ANA Urges FCC To Reject Overly Expansive Reading Of Children's TV Rules

Washington, D.C. (October 22, 2010) - The ANA (Association of National Advertisers), the 4As and the American Advertising Federation (AAF), representing a broad group of marketing and media companies, have urged the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to reject the false premise that any animated characters originally tied to products inherently constitute advertising and cannot appear in children's television programming.  The industry comments were filed in response to a petition from the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) seeking a declaratory ruling from the FCC that the Zevo-3 program created by Skechers Entertainment is a "program length commercial" that violates the advertising limits of the Children's Television Act.

ANA Executive Vice President, Government Relations Dan Jaffe stated: "The FCC has long recognized the need to enforce its children's TV policies in a way that does not restrict the ability to draw characters from many different sources.  The CCFC petition asks the FCC to adopt a rigid rule that would effectively ban any animated characters with ties to products from appearing in children's TV programs under any circumstances.  Allowing the government to regulate the origins of fictional characters in children's programming is intrusive, unwise and raises serious First Amendment concerns."
The comments were written by First Amendment expert Robert Corn-Revere, a partner with the law firm of Davis Wright Tremaine, LLP.
The filing noted that Zevo-3 is no different from shows like He-Man, G.I Joe or the California Raisins that may involve pre-existing characters based on products.  The FCC has been able to avoid intruding on editorial judgments of programmers by relying on objective standards for separating programs from advertising, through commercial time limits, the requirement of 'bumpers' and the prohibition of 'host selling' by a program's talent or characters.   
Further, the industry comments note that the Commission has specifically rejected the regulatory approach urged in the CCFC petition: "The Commission's existing policy governing children's programming recognizes that so long as adequate safeguards prevent direct intermixture of commercial and program segments and a good-faith belief exists that a program will entertain, there is 'no useful purpose' in restricting how programs are developed, selected and aired."   

Jaffe concluded: "If this proposal were to be accepted by the FCC, it would place unnecessary limits on program character creation, totally reverse longstanding FCC policies and erode an important source of financial support for children's programming."
The industry comments are available here.

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