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FCC admonishes WOAI-TV over “kid vid” rule violation

WOAI-TV San Antonio has been added to the list of NBC affiliate stations in Texas that have been admonished by the FCC for self-admitted “kid vid” rule violations that were disclosed by the station in the 2014 license renewal process.  The FCC said WOAI Licensee, LLC, failed to comply with the limits on commercial matter in children’s programming.  

Other Texas NBC affiliates have been issued the same letter of admonishment stemming for airing the URL address for the website during the closing credits of the children’s program “LazyTown.”   Each of the stations cited by the FCC said the inclusion of the website address was inadvertently included and fleeting, and that the programming was supplied to the station through the NBC network, by Sprout (an NBC subsidiary) as part of the NBC children’s Saturday morning programming. 

As part of the FCC’s response to the passage of the 1990 Children’s Television Act, the commission adopted website address rules that restrict the display of Internet web addresses during children’s programming directed at children ages 12 and under.  Specifically, Section 73.670(b) permits the display of Internet website addresses during program material or promotional material not counted as commercial time only if:

  1. the website offers a substantial amount of bona fide program-related or other noncommercial content;
  2. the website is not primarily intended for commercial purposes, including either e-commerce or  advertising;
  3. the website's home page and other menu pages are clearly labeled to distinguish the  noncommercial from the commercial sections; and
  4. the page of the website to which viewers are  directed by the website address is not used for e-commerce, advertising, or other commercial purposes (e.g., contains no links labeled “store” and no links to another page with commercial material).

The FCC said the website address listed did not meet the fourth prong of the test as the homepage included a “shop” tab for the purpose of making purchases.   In its letter to WOAI, the commission noted that it has consistently held that reliance on a program’s source or producer for compliance with its children's television rules and policies will not excuse or mitigate violations which do occur.   It also noted that while corrective actions may have been taken to prevent future violations, those actions did not relieve the station from liability for violations which have already occurred. 

“Although we consider any violation of our rules limiting the amount of commercial matter in children’s programming to be significant, the violation described in your license renewal application appears to have been an isolated occurrence,” the FCC said.  In its letter to WOAI, the FCC noted that it would “not rule out more severe sanctions for a similar violation of this nature in the future, we have determined that an admonition is appropriate at this time.”

Questions? Contact TAB’s Michael Schneider or call (512) 322-9944.

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