F.C.C. Adopts Final Rule on Children's Television

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Washington--The Federal Communications Commission last week adopted rules that encourage television broadcasters to air more educational programming for children and limit the amount of advertising during children's shows.

The rules complied with a law passed by the Congress last year after years of lobbying by children's-television advocates.

The law, known as the Children's Television Act of 1990, became law despite President Bush's refusal to sign it.

The commission voted 5 to 0 April 9 to approve a slightly modified version of rules proposed in November. (See Education Week, Nov. 21, 1990.)

The rules require television stations, as a condition of license renewal, to document their efforts to aid the educational and informational needs of children through programming and nonbroadcast efforts.

The commission stopped short, however, of setting a minimum amount of such programming that must be aired.

The commission defined educational and informational programming as anything that "furthers the positive development of the child," including cognitive, intellectual, emotional, or social needs.

Children's-television advocates criticized the FCC rules for not going far enough.

"It would have been hard for them to put together something that is weaker on making broadcasters share in educating children," said Peggy Charren, president of Action for Children's Television.

Ms. Charren acknowledged, however, that the new rules' requirement that stations keep summaries of their educational programming for children will make it easier for community activists to monitor the stations' efforts.

"This really provides sunshine for promise and performance," she said.

The advertising limits adopted by the FCC had been specified by the Congress in the 1990 law.

The commercial limits apply to programming aimed at children 12 and younger, while the educational- and informational-programming standards include children up to age 16.

Ms. Charren and others also criticized the FCC for its handling of the issue of program-length commercials.

The commission essentially barred commercials for a product from airing during a program with which it was associated. For example, no ads for G.I. Joe toys can be aired during the "G.I. Joe" cartoon program.

But two key backers of the children's-television law, Senators Daniel K. Inouye, Democrat of Hawaii, and Timothy E. Wirth, Democrat of Colorado, have criticized the definition on the grounds that it does not go beyond what is already restricted by other FCC policies.

Vol. 10, Issue 30, Page 10

Published in Print: April 17, 1991, as F.C.C. Adopts Final Rule on Children's Television
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