The FCC is proposing significant revisions to its children’s television programming rules to give broadcasters more flexibility in providing programming that meets the educational programming needs of children. Public comments on the proposals are due by September 24, 2018 (with reply comments due October 23, 2018).
Here are the key proposals up for consideration:
- New “Core Programming” Requirements – The requirements for Core Programming – that is, programming specifically designed to serve children’s educational and informational needs – would be revamped. Under the proposal, Core Programming could include segments that:
- Are shorter than 30 minutes.
- Air outside the currently designated 7 am - 10 pm window.
- Are not scheduled on a regular weekly basis.
- Are not accompanied by an “E/I” symbol, at least for noncommercial stations.
Other proposals under consideration include streamlining the reports that licensees file with the FCC about their children’s television programming, and cutting back the filing of those reports from quarterly to annually. The FCC is also considering eliminating the requirement that broadcasters provide information about Core Programming to publishers of program guides.
- Renewal Processing Guidelines – At license renewal time, most broadcasters demonstrate compliance with the children’s television rules by indicating that they aired three hours of Core Programming per week. The FCC asks whether a specified amount of programming is still necessary, or if this compliance “safe harbor” needs to otherwise be modified. The FCC also requests comment on how the vague, seldom-used alternative to the safe harbor – which involves program sponsorship and non-broadcast efforts to enhance Core Programming – can be made more specific.
- Multicasting Stations – The FCC proposes to eliminate the requirement that stations air additional Core Programming on their multicast streams. The FCC would also give stations the flexibility to air all required Core Programming on either its primary stream or on any of its free, over-the-air multicast streams. In other words, stations would no longer be required to broadcast a set amount of Core Programming on each program stream, but could instead choose how to allocate the required programming.
- Children’s Programming Preemption – The FCC is considering whether to revise its policies regarding preemption of children’s programming, including the requirement to air preempted programming in a “second home.”
If you have any questions regarding the proposed children’s television rule changes or wish to submit comments or reply comments, please contact any attorney in our office.