21 Broadcasters Face Fines for Violating Child TV Protections
WASHINGTON — Twenty-one broadcasters are being fined for violating children’s television programming rules to the tune of $3.4 million, the Federal Communications Commission announced Wednesday.
The broadcasters aired advertisements for Hot Wheels Super Ultimate Garage during episodes of “Team Hot Wheels” across dozens of television stations. That is a violation of the rules that limit the amount of time advertisements can be shown to children, because the product was intertwined with the programming being shown.
Commission Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel explained as a mother she wants to ensure children have safe access to television, and is happy her fellow commissioners enforced the law, leveraging these fines.
“The screens around us are multiplying, and it is hard to keep tabs on what our kids are consuming. But in the Children’s Television Act, Congress sought to ensure that broadcasting would remain a special place for kids’ content,” Rosenworcel said in a statement. “The law put clear limits on advertising on children’s programming. Those limits were ignored here, where broadcasters mixed toy commercials with content and violated our rules.”
Of the 21 broadcast licensees facing fines for these violations, Sinclair Broadcasting is receiving the heftiest fine of $2.65 million. The television company voluntarily told the commission it broadcast the commercials during the Hot Wheels show on 85 of its stations, according to the commission.
The commission discovered the violations when some broadcasters were attempting to renew their licenses in the summer of 2020.
Those broadcasters answered they had violated some of the rules, saying “a commercial for Hot Wheels Super Ultimate Garage was inadvertently aired on 11 occasions during eight 30-minute-long episodes of ‘Team Hot Wheels’ between Nov. 10, 2018, and Dec. 16, 2018, and that the commercial was pulled from the program immediately after discovery,” according to the commission.
Those programs were distributed by Sinclair, according to commission documents.
“Concurrently, multiple non-Sinclair licensees similarly informed the commission in exhibits to their renewal applications that Sinclair was the provider of this Hot Wheels programming, together with the related Super Ultimate Garage commercials, and that these non-Sinclair licensees had also inadvertently aired that commercial on 11 occasions during that same time period,” according to the commission’s filing. “Two of these licensees further informed the commission in their renewal applications that the episodes aired on two of the stations’ program streams.”
However, the commission said those other television broadcasters shared in the responsibility, “While some non-Sinclair licensees point out that the commercials were embedded in the programming provided by Sinclair, we do not find any lessened responsibility. Regardless of the technical or logistical constraints of airing programming, every licensee bears nondelegable responsibility for compliance with its regulatory obligations.”
It’s important for broadcast television to remain a “safe alternative” where advertisements are regulated, Commissioner Geoffrey Starks said in a statement about the fines.
On the internet and “without those limits, we see content that appears designed to advertise to children — serving children targeted advertisements, and even collecting their personal information for advertising and other purposes. Thankfully, broadcast television offers a safe alternative,” Starks said.
The Well News has reached out to Sinclair Broadcasting for comment and will update if the company responds.