Cases at the Federal Communications Commission
Children’s Television Programming Rules, FCC Docket No. 18-202
After Congress passed the Children’s Television Act of 1990, the clinic worked with child advocacy groups to get the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to adopt rules implementing the law and to enforce it. Due to these efforts, in 1996 the FCC adopted a guideline for commercial television stations; stations would be found to have met their statutory obligation to serve children if they provided a minimum of 3 hours per week of standard-length, regularly-scheduled, programming designed to meet the educational and informational needs of children. In 2004, again because of advocacy by the clinic and its clients, the FCC expanded the guideline to take account of the fact that once converted to digital, commercial televisions would be able to broadcast multiple programming streams. In 2018, however, the FCC proposed to revise its children’s television rules. The clinic is working with clients Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, as well as a broader coalition, to make sure that all children have access to free, high-quality educational children’s programming.
Amendment of the National Television Ownership Rule, FCC Docket No. 17-318
The clinic filed comments and reply comments on behalf Office of Communication, Inc. of the United Church of Christ, Common Cause, National Hispanic Media Coalition, and Public Knowledge. The comments opposed relaxing the national audience reach cap for television stations, which Congress had established at 39%, on the ground that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) lacked authority to modify the cap. The comments also argued that even if the Commission had the authority to raise or eliminate the cap, it would not serve the public interest to do so. This matter is still pending before the FCC.
Revision of the Public Notice Requirements of Section 73.3580, FCC Docket No. 17-264
Before the may approve the transfer of a broadcast license, it must find that the transfer would serve the public interest. Members of the public served by the station have a right under the Communications Act to object to transfers.
In October 2017, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sought public comments on whether to update or repeal the rule that requires broadcast applicants provide public notice of the filing of any transfer applications. In December, the clinic filed comments on behalf of United Church of Christ (UCC), the Benton Foundation, Common Cause and others that strongly opposed repeal of the local public notice requirement. The comments supported updating the rules to for example, make use of the FCC’s website to provide information about proposed transfers, but argued that on-air announcements were still needed. The comments also emphasized that the public needed meaningful notice, that is, notice informing the public about the nature of the transaction (including any proposed waivers) so that people could make informed decisions about whether to participate