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This is an unofficial announcement of Commission action. Release of the full text of a Commission order constitutes official action. See MCI v. FCC. 515 F 2d 385 (D.C. Circ 1974).
FCC ADOPTS NEW CHILDREN'S TV RULES
The Commission today adopted new rules to strengthen its enforcement of the Children's Television Act of 1990 (CTA). The Commission adopted several measures to improve public access to information about the availability of programming specifically designed to educate and inform children ("core" programming), and it tightened the definition of core programming. The Commission also adopted a processing guideline under which broadcasters airing at least three hours per week of core programming or its equivalent will receive staff-level approval of their renewal applications.
Public Information Initiatives. The Commission adopted several measures to provide better information to the public about the core programming broadcasters air. Under these rules, commercial television broadcast stations will identify core programming at the time it is aired and in information provided to publishers of television program guides. Commercial stations will be subject to standardized reporting requirements, and will place completed children's television programming reports in their public files quarterly. For an experimental period of three years, these reports will be filed annually with the Commission, preferably in electronic form.
The new public information initiatives will assist parents who wish to guide their children's television viewing, and will help address market disincentives against airing educational programming for children. Better information should also help parents in working with broadcasters in their local communities to improve children's educational programming, where necessary, without government intervention. Annual filings will also allow the Commission and the public to monitor industry performance under the new rules.
Definition. The Commission adopted a definition of "core" programming that provides better guidance to broadcasters about what programs fulfill their statutory obligation to air programming that is specially designed to educate and inform children. Core programming, under the new definition, is regularly scheduled, weekly programming of at least 30 minutes, aired between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m., that has serving the educational and informational needs of children as a significant purpose. The program must also be identified as core programming when it is aired and in information provided to program guide publishers, and must be listed in the children's programming report place quarterly in the broadcaster's public file. In determining whether a program has a significant purpose of educating and informing children, the Commission will ordinarily rely on the good faith judgments of broadcasters, and will evaluate compliance of individual programs only as a last resort.
Processing Guideline. To provide certainty to broadcasters about how to comply with the Children's Television Act and to facilitate the fair and efficient processing of the CTA portions of broadcasters' renewal applications, the Commission adopted a processing guideline. Under this guideline, a broadcaster can receive staff-level approval of its renewal application by checking a box on its renewal application and providing supporting information indicating that it has aired at least three hours per week of regularly scheduled, weekly shows that are 30 minutes or longer and that otherwise meet the definition of "core" programming. Alternatively, a broadcaster can receive staff-level renewal by showing that it has aired a package of different types of educational and informational programming that, while level of commitment to educating and informing children that is at least equivalent to airing three hours per week of core programming. In this regard, specials, PSAs, short-form programs and regularly scheduled non-weekly programs with a significant purpose of educating and informing children can count toward the three-hour processing guideline. Licensees not meeting these criteria will have their applications referred to the Commission, where they will have a full opportunity to demonstrate compliance with the CTA, by relying in part, for example, on sponsorship of core programs on other stations in the market that increases the amount of core educational and informational programming on the station airing the sponsored program or on special nonbroadcast efforts which enhance the value of children's educational and informational programming.
The Commission concluded, as Congress did when it enacted the CTA, that requiring broadcasters to serve the educational and informational needs of children is consistent with the First Amendment. The Commission found that these new rules directly advance the government's substantial, and indeed compelling, interest in educating America's children and are carefully tailored to promote that interest, thus satisfying constitutional requirements.
The CTA requires the Commission, in its review of each television broadcast license renewal application, to "consider the extent to which the licensee... has served the educational and informational needs of children through the licensee's overall programming, including programming specifically designed to serve such needs." In enacting the CTA in 1990, Congress found that television has the power to teach children by assisting them to "learn important information, skills, values, and behavior, while entertaining them and exciting their curiosity to learn about the world around them." Congress also found, however, that there are significant market disincentives for commercial broadcasters to air children's educational and informational programming. Congress intended the CTA to counter these disincentives and thus to increase the amount of educational and informational broadcast television programming available to children.
The Commission initiated this proceeding in 1993 because of a concern that its children's educational television rules, adopted in 1991, have not been fully effective in carrying out Congress' intent. The proceeding has generated substantial public interest: over 73 parties filed comments and replies, and over 20,000 letters and Internet messages were received from members of the public. Last week, the Commission received a letter from the President presenting a compromise proposal agreed upon by "a group including educators, child advocates, and broadcast industry representatives." In addition, the National Association of Broadcasters filed supplemental comments supporting that proposal. The rules adopted today are consistent with that proposal.
A copy of the rules adopted by the Commission is attached.
Action by the Commission August 8, 1996, by Report and Order (FCC 96-335). Chairman Hundt; Commissioner Quello concurring and issuing a statement; Commissioner Ness issuing a separate statement; Commissioner Chong concurring in part and issuing a statement.
News Media contact: David Fiske at (202) 418-0500