FCC Chair Tells Senate Panel that Interactive TV Ads Should Be Prohibited in Children's Programming

The new FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, told a Senate panel Wednesday that he believes interactive TV advertising and sponsorship should not be allowed in children's programming without some kind of mechanism for parental opt-in. Genachowski's statement reinforced a tentative conclusion reached by the communications regulator back in 2004, that such advertising should be prohibited unless it provides such an opt-in mechanism. "Five years ago, the Commission reached the tentative conclusion for DTV that, absent a parental 'opt-in,' it should prohibit interactivity during children's programming that connects kids to commercial material," Genachowski said at a hearing by the Senate Commerce Committee. "I believe that the versatility of digital television will provide new and beneficial economic opportunities to broadcasters--a critical goal, especially in this time of economic challenge. At the same time, protecting kids from inappropriate commercialization remains an essential objective in the digital TV era. While of course the Commission will study the record fully, at this point I'm inclined to agree that the Agency should make its tentative conclusion final and say that interactive ads directed at children are off-limits without an opt-in by parents."

The Senate Commerce Committee hearing at which Genachowski was testifying is examining whether the 1990 Children's Television Act needs to be updated to reflect the emergence of new digital technologies. Genachowski told the panel that he believes that an examination of the act is warranted, and stated that the FCC will conduct its own parallel examination; "An examination of the Children's Television Act in light of the current marketplace and technologies merits the attention of both this Committee and the Commission," he said, adding that, in the nearly two decades since the act was passed "an array of new choices--direct broadcast satellite, Internet-based video, mobile services, video offerings from telephone companies, and video games--have joined broadcast and cable television as a daily reality for millions of American families."

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