The PTC responds to the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed changes.
The FCC has proposed changes to the “KidVid” rules that currently impose minimum educational and information programming guidelines on television broadcasters for free use of the publicly-owned broadcast airwaves.
The FCC’s regulatory oversight of the public airwaves needs to be modernized, and we applaud Chairman Pai for his ambitious and determined efforts to do just that. But we fear that the agency’s review of the Children’s Programming Rules (‘KidVid’) has begun with grossly misplaced priorities. We have reviewed the FCC’s Notice for Potential Rulemaking, as well as the bullet points on the NPRM’s accompanying ‘Fact Sheet’ about what the Notice would do; and we cannot help but notice that the document reads like a ‘wish-granting factory’ for the broadcast industry. Each and every bullet point proffers a potential benefit to broadcasters. Where are the NPRM’s proffered benefits to America’s children? Where are the bullet points which focus on the needs of families?” said PTC President Tim Winter.
The Fact Sheet proposes changes to the KidVid rules based almost entirely on data provided by broadcasters. Before considering any changes, the Commission should identify and define the programming needs of children and families; seek input from parents; consider expert testimony from the scientific and education community; and listen to those I’ve spoken to in the programming community who want to produce high-quality E/I content but have been sidelined by broadcasters who anticipate a weakened KidVid obligation.
The NPRM rightly contemplates a digital divide, particularly for lower-income and other sectors of the population. But the rulemaking process should not focus solely on broadcast-only households any more than broadcasters themselves focus on broadcast-only households when programming their commercial dayparts. And if the broadcast industry actually intends to replace KidVid programming with increased local news and community programming instead of infomercials or other paid programming, then add that as a condition to any rule change.
“Lastly, we remind each Commissioner that the FCC is an agency and, as such, it must act as an agent on behalf of the American people. Just as a real estate agent is tasked with securing the highest possible value for his or her client in a property transaction, so too must the FCC secure the best deal for the American public when broadcasters wish to use their property – in this case, the airwaves. The value here is not cash consideration; in this instance value includes educational and informational programming that benefits children across the nation.
“We are truly grateful to FCC Commissioner O’Rielly for his leadership on this potentially thorny issue. He is right that we need to revisit successful programming like ‘In the News’ and ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ which helped to inform and educate generations of children. It’s high time for modernizing and improving the rules, and we look forward to working with him and with his colleagues during this review process.”
Read the PTC’s full analysis of the KidVid issue.