• PTC Urges FCC to Answer “Foundational” Questions Before Ruling on KidVid Proposal

    by  • October 23, 2018 • Family Friendly, FCC, Other, Press Release, Television • 2 Comments

    Kid Vid Comments

    The Parents Television Council filed reply comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding the Children’s Television Programming Rules (MB Docket No. 18-202), otherwise known as “KidVid.”

    Below is the full text of the PTC reply comments:

    October 22, 2018

    BY ELECTRONIC FILING

    Marlene H. Dortch
    Secretary
    Federal Communications Commission
    445 Twelfth Street, S.W.
    Washington, DC 20554

    Re: Children’s Television Programming Rules, MB Docket No. 18-202

    Dear Ms. Dortch:

    KidVidLetterpdfThe Parents Television Council is a non-partisan, non-profit organization working to create a safe and sound entertainment media environment for children and families.  Since its establishment in 1995, nearly 1.4 million Americans have joined with the PTC.  We respectfully offer our Reply Comments to the Children’s Television Programming Rules (“Kid Vid”) NPRM.It’s safe to presume that every commenter in this proceeding would agree that the television marketplace has changed a bit since the Children’s Television Act of 1990 was signed into law. What hasn’t changed is that broadcasters are able to use the publicly-owned airwaves for free, in exchange for serving the public interest.  Providing children with Educational/Informational programming continues to be one component of a broadcast licensee’s public interest obligation.  The debate before us today centers on how to define and measure that obligation in light of the transformational changes the television industry has experienced, especially in recent years.Make no mistake; the Kid Vid rules need to be reviewed and updated, not just to better serve the public interest, but also to provide broadcasters and the public with greater certainty.  We observed that the words “certainty” or “uncertainty” were used in the NPRM no less than ten times; and one need only read the NPRM’s “Background” section to understand that a review of the rules is both reasonable and long overdue.  We commend Commissioner O’Rielly for taking the reins in what already has been a rough ride.

    Based on our thorough reading of the NPRM and all public comments filed thus far, this NPRM process should cease; and in its place the FCC should engage in a more thorough, deliberative, comprehensive and strategic review process, including public hearings.  A doctor should not prescribe a litany of prescriptions before carefully examining a patient and diagnosing an illness; and neither should the FCC prescribe a litany of prescriptive remedies without a more thorough examination of what ails the Kid Vid issue.  Simply stated, this NPRM process does not adequately provide for such an examination.

    Before any material changes to the Kid Vid rules can reasonably be considered, foundational questions must be answered, including:  What are the Educational/Informational needs of children, especially in light of the rapid and massive evolution in media technology?  What is the public interest obligation of a broadcaster in the 21st Century; and when does an obligation become a burden?  What has been the impact of Educational/Informational TV content on children in recent years; and how does that impact differ when compared to a decade ago, or two decades ago?  If children aren’t watching today’s E/I content, why is that; and what can/should be done to make it more appealing?

    The NPRM and public comments have failed to answer these foundational questions.  Yet a number of the rule changes proposed in this NPRM are so strategic to Kid Vid policy that they cannot reasonably be considered until the aforementioned questions are answered.  On the other hand, some of the proposed rule changes (such as frequency of reporting) are only tactical, and reasonably could be considered in this NPRM so as to lessen a broadcaster’s burden.

    An error in premise usually leads to an error in conclusion; and one of the foundational considerations of this NPRM is based on error; to wit, that the NPRM itself – and a host of the commenters – seem to equate Children’s Programming with Children’s  Educational/Informational Programming.  These terms are not synonymous.  The enumerated alternatives to linear broadcasting most assuredly offer a greater volume of entertainment for young children, but they are hardly educational.

