Kid Vid Rules Ripe for Review

by on July 9, 2018 · 0 comments

A group of lawmakers is asking the Federal Communications Commission to maintain the agency’s 27 year old “Kid Vid” rules in their “current form,” rather than open a proceeding to evaluate whether the rules can be improved or are even still necessary.

The rules were enacted by the FCC pursuant to the Children’s’ Television Act of 1990—in the analog era, when digital technologies were just starting to be deployed, and the same year that initial steps were being taken to privatize the Internet and open it for commercial use.  A lot has changed since the Act was passed.

The Act set limits on advertising that exceeded what the networks had been running in the absence of regulation, and led to “unintended consequences,” including a decline in locally produced children’s’ programming and an increase in “educationally weaker” network programming, according to a 1998 study.

There are some proposals for common sense reforms, including allowing multicasting stations to satisfy their obligation to air three hours of children’s’ programming per week either on their main program stream or one one of their newer program streams (which are just as easy to access)—broadcasters get no credit for children’s’ programming that doesn’t run on the main stream, so they have no regulatory incentive to expand their children’s’ programming.

Another common sense proposal would be to allow regularly-scheduled non-weekly series, short series, specials, programs and segments shorter than 30 minutes and PSAs to count toward the three hour limit.

Broadcasters could also be given more scheduling flexibility.  Right now, with rare exception, the 30-minute programs that qualify have to run on a weekly basis in the same time slot.

The lawmakers object to these common sense reforms, arguing that low income families that lack access to pay-TV and online streaming options would be left with fewer opportunities to provide their kids with educational programming.  (According to Nielsen data, the number of households: 1) with a child between the ages of two and 17, and 2) without cable or Internet access from April to May was one half of one percent.)  But an FCC review of the Kid Vid rules isn’t about reducing opportunities, it’s about adapting regulation to the realities of both the marketplace (more sources of video content) and viewing habits (it’s not just about appointment viewing these days, on-demand viewing and binge watching are also popular) as they have evolved in the 27 years since the Act was passed.

The FCC is scheduled to consider opening a proceeding to reviewing the Kid Vid rules at it’s July 12th open meeting later this week.

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