Viacom and the United Church of Christ are both pushing to have the federal courts decide if the Federal Communications Commission's regulations regarding children's programming rules on digital TV ar


WASHINGTON, D.C. (The Hollywood Reporter) -- Viacom and the United Church of Christ are both pushing to have the federal courts decide if the Federal Communications Commission's regulations regarding children's programming rules on digital TV are valid.

Although both parties filed this week to have their arguments heard in court, they are seeking different outcomes. Viacom, owner of CBS and Nickelodeon, believes the rules are too restrictive, whereas the UCC believes they don't go far enough, according to documents filed with the FCC. Both parties had asked the FCC to reconsider its regulations, but apparently decided to test them in court.

Viacom is seeking to have the federal appeals court here -- usually considered to be one of the nation's most deregulatory -- to hear the case, but the UCC has asked for it to be heard in Ohio, where the church is based.

"We have problems with the order," said Gloria Tristani, the former FCC commissioner who heads the UCC's office of communication. "We want to make it stronger."

In particular, the UCC has concerns over interactive advertising, something the networks are starting to roll out on their digital platforms, Tristani said. The FCC made no decision on interactive advertising when it made its original ruling.

Although Viacom is contesting the rules, the company said it did not plan to abandon children's programming.

"Our filing today in the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is intended simply to preserve our legal options," the company said in a statement. "We remain committed to serving the interest of kids and parents and continuing to give them the programming they love."

The rules, adopted in 2004, include a requirement that three hours of educational or cultural programming air each week on a broadcaster's primary and digital multicast channels. It also limits links to commercial Web sites featured in the programming and sets limits on noneducational promotions.

Some of the rules, such as the ad limits, apply to cable and broadcast TV and analog as well as digital programming streams.

In what my be the commission's toughest ruling, it tightened requirements that allow broadcasters to pre-empt children's educational TV shows that typically air on Saturday. To qualify as core educational programming, the programming must be regularly scheduled under the current rules. The new regulation allows those programs to be pre-empted only 10% of the time.

That pre-emption limit has caused particular problems for networks carrying sports and news programming on the weekends. Because live sports telecasts from the East Coast and Midwest often air early in the day because of time differences, the networks often pre-empt viewing hours for the educational shows.

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