There’s A Law About That?

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The FCC is coming under fire from Congress for lax oversight of kids’ programming.  So what’s the problem?  Is Joe from Blue’s Clues working a little too blue, if you catch my drift?  Are the explicit drug scenes from Yo Gabba Gabba getting a little too out of control?  Is the lack of parental oversight of Max and Ruby sending a bad message?

No, none of that.  Evidently there are too many commercials.

I am not making this up.

TV watchdog groups say the Federal Communications Commission needs to better target kids’ programs that have too many commercials, and they want the commission and Congress to strengthen oversight of the Children’s Television Act.

Fueling the drive is a Government Accountability Office report issued last week that highlights FCC shortcomings in enforcing the landmark 1990 law intended to raise the quality and educational value of children’s programming while also limiting advertising. The report said the FCC has been lax in ensuring compliance from cable and satellite providers and questioned the commission’s guidelines for determining the educational value of children’s shows.

You mean to tell me there is a law out there that dictates the amount of commercials that can be shown during children’s programming?  Surely you jest.

Congress crafted the law in response to a decrease in educational shows during the 1980s that corresponded with an uptick in commercial blitzes during children’s programming. To shield youngsters from excessive commercials, the law restricts advertising during children’s programs to 10.5 minutes per hour on weekends and 12 minutes per hour on weekdays.

I repeat: there is a law, passed by Congress, signed by a President, that actually dictates the amount of commercials that are to be shown during kids’ shows.  The government of the United States deemed this an issue worthy enough of oversight.

Moreover, there are people who think the government isn’t doing enough.

During the Clinton administration, the FCC was “paying attention to children’s education, and the quality of children’s programming improved,” said Dale Kunkel, a child media expert and a communications professor at the University of Arizona.

“We slowly moved to a posture in the 2000s where they completely ignored the issue and the broadcasters offered whatever they want,” he said.

Wait a second.  Broadcasters can offer programs that viewers have the option to watch, or not watch?  What is this, a free country or something?

Look, I’m all for making sure that the airwaves are generally clean for kids.  While parents have the ultimate responsibility for watching their children and making sure that the content of what they’re viewing is appropriate, it’s helpful to be assured that they’re not going to watch all the animals from Franklin get a little too friendly (and at least they’ve finally had the decency to put some clothes on little bear).  But do we really need the government to dictate the quality of educational programming available, or the precise amount of commercial time airing on television?  Is there anything that busybodies won’t ask the government to oversee?

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  1. A nation that has no sense of God and no morality is ever in need of more and more laws and regulation. The fantastic and ridiculous because the ordinary. George Orwell would probably not like to see this fulfillment of his prophecy, as it were.

  2. Actually, yes. Marketers are all about money. And kids (unlike adults) can’t reason that something isn’t true when an advertiser tells them it’s true. There are children who actually believe that Shrek mac n’ cheese tastes better than regular mac n’ cheese because the advertiser told them not because they’ve tasted them both.

    So while it may seem a bit ridiculous to you, it’s a relief to me. The less commercials telling kids essentially lies (and for that matter to adults too), the better.

    I don’t want my child to be a walking billboard either. Even from birth children are marketed everything from Winnie-the-Pooh to Leapfrog. The idea is that children will remain brand loyal.

    Yes, I could not watch television ever (not just my child, but myself), but you can’t avoid it. There are billboards, dolls, diapers, shirts, shoes, backpacks, lunchboxes, etc all branded. And no I don’t buy that stuff either if it can be avoided. Other parents, however, do and unless I want my child to grow up in a shoe box isolated from his peers I have to face branding.

    Having less commercials for him to see on television helps alleviate the branding problem. I want my child to learn that having the latest silly bandz does not make a person better than another. Integrity is more important.

    BTW my father has a degree in marketing and he taught me how bad the business is especially when it comes to children.

  3. In case you were unaware, Nickelodeon’s programming isn’t regulated by the FCC.

    The government allows the use of the public airwaves by private companies in order to enrich the life of its people. Those people do include children.

