FCC Regulatory Actions Affect Nick.com, and Other Children's Sites

  |  October 18, 2005   |  Comments

It's unclear how promotion of the sites, or advertising on them, will be impacted.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules to take effect in January will alter the way broadcasters of children's content can promote and present their Web sites. Yet many in the space are unclear how to comply, prompting requests for a delay.

The regulatory action is concerned primarily with broadcast issues, but there are also implications for the way networks' Web entities can be structured, and how they can be promoted on the air.

"Primarily, the regulations relate to the way that kids channels can promote their Web sites within programming and advertising time," Nickelodeon Online SVP and GM Mike Skagerlind told ClickZ News. "We are concerned that we're going to enter into an area of uncertainty and ambiguity."

The regulations say a Web site URL for a particular show or the broadcaster's site can only be displayed under certain circumstances. The site where viewers are directed must contain program-related and noncommercial content; it must not be intended for commercial purposes, including e-commerce or advertising; the site and menu pages must be clearly labeled to distinguish the noncommercial from the commercial sections; and the landing page itself must not be used for e-commerce, advertising, or other commercial purposes.

The regulation guidelines also prohibits the use of a show's host to promote a Web site during the program and commercial breaks. This is defined as "host-selling," a practice that is strictly prohibited by children's broadcasters. The rule was originally instituted to stop the use of hosts selling products during a show, but will now be used to bar broadcasters from directing children and parents to the network's Web site.

On September 26, The Walt Disney Company, Viacom, and NBC Universal and NBC Telemundo jointly filed a motion for an administrative stay on the rulings. The Association of National Advertisers, the American Association of Advertising Agencies and the American Advertising Federation also reportedly back a stay. The objective is to keep the rulings from taking affect on January 1, until clarification of terms can be provided. If the motion is not granted, broadcasters say they will find it difficult to conform to the unclear regulations.

Nickelodeon EVP of public affairs, Marva Smalls, reiterated Skagerlind's statement to demonstrate the urgency of the situation. "We are still waiting for clarity by this body so we will know how to proceed and how to operate as a business in the New Year."

With the uncertainty, broadcasters are not able to adequately prepare for the regulations to begin. "It is hard to have contingency plans because of the cost of rebuilding out and changing the infrastructure while waiting for motions to be decided on," said Skagerlind.

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Enid Burns

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