FCC Adds Kids’ Hours Quotas to Digital Television Stations

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The Federal Communications Commission last Wednesday adopted rules imposing new children’s programming requirements on television stations that use their digital spectrum to multicast.

Analog technology today limits broadcasters to a single programming service, but digital technology permits the transmission of five or six services, an opportunity for TV stations to compete more aggressively with cable and satellite providers.

Current FCC rules require TV stations to air three hours a week of children’s educational programming between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. The same three-hour requirement would apply to each multicast service but in a more flexible manner.

For example, a digital TV station multicasting three signals on an around-the-clock basis would face a nine hour requirement. The main feed would have to provide three hours but the station could air six hours on the second or third channel, provided the second and third channels had roughly equivalent penetration on pay-TV systems.

A DTV station that multicast a service 12 hours every day would have to provide 90 minutes a week of children’s educational programming, and that quota could be shifted to another to another channel, an FCC source said.

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