    As of this writing, which is approximately 6:00 pm Pacific Time on Monday, October 22, 2018, roughly four dozen individuals, organizations or corporations have filed formal comments for review on the FCC’s website.  Most of the commenters are broadcasters; and they stand to make a whole lot of money if the NPRM’s proposals are adopted.  A few of the commenters are programmers; and they stand to lose a whole lot of money if the NPRM’s proposals are adopted.  Nestled in between are individuals and public policy groups, some of which advocate for children and others of which advocate for a diminished role by the federal government.  The former oppose the NPRM’s proposals and the latter endorse them.

    Missing entirely from this dialogue are educators, experts in the field of children’s physical and mental health, and parents.

    Thus far, the proposed rule changes appear to be driven primarily by corporate profit.  For the record, we like it when companies generate bigger profits. Bigger profits lead to increased investment, increased employment, an overall financial benefit to the economy, and higher taxes to help underwrite the expensive operation of our nation’s government.  It is undeniable that the three-hour weekly time block currently set aside for Kid Vid content would generate bigger dollars if used for something other than airing Kid Vid content.  But as we consider such an important public interest obligation, we must examine it beyond the corporate financial impact that would come from reducing, altering or eliminating the existing Kid Vid rules.

    It is ironic, perhaps even troubling, that many of the proposed rule changes advocated by broadcasters are actually antithetical to their core business. They say that Kid Vid programming need not be regularly scheduled; yet every program that airs during every other daypart is regularly scheduled.  They say that multicast platforms are just as good for Kid Vid content; yet they would never, ever, relegate their other original programming to multicast platforms. They say that Kid Vid content could be pushed to a broadcaster’s website; yet they would never, ever, suggest the same for their other original programming. They say that on-air notification and digital on-screen programming guides create a burden; yet they would never weaken those same elements for any of their other dayparts.  They say that they would use the Kid Vid time slots to produce and air other more important local programming; but they could produce that other programming today and air it on their multicast platforms, if they wanted to.  But they don’t.  Why not?  They say that a 30-minute program is an unreasonable requirement; yet they don’t air any other regularly scheduled programming that is less than 30 minutes in length.  (For the record, the PTC agrees that Kid Vid programming could be less than 30 minutes in length, citing such exemplary programming as Schoolhouse Rock and In the News.)

    Commenter Gray suggests that six hours per calendar quarter is a burden for its regulatory record-keeping.  That sounds like a lot of wasted time; but with 65 business days per quarter, than means five and a half minutes per day of record-keeping is required.  Is that really a burden?  Perhaps.  Gray also suggests expanding the hours when Kid Vid content could be aired.  Would they agree then that the FCC’s Broadcast Indecency rules also be altered to reflect that same expanded time window?  Commenter Nexstar points to all manner of content that they couldn’t produce or air because of Kid Vid; yet the multicast platform they suggest as being adequate for Kid Vid is apparently inadequate for that other content they chose not to produce or air.  Sadly our commenter friends at the National Religious Broadcasters refer to Kid Vid regulations as a “scheme” no less than six times.  And commenter Block openly admits that the only reason Kid Vid airs is so they can “check a box” for licensing purposes.  This hardly connotes a commitment to the public interest; and it certainly does not connote a commitment to the educational and informational needs of children.

    We agree with several of the arguments put forth by the broadcasters in their public comments, and we believe they deserve careful consideration.  Most importantly, broadcasters absolutely deserve greater certainty when it comes to honoring their Kid Vid obligations.  They deserve a system that is not unreasonably burdensome or wasteful.  But we disagree with other of their arguments, some of which entirely contradict the way they do business during the other 165 hours per week.

    This NPRM does not, and realistically cannot, address most of these critical issues.  Neither does it address the concerns of Kid Vid programmers, some of which offer public comments that are just as financially self-serving as the broadcasters’ arguments.  But they understand the economics of producing kids’ E/I programming better than anyone, and their voices are critical to the dialogue.

    If the public interest is to be served, then the Kid Vid NPRM should be paused, and the matter should be addressed in a more strategic regulatory review process.

