FCC Proposes Fine for  Station’s “Program Length Commercial” During Kids Program – Check Content From Your Kids Program Supplier

Last week the FCC issued a Notice of Apparent liability to a Baltimore station for the insertion of a “Hot Wheels” advertisement during a “Hot Wheels” Children’s program.  According to the FCC:

“In an exhibit to the Application, the Licensee reported that on eleven occasions between November 10, 2018, and December 15, 2018, the Station aired a commercial for the “Hot Wheels Super Ultimate Garage” play set during eight showings of the program “Team Hot Wheels” (i.e. the commercial aired multiple times during certain episodes). Each impacted episode was 30-minutes in length.

The FCC is proposing a $20,000 fine.  Importantly, the fact that the advertisement was inadvertently inserted into the program by the program supplier does not absolve the station of liability.  The FCC stated:

“Further, although the Licensee indicated that these overages were inadvertent, this does not mitigate or excuse the violations. The Commission has repeatedly rejected inadvertence as a basis for excusing violations of the children’s television commercial limits. Similarly, the fact that the Station’s television network supplied the commercial does not absolve the Licensee of responsibility for the violations. The Commission has consistently held that a licensee’s reliance on a program’s source or producer for compliance with our children’s television rules and policies will not excuse or mitigate violations that do occur. The fact that the Licensee has taken steps to prevent subsequent violations by reminding its staff of the importance monitoring its programming for compliance with the Commission’s children’s television programming rules does not relieve the Licensee of liability for violations that have already occurred.”

Bottom line – You need to monitor the programs and advertising in your children’s programs that are supplied by syndicators and networks. Remember the FCC’s jurisdiction applies to stations, not program services.  So you will be responsible for any violations.

To see the FCC’s decision click HERE.

For a legal memo on the issue from noted FCC attorney David Oxenford click HERE.

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