Advocates Call on FCC to Protect Programming and Advertising Safeguards for Children's TV
By: Jeff Chester | Aug 4 2017
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Advocates called today on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject an effort by major media companies to eliminate or weaken important rules for children’s television. The National Association of Broadcasters, Internet and Television Association (NCTA), CBS, Disney, Fox, Univision, and others have asked the FCC to significantly reduce advertising limits on children’s programming. Industry commenters also urged the FCC to reconsider rules that require broadcasters to provide quality educational programming as part of their obligation to serve the public interest. In comments filed today, Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy called on the FCC to reject industry proposals to repeal or modify the current rules.
“The Trump Administration and the FCC should stand up for the rights of children and parents and reject this crass campaign by the broadcast lobby,” said Jeff Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. “The broadcast industry receives billions of dollars in benefits from its free use of public resources, including invaluable rights to the airwaves. It is unconscionable that TV stations and networks want to kill off one of their few remaining obligations to the public.”
In April, the FCC issued a public notice on its “Modernization of Media Regulation Initiative,” asking for suggestions about which of the FCC’s media-related rules should be modified or repealed. Media companies replied with a deregulation wish list that would allow them to use kids’ television programming to market directly to children.
The major networks urged the FCC to relax its rules prohibiting product integration and product placement on kids’ shows, arguing that YouTube and other child-directed online services are not subject to those restrictions. Advocates responded by pointing out that internet and mobile providers are simply ignoring longstanding children’s media principles, which are based on child development, and that a lack of online regulation is not a good reason for the FCC to eliminate important safeguards for the millions of children who watch traditional TV.
“It is extremely disappointing that broadcasters want to join the race to the bottom when it comes to exploiting children’s developmental vulnerabilities for profit,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood. “Media companies want to gut longstanding safeguards because young people an incredibly lucrative market for advertisers. But research demonstrates that children are particularly vulnerable to marketing and benefit from rules that require ad limits and separation of programming and commercial content.”
Advocates also oppose a request by the Internet and Television Association to repeal an FCC rule known as the “website display rule.” The FCC adopted this rule in 2004 to prohibit advertisers from engaging in “host-selling” to children, which the transition to digital broadcasting could otherwise allow.
Angela J. Campbell, director of the Institute for Public Representation at Georgetown and counsel to some of the advocates, called the effort to repeal this rule disingenuous. “The media companies say the website display rule is unnecessary because television has rarely been used to interact and target advertising to children,” she said. “But at the same time, these companies engaging in a practice known as ‘programmatic marketing,’ which offers advertisers the ability to target ads to specific viewers of cable and broadcast television programming.”
In addition, advocates oppose efforts by media companies to be relieved of their public interest obligation to provide educational programming for children, and to produce public reports to help the FCC determine whether that programming meets the obligations laid out in the Children’s Television Act.
“The television industry made a commitment to serve the nation’s children by providing quality educational programs,” explained Professor Kathryn Montgomery of American University, who led the effort to strengthen the FCC’s rules on the Children’s Television Act. “However, broadcasters failed to live up to these minimal obligations and the FCC has been irresponsible in allowing the industry to evade one of its only remaining public interest requirements. Rather than considering elimination of these rules, the FCC (and Congress) should conduct an investigation into TV programming and advertising practices directed at children.”
The comments can be read via the attached PDF file below.