TV Station Fined For Children’s TV Violations

Posted on January 29th, 2015 by

The FCC has fined a TV station $3,000 for filing several quarterly Children’s Television reports late, and admonished the same station for failing to comply with the FCC’s limits on the amount of commercial matter in children’s programming.

According to the station’s renewal application, four quarterly reports were filed late, varying from one day to 16 weeks late. The FCC’s decision says differently, claiming that reports were late for eight quarters, one as much as seven months late. Normally, the FCC assesses $1,000 for each late quarterly report, but here the station somehow got a much better deal, with the FCC apparently only focusing on the more egregious late-filed reports.

The commercial matter violation occurred in connection with the improper display of an internet website address in a children’s program. The licensee admitted that the URL address for the website appeared during the closing credits of an NBC-supplied children’s program, LazyTown. The FCC’s rules restrict the display of internet web addresses during children’s programming for kids 12 and under.

Specifically, Section 73.670(b) permits the display of internet website addresses during program material or promotional material not counted as commercial time only if it meets the following four-prong test: (1) the website offers a substantial amount of bona fide program-related or other non-commercial content; (2) the website is not primarily intended for commercial purposes, including either e-commerce or advertising; (3) the website’s home page and other menu pages are clearly labeled to distinguish the noncommercial from the commercial sections; and (4) the page of the website to which viewers are directed by the website address is not used for e-commerce, advertising, or other commercial purposes (e.g., contains no links labeled “store” and no links to another page with commercial material).

Whew. Before you get confused or hit the panic button, the key words in the preceding rule summary are “not counted as commercial time.” In other words, you can include an internet website address in children’s programming so long as it appears during allowable commercial time adequately separated from the program material. The problem arises when internet website addresses appear in the portions of the program not counted in your commercial time. There, you have to make sure that the website address meets the four-prong test. If it doesn’t, you have a problem because the improper web address “converts” the rest of the program to commercial time, causing a station to exceed the allowed commercial limits.

Here, the FCC considered that the single website inclusion error was an “isolated incident” and only admonished the station.