FCC Fines TV Station $20,000 for Children’s TV Commercial Limits Violations

Posted on November 30th, 2020 by

On November 23, 2020, the FCC’s Media Bureau issued a $20,000 Notice of Apparent Liability to a television station in Maryland for exceeding the FCC’s rules limiting the number of minutes of commercial matter that may be included during children’s programming.

The station disclosed eleven instances of inadvertent commercial limits overages when it filed for license renewal, and detailed steps it had taken to prevent future violations.  While noting that the station had not deliberately violated the rule, the Bureau nevertheless adjusted the standard $8,000 forfeiture amount upward to $20,000 because the overages involved ads for a product related to the program (a Hot Wheels Super Ultimate Garage play set ad aired during a “Team Hot Wheels” program), resulting in the treatment of the entire program as commercial matter.

The FCC’s rules limit the amount of commercial matter that may be aired during children’s programming to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.  A program associated with a product, in which commercials for that product are aired, are treated as program-length commercials (i.e., the entire program is counted as commercial time).

Stations should regularly police children’s programming for compliance in advance of broadcasts to avoid commercial limit overages.