FCC Makes Significant Changes to Children's Programming Rules
At today’s open meeting, the FCC voted 3-2 on party lines to amend its rules that currently require television stations to broadcast specific amounts of educational and informational programming directed to children, also known as the “KidVid” requirements. The existing KidVid rules that have been in place for roughly fifteen years, requiring broadcasters to air at least three hours of so-called “Core Programming” on their primary program stream between 7 am and 10 pm.
Today’s Order relaxes these requirements, eliminating the obligation for broadcasters to air additional hours of children’s programming for multicast channels.
In determining to amend the existing KidVid rules, the FCC evaluated the current landscape of children’s programming and concluded “[t]here has been a major change in the way children consume video programming.” Perhaps most importantly, the FCC’s own analysis showed children’s live viewing of broadcast television has decreased substantially in favor of video content on other media platforms, like Netflix, Hulu, and YouTube.
Consequently, the FCC’s new requirements are intended to reflect this dramatic evolution in the media landscape, while both maintaining the obligation to air 156 hours of core programming per year and recognizing that children from low income and minority households may still rely primarily on broadcast programming.
Significant Changes to KidVid rules
The Report and Order includes a number of significant changes to the KidVid rules, including the following:
- Permits broadcast stations to air up to one-third of total Core Programming hours (i.e., up to 52 hours per year) on a multicast stream. This means that broadcasters must continue to air at least two-thirds of their total annual Core Programming hours (i.e., 104 hours per year) on their primary broadcast stream;
- Eliminates the requirement to air any additional children’s programming relating to multicast streams;
- Allows core Programming to be aired anytime between 6 am and 10 pm, adding the 6-7 am hour to the currently permitted Core Programming hours;
- Permits up to 52 hours per year (i.e. averaging one hour per week) of not regularly scheduled programming at least 30 minutes long to count as Core Programming;
- Authorizes up to 52 hours per year of a combination of not regularly scheduled programming and short-form programming (i.e., less than 30 minutes in length), such as public service announcements and interstitials, to count as Core Programming;
- Updates safe harbor guidelines to account for the above-described revisions, so long as the station continues to broadcast at least 26 hours per quarter (i.e., averaging 2 hours per week) of regularly scheduled programs that are at least 30 minutes long;
- Changes the filing timeline for the KidVid reporting requirements (FCC Form 398) to annually instead of quarterly, and broadcast stations are no longer obligated to publicize the FCC Form 398 filings;
- Enables broadcasters, cable operators and DBS operators to file Certificates of Compliance annually rather than quarterly, although the commercial limits are unchanged.
As these highlights show, the Report and Order significantly changes the children’s programming regime for broadcasters that has been in place for much of the past fifteen years. Additionally, the FCC approved a further notice of proposed rulemaking (FNPRM) proposing to further relieve a station’s children’s programming obligations if the broadcaster financially sponsors children’s programming on a noncommercial in-market broadcast station.
The Report and Order becomes effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register, which will likely occur in the next month or two. In the meantime, the FCC said stations must continue to comply with the current children’s programming requirements prior to the effective date.
Therefore, we urge all video programmers to closely monitor these changes and to be aware of their obligations both before and after the effective date of this Order.