Panel Approves Curbs on Children's TV Advertising
Washington--A bill that would restrict the amount of advertising allowed during children's television shows and encourage broadcasters to increase educational programming cleared a House committee last week.
Advocates are predicting easy passage for "the children's television act of 1989," which is identical to a bill passed overwhelmingly by the Congress last year but pocket-vetoed by President Reagan.
"I think we have a very good chance of seeing this bill passed and signed" into law by President Bush, said Representative Edward J. Markey, the Massachusetts Democrat who chairs the House Subcommittee on Telecommunications and Finance.
The full House Energy and Commerce Committee last week approved the bill by voice vote, less than a week after Mr. Markey's panel held a hearing featuring many advocates who have pushed for improvements in programming for children.
The bill would require the Federal Communications Commission to restrict advertising during shows for children to no more than 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and no more than 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.
Those limits would reverse a 1984 decision by the fcc, which, in the spirit of market deregulation, eliminated restrictions on commercial time that had applied to all programs.
Mr. Markey argued at his panel's April 6 hearing that "advertisers perceive a particularly vulnerable audience" in children.
"We have a duty to see to it that this child audience is protected from wave after wave of exploitative commercials," he said.
A survey by the advocacy group Action for Children's Television, released at the hearing, found that one Boston station had aired 14 minutes of commercials aimed at children during one hour of programming.
The bill also calls for the fcc to consider, during broadcast-license reviews, whether a licensee has "served the educational and informational needs of children in its overall programming."
That language was part of a compromise hammered out last year between broadcasters and children's television advocates in legislation that previously had required stations to present a minimum of seven hours of programming a week for children.
Bob Keeshan, known to millions of children as the television character "Captain Kangaroo," told lawmakers at the hearing: "With the implementation of deregulation,8children's television in the commercial sector is more of a wasteland than when that description was first applied by a Federal Communications chairman 28 years ago."
The bill was introduced in the House by Mr. Markey, Representative John Bryant, Democrat of Texas, and several other members, and in the Senate by Senators Howard M. Metzenbaum, Democrat of Ohio, and Frank R. Lautenberg, Democrat of New Jersey.
Call for New Endowment
In a related development, a bill is set to be introduced in the Senate that would authorize an additional $10 million in federal funding for educational programming for children.
The bill would establish a "National Endowment for Children's Educational Television" to supplement the funding of children's programming provided by other agencies. Programs developed with the funds could be shown only on public or non-commercial channels for the first two years after the shows' production.
Senator Daniel K. Inouye, the Hawaii Democrat sponsoring the measure, chaired a Communications Subcommittee hearing last week during which several children's television advocates endorsed an expanded federal role in educational programs.