With the adoption of the new Children’s Television Programming Rules Report and Order in July of 2019, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC” or “Commission”) updated many of the children’s television rules, providing relief from some of the more burdensome reporting obligations. Due to the timing of the changes, and the need for the FCC to create a new Children’s Television Programming Report, the Commission issued a Public Notice in December 2019 describing how broadcasters were to transition to the updated reporting requirements. The following provides some guidelines on how to handle the transition over the next year.
Under the revised reporting rule, the Children’s Television Programming Report (Form 2100), Schedule H, which was previously filed quarterly, will now be filed annually. The new filing deadline is the 30th day after the new calendar year. All filings are now made in the FCC’s Licensing and Management System (“LMS”). Because the new reporting rule did not take effect until January 21, 2020, the Commission extended the filing deadline for the first report until March 30, 2020. The March report is to cover the period of September 16, 2019 (the effective date of the revised Children’s Television rules) through December 31, 2019 and is now available in LMS. After March, the next report covering programming aired from January 1, 2020 through December 31, 2020 will be due February 1, 2021.
Filers will note that the new Children’s Television Report provides for reporting under the new safe harbor guidelines, allowing for three reporting options. First, under Category A, which only applies to programs at least thirty (30) minutes in length, a broadcaster may demonstrate compliance by: (1) airing three (3) hours per week of Core Programming [averaged over six (6) months]; or (2) airing 156 hours of Core Programming annually, at least 26 hours/quarter of which must be regularly scheduled on a weekly basis. The remaining fifty-two (52) hours of Core Programming may be aired at any time during the year (i.e., not regularly scheduled).
If a broadcaster desires to intermingle programming of at least thirty (30) minutes in length with some short-form programming, the broadcaster may demonstrate compliance using Category B. For Category B, the broadcaster must air 156 hours of programming annually, at least 26 of which must be aired quarterly on a regularly scheduled weekly basis and be comprised of programming at least thirty (30) minutes in length. The remaining fifty-two (52) hours may consist of programs that are not regularly scheduled and can include short-form programming, such as public service announcements (“PSAs”) and interstitials. Note that broadcasters may air up to thirteen (13) hours per quarter (fifty-two (52) hours annually) of regularly scheduled weekly programming on a multicast stream.
Another transitional item to be aware of is that broadcasters will no longer be able to file or amend their previously-filed Quarterly Children’s Television Programming Reports in LMS. To the extent those reports need to be updated or amended, the Commission has directed broadcasters to provide such information in an explanatory document uploaded to the station’s online public file. Broadcasters should also indicate in their license renewal applications if such documentation was uploaded to the online public file, so that it may be reviewed at the time of renewal.
Transitions can be difficult, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, as the revised reporting requirements for children’s television programing removes some of the burdens associated with previous quarterly filings and expands the safe harbor guidelines. Being prepared and understanding the new obligations will be key to a successful transition and smooth the waters for successful compliance going forward.
This column is provided for general information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.