The Fourth Quarter of 2019 represents the last time that full power and Class A television stations will submit documentation of compliance with the Children’s Television Act of 1990 on a quarterly basis. Following rule changes made in 2019, going forward, such documentation will be submitted annually. To facilitate the transition to the new filing regime, the FCC has adopted interim filing requirements for the Fourth Quarter as follows: Stations must place documentation of their compliance with their obligations regarding commercial limitations in children’s programming for the Fourth Quarter of 2019 in their Public Inspection Files by January 10, 2020, and must file their first Annual Children’s Television Programming Report by March 30, 2020.
The Children’s Television Act of 1990 requires full power and Class A television stations to: (1) limit the amount of commercial matter aired during programs originally produced and broadcast for an audience of children 12 years of age and under, and (2) air programming responsive to the educational and informational needs of children 16 years of age and under. In addition, stations must comply with paperwork requirements related to these obligations. On July 12, 2019, the FCC adopted a number of changes to its children’s television programming rules. Substantively, the new rules provide broadcasters with additional flexibility in scheduling educational children’s television programming, and modify some aspects of the definition of “core” educational children’s television programming. These portions of the revisions went into effect on September 16, 2019.
Procedurally, the new rules eliminate quarterly filing of the commercial limits certifications and the Children’s Television Programming Report in favor of annual filings, and change other information collection and reporting provisions. These portions of the revisions will go into effect on January 21, 2020.
Because the new paperwork rules will not be in effect until January 21, 2020, stations must upload documentation of compliance with the commercial limits in children’s programming to their Public Inspection Files by January 10, 2020, as was previously the case. Pursuant to the new annual filing requirement, documentation covering the 2020 calendar year will be due by January 30, 2021.
The FCC has waived the January 10, 2020 quarterly deadline with respect to the filing of the Children’s Television Programming Report. The rule changes that the FCC adopted require changes to the existing Children’s Television Programming Report form on FCC Form 2100, Schedule H (commonly known as “FCC Form 398”), which have only just been approved by the Office of Management and Budget. Therefore, to allow time for the newly approved Children’s Television Programming Report to be integrated into the FCC’s electronic filing system (expected to occur around January 30, 2020), and for broadcasters to become familiar with it, the FCC has extended the due date for broadcasters’ first Annual Children’s Television Programming Report to March 30, 2020.
Commercial Television Stations
The FCC’s rules require that stations limit the amount of “commercial matter” appearing in children’s programs to 12 minutes per clock hour on weekdays and 10.5 minutes per clock hour on the weekend. In addition to commercial spots, website addresses displayed during children’s programming and promotional material must comply with a four-part test or they will be considered “commercial matter” and counted against the commercial time limits. In addition, the content of some websites whose addresses are displayed during programming or promotional material are subject to host-selling limitations. Program promos also qualify as “commercial matter” unless they promote (i) children’s educational/informational programming, or (ii) other age-appropriate programming appearing on the same channel. Licensees must prepare supporting documents to demonstrate compliance with these limits on a quarterly basis through the Fourth Quarter of 2019, and annually thereafter.
Consequently, this proof of compliance should be placed in your Public Inspection File by January 10, 2020, covering programming aired during the months of October, November, and December 2019. Continue reading →