Major changes are coming to television broadcasters’ obligations to air and report on Children’s Television (“KidVid”) Programming. In a recently released Order, the FCC eliminated certain KidVid requirements and gave stations flexibility in meeting those requirements that will remain in place.
Under the FCC’s current rules, to be considered “core programming” a program must: serve the educational and informational needs of children aged 16 and under, be aired between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., be regularly scheduled, and be at least 30 minutes in length. To comply with the FCC’s license renewal processing guidelines, stations must air an average of at least three hours per week of core programming on their primary channel, and an average of three hours per week for each multicast channel, assuming the multicast channel transmits 24 hours per day.
Changes to the KidVid programming requirements adopted by the FCC are described below.
- Stations will no longer be required to air core programming on multicast channels. Under the new rules, stations will only be required to air core programming on their main channels.
- While stations will still need to air core programming on their primary streams, they will have more flexibility in scheduling the programming. Compliance will be determined quarterly and annually, instead of based on weekly averages. One option will be for stations to continue airing an average of three hours per week of core programming, just as they do now. A second option will be to air an average of 26 hours per quarter of regularly scheduled core programming (which averages to two hours per week) along with 52 hours per year (which averages to one hour per week) of programming that is not regularly scheduled, but which is 30 minutes or more in length – such as specials or non-weekly programming. A third option will be to air an average of 26 hours per week of core programming (which averages to two hours per week) plus 52 hours of programming (which averages to one hour per week) which is not regularly-scheduled and which is shorter that 30 minutes in length – such as PSAs and interstitials.
- Stations will be permitted to shift up to 13 hours per quarter (which averages to one hour per week) of core programming from their primary channel to a multicast channel. Using the three hours per week guideline as an example, this would mean that a station could air two hours per week of core programming on its primary channel and one hour per week on a multicast channel.
- The time period during which programming can air to qualify as core programming is expanded by one hour, to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- The “second home” policy is eliminated. Stations may now reschedule preempted core programming at any time within seven days (before or after the preemption) and still have it count as compliant core programming.
- KidVid reports (known as FCC Form 398) will no longer be filed quarterly. Instead, they will be filed annually by January 30. The reports will also require stations to submit less information. Stations will no longer need to describe the educational/informational purpose of each program or list the programs they expect to air in the next quarter. Stations will no longer be required to identify the program guide publishers they utilize or to publicize the existence of their KidVid reports.
- Commercial limits certifications will no longer be filed on a quarterly basis. Instead, stations will upload this information to their public inspection files on an annual basis by January 30.
- Noncommercial stations will no longer need to display the “E/I” symbol during their core programming. Commercial stations will still need to display the “E/I” symbol.
Some of these changes will take effect 30 days after they are published in the Federal Register. Other changes, such as those involving Form 398, will not take effect until approval by the Office of Management and Budget, which will take longer.