FCC Claims Children’s TV Regulations Are Outdated

FCC Claims Children’s TV Regulations Are Outdated

By Tess Farrand, Contributing Writer

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) spent months evaluating the regulations of children’s television programs in the U.S. The FCC released a press release which is making waves among entertainment programmers and concerned parents.

The Children’s Television Act of 1990 became a national law after child development specialists and activists lobbied for a concrete definition as to what constitutes as “educational” television for children. In 1996, the FCC adopted its regulations.

Twenty-two years after the law’s enactment, the FCC’s Commissioner Michael O’Rielly, now fights for a shift in regulations. The FCC argues that the overall landscape of television has radically changed and therefore needs regulation change as well because more families use non-cable mediums to watch shows.

The FCC’s press release states, “there is also now a vast array of children’s programming available from non-broadcast outlets such as cable networks, over-the-top providers, and internet sites, as well as a proliferation of educational children’s content from non-commercial broadcast stations.”

As an article from Deadline notes, the FCC is passionate about making a switch; “In today’s landscape, where YouTube maintains a designated sandbox for kids fare and on-demand and cable services like Netflix and HBO air originals for kids, the old rules simply should not apply.”

The National Association of Broadcasting supports the FCC’s view because of the shift in television viewing mediums; “given the seismic changes in how children consume media, it makes perfect sense for the commission to take a fresh look at these regulations.”

However, Dr. Jenny Radesky remains opposed to the switch. Radesky serves as an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Michigan and filled an appeal against the FCC’s efforts. “The filing notes that sweeping changes could put some families at a disadvantage. ‘Children of color and those whose families are of limited means will especially be harmed by adopting these tentative conclusions because they are less able to afford cable, satellite or broadband.’”

Radesky also notes that years of study conclude that programs longer than a half hour are less successful than longer counterparts. The study served as the foundational time frame for beloved children’s television shows such as SESAME STREET and BLUE’S CLUES. SESAME STREET still runs today.

More supporters to combat the change make their voice heard; “The Parents Television Council’s Tim Winter said in a statement that while the rules need to be modernized, ‘We cannot help but notice that the document reads like a ‘wish-granting factory’ for the broadcast industry. Each and every bullet point proffers a potential benefit to broadcasters.’”

Variety catalogs more of the story; “Proponents of the changes say that stations will still face a mandate to provide children’s programming, but they will have greater flexibility in meeting their obligations… O’Rielly noted that ‘children are just as likely to view content on an iPad as a television set and apps designed for children can be just as informational and educational as programming.’”

Dr. Ted Baehr, Publisher of Movieguide® states, “The 1934 Communications Act was defended as a way to deal with the shortage of spectrum which limited the number of broadcasters. That reasoning has had no basis in television broadcasting, cable-casting and internet casting for at least the last 20 years. Thus, the FCC regulation is outdated in every legal sense. Even so, children must be protected, so new regulations must be built on the premise of ‘no liberty for license.’ Having taught and researched cognitive development and the mass media of entertainment since I was the Director of the TV Center at City University of NY in the 1970s, and having reviewing many of the thousands of studies on the negative influence of the mass media of entertainment on children, I encourage the FCC to develop rules that protect children from destructive and self-destructive mass media of entertainment. These would be actionable rules that parents could join in enforcing.

The FCC will begin to implement new regulations for educational children’s television on July 13, 2018.