Court Orders FCC to Respond to Disney’s Kids Rules Request

Oct 12, 2005  •  Post A Comment

The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington late Tuesday ordered the Federal Communications Commission to file a response by Oct. 25 to The Walt Disney Co.’s same-day request that the court force action on long-pending industry petitions urging the FCC to dramatically ease its new children’s TV rules.

In a petition filed Tuesday, Disney asked that the court require FCC action by Nov. 15, or that it delay the agency’s regulations pending resolution of network challenges. Following through on network vows to fight the new rules, Viacom has already asked the court to review the regulations.

The fact that the court responded to Disney’s request so rapidly was called extraordinary by Washington insiders. But sources close to the issue said it’s far from clear that the Washington court will actually hear a case on the issue because the federal appeals court in Cincinnati could argue that the issue is on its turf.

The watchdog Office of Communication for the United Church of Christ beat Viacom to the punch in a way by challenging the FCC rules first in Cincinnati. The organization wants the court to force the FCC to ban all interactive advertising aimed at kids.

The FCC, according to watchdog group attorneys, has asked that Viacom’s challenge be transferred to the Cincinnati court. “The law is very clear that it should go to the Sixth Circuit [in Cincinnati],” said Angela Campbell, an attorney for the coalition of children’s advocates fighting the networks.

The networks are concerned that the new FCC rules will restrict their ability to attract children to their Web sites, where FCC regulations-including prohibitions on selling or pitching by children’s TV program hosts-don’t currently apply. Absent a delay, the FCC’s new rules are scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1, 2006.