platforms,” CBS Corp., the Walt Disney Co., 21st Century Fox Inc. and Univision Communications Inc. said in a joint filing last year. The FCC should “revisit” the three-hours per week requirement, which assumes market forces won’t evoke quality children’s programming, the companies said.

Loosening the requirements could lead to less quality children’s programming, particularly for poor households that rely on broadcast television, representatives of the nonprofit group Common Sense Media, a children’s advocacy group, told O’Rielly in an April meeting.

Many children in lower-income families don’t have a home computer or cable subscription, the Common Sense Media representatives said. Online content, such as videos on YouTube Kids, aren’t a substitute in part because they harbor inappropriate and commercialized content, the group said.

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