Children’s Television Reporting Up Next in January

Posted on December 29th, 2023 by

By January 31, 2024, commercial full power and Class-A TV stations must prepare and file children’s television reports covering all of 2023, and upload children’s television commercial limits certifications to their public file for all of 2023.  We recommend that stations start early.

Failure to timely file the annual children’s television report, or reporting less than the required amount of core children’s television programming, can result in delays and fines during license renewal.  In the most recent television renewal cycle, we encountered at least 10-12 situations where reports had to be amended, sometimes in the face of substantial pressure from FCC staffers on how programs were reported or whether those programs constituted educational or informational programming directed at children.

Renewal staffers also review every form submitted for such issues, so each time your station prepares and files the report potentially creates a license renewal issue. Significant issues with the filed form have to be referred to the full Commission for action. Indeed, a large number of TV renewal applications from the last cycle remain pending and will be decided (probably in 2024) only after the full Commission determines penalties.

Remember that if your station has not aired the minimum number of hours, other efforts can be documented that may be considered by license renewal staffers in determining whether to refer a station’s license renewal to the full Commission for review.

Children’s television commercial limits compliance is also an ongoing requirement, but is now documented once annually by stations and uploaded to the station online public file.  Stations should conduct detailed reviews of their compliance during 2023 before uploading documents in support.  The FCC’s rules require that stations limit the amount of “commercial matter” appearing in programs aimed at children 12 years old and younger to 12 minutes per clock hour on weekdays and 10.5 minutes per clock hour on the weekend.  The definition of commercial matter includes not only commercial spots, but also (i) website addresses displayed during children’s programming and promotional material, unless they comply with a four-part test, (ii) websites that are considered “host-selling” under the Commission’s rules, and (iii) program promos, unless they promote (a) children’s educational/informational programming, or (b) other age-appropriate programming appearing on the same channel.

Stations should devote adequate resources and personnel to ensuring that all children’s television requirements are met on an ongoing basis, and all reports are filed and uploads made on time. The children’s television report is currently available in LMS for stations to begin work. We are available to assist in both preparing the reports, or in reviewing draft reports to ensure compliance before they are submitted.