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FCC’s O’Rielly targets outdated Kid Vid mandates

-Continues push to clear out regulatory cobwebs

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is urging his colleagues to consider whether the Commission’s 23 year old rules setting obligations for local television broadcasters to air children’s educational programs continue to make sense in today’s vastly changed media marketplace. The question aligns neatly with the Modernization of Media Regulation proceeding launched last year by Chairman Ajit Pai and was raised by Houston broadcasters at a TAB meeting with Commissioner Brendan Carr last fall.

Currently the FCC’s guidelines require stations to air an average of three hours per week of educational and informational (E/I) programming on each main and sub-channel or risk having their license renewal applications considered by the full Commission, rather than just the Media Bureau. They also must air the shows at regular times, for a minimum of 30 minutes each between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and prevent certain website addresses and other content from appearing in the programming. Stations also must file extensive reports each quarter detailing their efforts. The rules are extensive and the slightest, immaterial breach can result in thousands of dollars in fines for a station.

The rules are costly and risky and, because they ignore the explosion of different sources of E/I programming for children on other platforms, result in few – if any – measurable viewers to stations.

O’Rielly further suggests the rules – which exceed what Congress requires – stifle creativity by forcing broadcasters to divert resources from other ways of meeting children’s needs, such as short-form programs or online information.

The statute undergirding the rule states only that the FCC must evaluate TV stations’ efforts to meet the educational and informational needs of children at license renewal time, specifying neither how much time must be devoted to such programs nor how it must be delivered.  That is left to the discretion of the FCC which brings us to Pai’s media regulation modernization effort. Already, it has netted several proposed changes TAB has advocated, including:

  • Modification or elimination of local public notice requirements associated with various FCC filings.
  • Simplifying the must-carry election process and changing the carriage default if no election is made so that stations are not harmed where a notice isn’t delivered or is defective.
  • Eliminating the requirement that all TV stations file an annual DTV Ancillary and Supplementary Services Report even if they don’t provide such services.
  • Modifying or eliminating the requirement that stations file various contracts with the FCC.
  • Modernizing EEO outreach obligations by allowing recruiting to be done online.

TAB also is leading an effort to streamline the FCC’s onerous EEO recordkeeping rules and minimize stations’ potential exposure to costly fines. Supported by 48 other state broadcast associations, this issue has not yet been taken up by the Commission and TAB is continuing to press for some common-sense updates to the rules while retaining the existing non-discrimination standard.

FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly’s Kid Vid Reexamination Blog Post

Questions? Contact TAB’s Oscar Rodriguez or call (512) 322-9944.

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