    Respectfully submitted,

    Timothy F. Winter
    timsig2
    President

     

     

     

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    2 Responses to PTC Urges FCC to Answer “Foundational” Questions Before Ruling on KidVid Proposal

    1. October 24, 2018 at 8:16 am

      There are so many things wrong with this letter, and I will list them all right now:
      First and foremost is the tired belief that we, the people, own the American airwaves, and that the broadcast networks should operate in the “public interest”. BS. That’s like saying that we, the people, own movie theaters, and that studios like Fox, Universal and Warner should operate in the “public interest”. It just doesn’t make sense. But such statement is only the beginning…

      Next in the pecking order is this hilarious quote:
      “the Kid Vid rules need to be reviewed and updated, not just to better serve the public interest, but also to provide broadcasters and the public with greater certainties”
      Yeah, if that actually happened, our throats would be shoved with more and more news, infomercials and E/I programmings, especially on Saturday mornings.

      “A doctor should not prescribe a litany of prescriptions before carefully examining a patient and diagnosing an illness; and neither should the FCC prescribe a litany of prescriptive remedies without a more thorough examination of what ails the Kid Vid issue.”
      But what if the “doctor” is a surgeon? Or a cardiologist? Or a dentist? Or whatever? Not all doctors prescribe prescriptions to their patients, and you should know that. And yet you come up with this nonsensical comparison.

      Further down the letter, we have your so-called “foundational” questions:
      “What are the Educational/Informational needs of children, especially in light of the rapid and massive evolution in media technology?”
      They can go to school and pick up a textbook, or go online.
      “What is the public interest obligation of a broadcaster in the 21st century?”
      Here we go again with this “public interest” BS! They don’t have any because we, the people, DON’T own the airwaves. As I said at the start of this comment, this statement doesn’t make sense.
      “What has been the impact on E/I programming on children in recent years?”
      Kids just stopped watching broadcast networks on Saturday mornings. They either started to watch Nickelodeon, or made the switch to Hulu. Either way, at least we still have PBS Kids.
      “If children aren’t watching today’s E/I content, why is that?”
      Maybe because they are upset that the Saturday morning cartoons of old were replaced by these boring programmes. Take Litton Entertainment for example: A lot of people who loved watching Saturday mornings in the ’90s or 2000′s despise them for the way they changed such timeslot… and rightfully so. At the time of writing this, Litton has 7 E/I blocks on Saturday mornings.

      But then, way further down the letter, the bottom of the barrel has officially been scraped:
      “Missing entirely from this dialogue are educators, experts in the field of children’s physical and mental health, and parents.”
      Hilarious. As if we needed brainwashed people who believe media has an influence when it actually doesn’t to run the FCC and then shut down all the TV networks they find offensive. Just wow.

      But in the end, 1.4 million lunatics across the country will agree with this stupid letter, boasting about how they miss their Saturday mornings of old(I’m looking at you, Moax429). Just goes to show how out-of-touch this idiotic organization is.

      Oh, and I’ve got one more thing to say to you, Tim:
      F*** off back to the Hallmark Channel!

      • Chris Ryder
        October 24, 2018 at 4:33 pm

        Mr. Malchov,

        It is commendable that you spent the time to write your comments. Unfortunately, possibly due to the wonkiness and details of the KidVid issue, the FCC and the 1990 Children’s Television Act, you are bit uninformed in your responses. For an alternate viewpoint, I would suggest that you listen to the podcast or read the transcript of the commentary by Dr. Dale Kunkel (an emeritus professor and longtime expert on children’s television who has testified on Capitol Hill about children and media) and Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times.

        http://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-ol-patt-morrison-dale-kunkel-fcc-tv-20180808-htmlstory.html

        Using profanity, and calling 1.4 million people lunatics because they also think that there is a real necessity for children’s educational programming is uncalled for and unneccesary. We are open to a healthy debate on the issue, but there is no reason to be disagreeable when you disagree with a person’s viewpoint.

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