Broadcast Television Station Reminder: FCC Form 398 Children's Programming Quarterly Reports Due April 10


By April 10, 2011, all commercial full-power television stations and Class A LPTV stations must prepare and file an FCC Form 398 Children's Programming Report for the First Quarter of 2011 with the FCC. By this date, stations must also prepare and place in their public inspection files documentation sufficient to demonstrate their compliance with the limitations on the amount of commercial matter aired during children's programming.

Children's programming summary

Under the Commission's rules, commercial full-power television stations and Class A low-power television (LPTV) stations are required to air programming that is responsive to the educational and informational needs of children aged 16 and younger. Under the Commission's current license renewal guidelines, stations are generally required to air an average of at least three (3.0) hours of core children's programming per week during the calendar quarter.

In general, core children's television programming is defined as programming that is designed to meet the educational and informational needs of children aged 16 years or younger as one of its significant purposes, that is at least 30 minutes in length, that is identified throughout the program with the educational/informational (E/I) symbol, and that is aired weekly at a regularly scheduled time between the hours of 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Furthermore, the programming must be identified at the time of airing and to program guide publishers as being “core programming” designed for a specific age range of children.

The three-hours-per-week core-programming guideline applies to both digital television (DTV) stations and analog stations (such as Class A low-power television stations that have not yet converted to digital). For DTV stations that choose to multicast other program streams in addition to the main digital program stream, the Commission's rules require an additional amount of core children’s programming in proportion to the amount of additional free programming offered on the multicast channels.

Under the Commission's rules, the amount of children's programming required for DTV stations increases in proportion to the additional hours of free programming offered on the multicast channels, up to an additional three hours per week for each 24-hour free multicast stream. Specifically, for every 28 hours, or portion thereof, of free video programming provided by a DTV station on an additional digital stream per week, the station is required to provide an additional 0.5 hours of children's programming per week, up to a maximum of three hours per week for a station providing a programming stream 24 hours a day, seven days a week. For each additional free digital programming stream, the same analysis would apply.

The FCC's rules also contain limitations on the extent to which a station can simply repeat children's programming from one multicast channel to another and still claim credit for the program. Under the Commission's rules, at least 50 percent of the core programming counted toward meeting the additional programming guideline cannot consist of program episodes that have already aired within the previous seven days on either the station's main digital program stream or on another of the station's free digital program streams. The FCC Form 398 has been updated to require licensees to certify as to their compliance with the limit on repeats under this guideline.

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