Viacom, Disney make settlement with FCC over ad violations

MUMBAI: Viacom Inc. and the Walt Disney Company have agreed to pay $1 million and $500,000 respectively to settle charges made by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Nickelodeon and the ABC Family violating ad limits for kids' programming.

This settlement stems from a FCC ruling that limits the ad time in kids' programming to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays. Apparently Viacom broke that limit almost 600 times last year and also violated product placement restrictions 145 times.

Hence, Viacom will pay $1 million for the ad programming that aired on Nickelodeon and Disney will pay $500,000 because of the commercials that aired over its ABC Family Channel, said a media report.

"As a result of routine audits conducted by Enforcement Bureau field agents, serious questions arose concerning the amount of commercial matter during children's programs on the ABC Family Channel and Nickelodeon. Both channels are hugely popular with children and are carried on virtually all cable systems nationwide, each reaching in excess of 85 million households," the FCC was quoted in a media report as saying.

The FCC rules of the time limits apply to over-the-air broadcasters and cable operators for programming originally produced and aired for an audience of 12 years and younger, said the report. Apart from that, the rules also bar broadcasters from airing commercials that refer to or offer products that are related to the children's program.

FCC chairman Michael Powell was quoted in a media report as saying that the announcement marked the end of "major investigations" regarding rules violations governing limits on advertising during children's TV programming.

"While the vast majority of our programing hours were well under the FCC commercial allotments, we take full responsibility for any errors, and have initiated new procedures to help ensure this will not happen again," Viacom was quoted in a media report as saying.

However, a spokesperson from ABC said that it had "accidentally" violated the ban on running programme-related commercials because of a problem with its computer system. The problem has now been taken care of and it was pointed out that the company has derived no "economic benefit" from the apparent mistake.

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