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September 22, 2000


Re: Children's Television Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters, Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, MM Docket no. ##-## (rel. September 14, 2000)

My general policy is not to oppose Notices of Inquiry and Notices of Proposed Rulemaking as long as they seek comments in a neutral fashion and are sufficiently broad in scope. I write separately in this NPRM to express some concerns I have with this Item.

First, let me state the NPRM raises important questions related to the application of the existing children's television rules to digital broadcast services. There are undoubtedly important questions concerning the application of existing obligations to the new digital medium. Yet, we are at the very preliminary stages of the digital transition, and it is far from clear what form new services will take in the digital era.

It seems to me premature to attempt to fix public interest obligations to a service that has yet to blossom. For example, the NPRM seeks comment on whether the Commission should prohibit all direct links to commercial Internet sites, a capability that is not even available today on broadcast television. In my view, the wiser course would have been to initiate an Inquiry at a time when we understand more about the proposed or likely applications of digital television, so our proposal would bear some plausible nexus to the service itself, rather than its potential. At a minimum, I would have preferred that any public interest obligations be considered in the broader DTV proceeding.

Second, I caution against introducing subjective tests that require the Commission to make value judgments about the appropriateness of certain content for children's viewing. The NPRM asks, for example, whether "unsuitable promotions" should be banned during children's programming. I am skeptical that we can, or should, make this subjective determination. But assuming, arguendo, we could, I am troubled by the fact that we have not established, as a threshold matter, that a serious problem exists in this area. There is little, if any, empirical data in the record to substantiate the conclusion that unsuitable promotions are being aired during children's programming. I would hope that we gather this type of hard data here, so we can then make fact-based decisions.