FCC updates children's programming rules in US

MUMBAI: A move is afoot to strengthen kids programming in the US. Federal regulators have unanimously approved rules that require television stations that air more than one digital channel to show additional children's programming in some cases up to 18 hours of kids' shows a week.



The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has adopted a Report and Order addressing matters related to two areas. The first one is the obligation of broadcasters to provide educational and informational programming for children.

The second is that broadcasters protect children from excessive and inappropriate advertising. Although some of the rules and policies adopted apply to both analog and digital broadcasters, the Order focusses on the application of children's television obligations to digital television broadcasting.

Under the new rules, a broadcaster that multicasts a digital signal to air two or more channels will be obligated to show three extra hours of kids' TV a week for each 24-hour multicast channel. With digital signals, a broadcaster could have as many as six channels.

On the ad front, the FCC ruling has addressed a practice currently in use by some broadcasters. This involves the display of Internet website addresses during children's programmes, for example, in a crawl at the bottom of the screen.

The Order states that for programmes targeted at children below 12, the display of Internet website addresses during programme material is permitted only if the website offers a substantial amount of bona fide programme-related or other non-commercial content. This should not be primarily intended for commercial purposes.

The FCC has also warned that US broadcasters may not use interactivity or other technological developments in children's programming to circumvent the commercial limits and policies.

Some children's groups had pressed for a ban on interactive ads. This would allow kids watching a TV show to touch the screen or click on a character and be taken directly to an Internet site for the programme. However, the FCC concluded that such a move would be premature since this technology is not yet in use in children's programming.

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