The Children's Television Act of 1990
The Children's Television Act of 1990 was a rule put into place by the FCC in 1990. This new act imposed new obligations from television stations towards programming aimed at children. The creation of the act was a reaction by Congress to the role which television plays in a child's life.
New regulations in 1991 required terrestrial television networks to devote time to Educational and Informative programming for children. Initially, no minimum hours were established, the obligation of regularly scheduled programming designed for children was. Stations were also mandated to keep a log of that programming and to make the log available in a public inspection file. In addition, the FCC provided a definition of core programming.
The FCC mandates the following from television stations:
- Stations must provide advance information about core programs being aired.
- Define what qualifies the shows as core programming.
- Air a minimum of 3 hours per week of core programming.
According to the FCC, "Core programming is programming specifically designed to serve the educational and informational needs of children ages 16 and under." Core programming must be at least 30 minutes long, air between 7:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. and be a regularly scheduled weekly program. Commercials are limited to 10.5 min/hour on weekends and 12 min/hour on weekdays.
The Commission stated its expectation that the industry would eliminate "host selling" and product "tie-ins," and use separation between programs and commercials during children's programming. This meant that childrens' programs were not allowed to advertise any products which tied in to the show or its characters during its commercial time. The FCC decided to honor the industry's voluntary guidelines to air no more than 12 minutes per hour of advertising on weekday children's programs and 9.5 minutes per hour for weekend programming. The 9.5 minute rule was adjusted to 10.5 minutes. Advertising was defined as any sponsorship by commercial third parties who were buying ad-time during the program (meaning public service announcements would not count). This applied to both terrestrial and cable television.
1996 Updates - Report & Order
On August 8, 1996, the commission issued a Report and Order detailing new rules regarding educational television for children. After years of debate, the FCC had decided on the regulations that will dictate broadcasters' obligations to provide TV shows that educate and inform children. The FCC had now adopted guidelines and rules to assist broadcasters in determining what programming needs to have to be considered an E/I program. Which are as follows...
New Definition of Core Programming
- The programming must have a significant purpose. Education need not be the only one.
- Commercial broadcasters must provide the educational and informational objective of core programming in writing. The report will indicate a specific target age group for core programs.
- Core programming may only be aired between 7:00 AM and 10:00 PM.
- The program must be regularly scheduled so that it can be published in program guides consistantly.
- Substantial Length - 30 minutes or more
In 2004, the FCC placed new restrictions on the commercial advertising during children's programming on both terrestrial and cable/satellite television for both analog and digital formats. Minimum core programming would increase in proportion to the amount of free video programming offered on digital multicast channels. The advertising restrictions towards children (10.5 minutes per hour on weekends, 12 minutes per hour on weekdays) now applied to all digital programming.
Also, the FCC decided that even commercial advertising which promoted other network programs or servies (eg: websites) now counted as part of the restricted commercial advertising.
In 2006, the FCC decided that the display of websites during children's programming was permitted if the website met the following criteria:
- It offered substantial amounts of material programming or non-commercial related.
- It is not primarily intended for commercial purposes.
- The home page clearly distinguishes commercial and non-commercial sections.
- The webpage which the viewers are directed to is not used for e-commerce, advertising, or other commercial advertising. The display of website addresses is prohibited during programming or commercials when the site uses characters from the show to promote products or services.