By: David Oxenford, Wilkinson Barker Knauer LLP
Notice was published in the Federal Register August 16 of the FCC’s changes in the children’s television rules – setting the effective date for most of those new rules as September 16. The elimination of the obligation to air three hours of children’s educational and informational programming for each digital multicast channel will expire on that date. The ability to count children’s educational programming broadcast as early as 6 a.m. toward the broadcaster’s obligations to run three hours per week of such programming on its primary channel will also take effect that day, as will the ability to meet that three-hour requirement with up to one hour of programming broadcast on a multicast channel. A number of other changes, particularly in the ability of a broadcaster to compute its compliance based on a quarterly obligation rather than a weekly one and liberalizing the preemption rules, are also to take effect on September 16. See our summary here of the changes in the rules.
Rules not yet taking effect are those rules that impose new or different paperwork requirements. So the change in reporting obligations to an annual FCC filing instead of a quarterly one remains pending until approved by the Office of Management and Budget pursuant to the Paperwork Reduction Act. The rule amending the obligation to inform program guides about certain aspects of children’s programming (including the ages to which the programs are targeted) is also still being reviewed. The FCC is expected to issue additional guidance about how (or whether) to complete the next quarterly FCC Form 398 children’s television programming report, which is currently due October 10. The FCC is moving to an annual report, but because of these Paperwork Reduction Act requirements, the new form has not been approved yet.
David Oxenford is MAB’s Washington Legal Counsel and provides members with answers to their legal questions with the MAB Legal Hotline. Access information here. (Members only access).
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