  4. I agree with Mr. Zummo. This is just nanny state nonsense. My kids are now grown, but they certainly were inundated with targeted advertising and marketing. Yet, they didn’t have much money to buy stuff without our approval, and my wife and I never found it all that difficult to say no.

    That said, I do want the FCC to make sure that they don’t encounter filth when kids turn on the TV, something most can do without parental approval and monitoring.

  5. I wouldn’t go full libertarian and say there should be no FCC — as Mike says I think that the basic obscenity rules which are enforced on broadcast TV are a good thing. But the idea that congress is passing legislation on the number of minutes per hour of advertising that can be run is very, very silly.

    (And also, the idea that use of the airwaves is a “public service” is deeply silly. It’s a commodity which has to be apportioned by some authority to keep people from broadcasting over one another. As a valuable commercial commodity, it should be auctioned rather than distributed.)

  6. “I think that the basic obscenity rules which are enforced on broadcast TV are a good thing.”

    What obscenity rules? One can watch a TV show like “Bones” and get the full brunt of the today’s sexually promiscuous life style where hedonism and homosexuality are promoted as normal. One can watch any number of TV shows that depict women in all manner of undress, and hear cursing without end. It seems that the only word forbidden in main stream media is the “n” word.

  7. I am the parent of a four-year-old and an eighteen-month-old. As such, I am responsible for what they do and do not consume. Therefore, I have solved this problem by doing two thing:

    (1) I limit how much and what type of television my kids can watch. Believe it or not, you can exist without having the TV on all day. And if you really need the background noise, put on a cd. As far as what type of programming, we mainly use Netflix (no commercials!) and occasionally watch PBS Sprout (on cable, so we do pay for it). I also DVR any programs we adults would like to watch so that we can put them on after the kids are asleep.

    (2) The effects of what little. In the way of commercials they do see are mitigated by the fact that Mommy (that’s me) has told them that we only buy things we need and that we do not need anything we see on TV. I’ve explicitly taught my oldest that commercials are there to try and sell you things you don’t need and that we don’t want to be wasteful with our money. So, whenever my kids are exposed to commercials my oldest always says, “Mommy, we don’t need that. I wish they’d stop the commercials.” Success! No whining, no fussing, no ‘gotta-have-it’. Nada.

    It really is all about how parents approach the issue. As is just about everything to do with kids.

  8. I agree with an earlier comment: Laws are put into place when they are needed. (The law exists for the lawless.) The less lawful people are, the more laws will be needed. The more lawful people are, the less they will require official laws.

  9. And according to this morning’s paper, the AMA and the American Academy of Pediatrics are demanding that the Motion Picture Association rate all films that have smoking in them “R.” I kid you not.

  10. The nanny state regulations have all but destroyed the classic kid shows that many of us grew up with. The regulators told the producers no more cartoons, no more silly comedy bits, and put more educational stuff in the programing. The kids tuned out in mass. They didn’t want to be “educated”, they wanted to be entertained, dang it!

  11. Yeah, I find a lot of these kids shows to be almost condescending, not educational. I didn’t grow up with the characters on these shows turning towards the camera and asking me to help them. Don’t break the fourth wall!

    My kids a little younger than Mandy’s, but we’ve tried to do the same thing. Movies and Nick Jr, so little temptation from the advertisers to begin with.

  12. I have a five (almost 6) year old, a three year old and a one year old. What Mandy said in spades. I explicitly tell my children that the commercials are there to make them want to buy stuff they don’t need and we don’t take orders from commercials. I tell them the same thing about store displays.

    I also have to agree with Paul. Most of the kid shows today are so mind-numbingly condescending, I wouldn’t let my kids watch them with zero commercials. We have a very limited diet of shows my children watch. The basic criteria is if I can’t watch it without wanting to jump off the roof, my kids don’t need to watch it either. So no Dora, no Diego, no Barney, no Elmo, no Disney Channel…My children have a very mean mommy. 😀

  13. I am collecting old Three Stooges DVDs, so that when I have grandchildren they will be thrilled to come see grampa!

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