Children Now Asks FCC to Put Teeth in Tentative Kids Ad Conclusions

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Representatives of Kids advocacy group Children Now met with a top aide to Federal Communications Commission chairman Julius Genachowski and others this week to press the commission to take a stand against imbedded advertising and product placement in children's programming.

According to an ex parte filing by the group, Jeff McIntyre, director of national media policy for Children Now, and their attorneys met with Genachowski senior counselor Josh Gottheimer and several bureau staffers.

In addition to asking them to explicitly ban interactive kids advertising, they also said the FCC should "carefully review whether broadcast licensees and cable operators are complying with the requirements of the Children's Television Act" in terms of commercial limits (cable) and educational programming (broadcast TV).

The FCC tentatively concluded back in 2004 that children's TV shows should not have interactive links to advertising unless parents have opted into such interactivity.

At the time, the commission said it would be premature to make that tentative conclusion into a rule because there was not much direct connectivity between TV and the 'net.

Children Now argues that with programming being offered on multiple platforms, it is time for the FCC to get ahead of the curve -- the group concedes that it is "not aware" of any commercial interactivity in any kids programming. But they argue it is just a matter of time given burgeoning interactivity elsewhere. "In the absence of clear and enforceable restrictions, children's programmers are likely to start using many of the interactive marketing techniques now being used in programs intended for teen or general audiences," they told the commission.

They point out, for instance, that Nickelodeon has a Dora the Explorer Facebook page, even though Facebook users have to be over 12. Facebook is currently exploring ways to open the site officially to kids, with their parents' permission.

Children Now also wants the commission to clarify that FCC ad policies apply to video on demand and prohibit product placement in kids shows.

The FCC has already said it thought product placement would run afoul of rules that require commercial and program content to be clearly separated in kids shows, but also has sought comment on whether that should be made explicit. Children Now says it is time to do so.

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