Meet Your 2021 Annual Children’s TV Programming Reporting Obligations | Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP
The deadline for filing the 2021 Children’s Television Programming Annual Report with the FCC is January 30, 2022, reflecting programming aired during the 2021 calendar year. Note that since this deadline falls on a weekend, this filing can be made on January 31, 2022. to commercial limits in children’s programming during the calendar year 2021 must be placed in their public inspection office. Sort by January 30, 2022.
The Children’s Television Act of 1990 requires full-power, Class A television stations to: (1) limit the amount of commercial material broadcast during programs originally produced and broadcast for 12-year-old audiences and under, and (2) live programming to meet the educational and informational needs of children 16 and under. In addition, stations must comply with the administrative requirements related to these obligations.
In 2019, the FCC passed a number of changes to its children’s television programming rules. Fundamentally, the new rules provide broadcasters with greater flexibility in programming educational children’s television and have changed some aspects of the definition of “basic” educational children’s television. These parts of the revisions came into effect in 2019. Procedurally, the new rules eliminated the quarterly filing of trade limits certifications and the Children’s Television Programming Report in favor of annual filings. These revisions became effective in 2020. As a result, the Children’s Television Programming Report and Commercial Limits Documentation filed in 2022 will be the second year in which annual filings will be submitted.
Commercial television stations
FCC rules require stations to limit the amount of “commercial material” appearing in programs intended for children 12 and under to 12 minutes per clock hour on weekdays and 10.5 minutes per clock hour the weekend. The definition of commercial content includes not only commercials, but also (i) website addresses displayed during children’s programming and promotional material, unless they pass a four-part test, (ii) websites that qualify as “hosts” under the Council’s rules, and (iii) program promotions, unless they promote (a) educational/informational children’s programming, or ( b) other age-appropriate programs appearing on the same channel.
Licensees must upload supporting documentation to the file for public inspection to demonstrate compliance with these limits on an annual basis by January 30 each year, covering the previous calendar year. Documentation proving that the station has complied with this requirement may be kept in several different forms. It must, however, still identify the specific programs that the station believes are subject to the rules and must list any instances of non-compliance.
Basic programming requirements
To help stations identify programming that qualifies as “educational and informational” for children 16 and under, and determine how much programming they must air to demonstrate compliance with the Children’s Television Act, the FCC has adopted a definition of “basic emission”. educational and informational programming, as well as three different Safe Harbor renewal processing guidelines that establish the minimum number of basic programming stations that must be broadcast to receive a staff-level license renewal subsidy. Stations should document all basic children’s programming they air, even when they exceed minimum exemption standards, to better present their performance at license renewal.
Under these rules, the FCC generally defines “basic programming” as television programming that has the significant purpose of meeting the educational and informational needs of children 16 years of age or younger and that is broadcast between 6:00 a.m. and 10:00 p.m. 00. , commercial stations must also identify each main program by displaying an “E/I” symbol on screen throughout the program. Licensees must also provide information identifying each main program they broadcast to program guide publishers, although they no longer need to indicate a programme’s intended age range.
There are three ways to meet the Board’s processing guidelines:
- Category A1: Stations can meet their obligation by broadcasting at least three hours per week (averaged over a six-month period) of basic programming, all regularly scheduled, weekly and at least 30 minutes long. To meet the Category A1 minimum of three hours per week, at least two hours must be broadcast on the main stream and up to one hour may be broadcast on a multicast stream.
- Category A2: Stations can meet their obligation by broadcasting at least 156 hours of basic programming per year, including at least 26 hours per quarter scheduled regularly, weekly and lasting 30 minutes, and up to 52 hours of additional programming every throughout the year which is not provided on a regular basis, but lasts at least 30 minutes. To the extent that a station broadcasts more than two hours per week of regular base programming, it has the option of airing this additional regular programming on a multicast feed. However, all unscheduled programs broadcast to meet the minimum of category A2 must be broadcast on the main feed.
- Category B: Stations can meet their obligation by broadcasting at least 156 hours of basic programming per year, including at least 26 hours per quarter scheduled regularly, weekly and lasting 30 minutes, and up to 52 hours of additional programming every throughout the year that are not broadcast regularly and may be less than 30 minutes in length, such as public service announcements and interstitials. To the extent that a station broadcasts more than two hours per week of regular base programming, it has the option of airing this additional regular programming on a multicast feed. However, all unscheduled shows aired to meet the Category B minimum must be aired on the main feed.
These processing guidelines, along with other changes introduced by the Commission regarding reruns and the rescheduling of pre-empted programs, provide stations with greater flexibility in rescheduling children’s television. However, they do require stations to understand these requirements and accurately document them in their annual reports on children’s television programming.
Filing of report on children’s television programmingThe next report on children’s television programs must be filed electronically with the FCC by January 31, 2022 (because, as noted above, the actual due date of January 30 falls on a weekend). Broadcasters must file their Children’s Television Reporting through the Licensing Management and Administration System (LMS), accessible at https://enterpriseefiling.fcc.gov/dataentry/login.html. Once filed, the FCC’s electronic filing system will automatically place the children’s television program report in the station’s file for public inspection. However, each station must confirm that this has happened to ensure their public inspection record is complete.
Non-commercial educational television stations
Since non-commercial educational television stations are not permitted to broadcast commercials, commercial limitation rules do not apply to them. Therefore, non-commercial television stations have no obligation to place commercial boundary documentation in their file for public inspection. Similarly, although non-commercial stations are required to broadcast programming that meets the educational and informational needs of children 16 and under, they are not required to file reports on children’s television programming. They should, however, keep their own records in case their performance is challenged at the time of license renewal. Faced with such a challenge, a non-commercial station will need to have documentation demonstrating its efforts to meet the needs of children.