FCC Commissioner Michael O’Rielly is urging his colleagues to consider whether the Commission’s 23 year old rules setting obligations for local television broadcasters to air children’s educational programs continue to make sense in today’s vastly changed media marketplace. The question aligns neatly with the Modernization of Media Regulation proceeding launched last year by Chairman Ajit Pai and was raised by Houston broadcasters at a TAB meeting with Commissioner Brendan Carr last fall.
Currently the FCC’s guidelines require stations to air an average of three hours per week of educational and informational (E/I) programming on each main and sub-channel or risk having their license renewal applications considered by the full Commission, rather than just the Media Bureau. They also must air the shows at regular times, for a minimum of 30 minutes each between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., and prevent certain website addresses and other content from appearing in the programming. Stations also must file extensive reports each quarter detailing their efforts. The rules are extensive and the slightest, immaterial breach can result in thousands of dollars in fines for a station.
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