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FCC urged to monitor total hours of kids TV

Sep 24, 2001  •  Post A Comment

Children’s TV advocates urged the Federal Communications Commission last week to start independently collecting data to determine how well broadcasters are complying with children’s TV obligations.
Under the agency’s children’s TV rules, broadcasters are essentially required to provide three hours of educational programming for children each week.
But children’s advocates say it’s difficult to track how well the industry has been living up to the obligation because the agency has been relying on station reports for the data.
In a meeting in FCC Chairman Michael Powell’s office last week, advocates urged the agency to start collecting the data on its own to assess, among other things, how often broadcasters pre-empt educational programming for other fare.
“We want better and independent data,” said Arnold Fege, who heads the Washington-based Public Advocacy for Kids.
According to Mr. Fege, watchdog group representatives also asked that the FCC consider extending broadcasting’s children’s TV obligations to the Internet, cable and other digital technology.
In addition, Mr. Fege said the groups urged the agency to consider beefing up children’s programming obligations as ownership restrictions are loosened and media companies are permitted to grow larger.
But according to Mr. Fege, Susan Eid, the legal adviser who represented the FCC’s Mr. Powell at the session (the chairman was not there), left advocates with little reason for optimism.
“Children’s programming and children’s issues just aren’t on the radar screen,” Mr. Fege said.
Sources said that advocacy group leaders were also upset when they showed up for last week’s session and were told by a representative of the chairman that the meeting had been canceled.
“We confirmed it three times,” said Kathryn Montgomery, president of the Center for Media Education, who said she had originally requested the meeting in June. “I don’t feel the community [children’s TV advocates] is being taken seriously,” she added. “That’s a real concern.”
An FCC spokesman declined comment on the meeting. A spokesman for the National Association of Broadcasters also declined comment on the advocacy group proposals.
But Mr. Fege said children’s advocates are planning to vent their concerns on Capitol Hill.
“What we’re looking at right now is not only congressional action but to monitor the FCC so they don’t deregulate the public-interest policies adopted over the last several years as a result of congressional action,” Mr. Fege said.
Among the other groups at the meeting were the National PTA, the American Psychological Association and Children Now.